Library is a Reality - At Least Half-Way

New Library At Half-Way Mark 8-13-78 pg1.jpg
New Library At Half-Way Mark 8-13-78 pg2.jpg


Library is a Reality - At Least Half-Way


Tuscaloosa Public Library
Public libraries


Construction photos of the new Tuscaloosa Public Library on River Road. Pictured are librarians Bessie Sasser and Martha Williams and Ruth Waldrop along with architect Charles Ralston.


Mary Jacq Rainey, News Life-Leisure Editor


Tuscaloosa News Archive


Tuscaloosa News


August 13, 1978


Tuscaloosa Public Library






Tuscaloosa (AL)


Although hardhats are not the usual attire for librarians, Bessie Sasser doesn't mind donning one for the occasion.

The occasion is a look at her dream - a modern, new library for Tuscaloosa County - at the halfway point of construction.

The nearly $2 million facility on River Road - long the subject of controversy and abortive attempts at funding - stands half-finished, its concrete columns crisscrossed by a network of orange and yellow scaffolding.

Architect Charles Ralston is shooting for an April 15 completion date, and Friedman Library head librarian Mrs. Sasser; Marjorie Meredith of the Friedman Library Board; Frances Ralston, the official decorator; and advisor Maxie Mitchell are holding him to it.

Fabric colors have been selected and approved, lounge furniture and stacks chosen and planned, and selection of furniture for the entire two-floor structure is being completed.

"We're trying to time the furniture so that it all comes in at the same time," Mrs. Sasser said. "We want to move in as they move out."

But when Brice Construction Co. of Birmingham moves out and the library is ready for Mrs. Sasser and her staff, there is yet another problem said Ruth Waldrop, chairman of the Program in School Librarianship and Media Service at the University of Alabama, and vice president of Friends of the Library.

That problem is moving, for which no funds have been allotted in the library's budget.

The county-wide library support group, under the leadership of University law professor Charles Trost, with the help of former president Martha Millar Williams, is trying to raise the funds required to move the books and equipment into the facility, said Mrs. Waldrop.

"We're planning on working with the library on moving. They don't have the money, so we're probably going to raise the money to move, " Mrs. Williams said.

The group, which also promotes the library through other activities and gives the library an expensive gift each year, raises money for this and other projects through donations and memorials.

"You just wouldn't believe the people that put their $2 or $5 or $10 on the line because they believe in the library." Mrs. Williams said.

Mrs. Sasser admits to knowing the library plans by heart. Her favorite aspect of the structure is its openness, she said.

A vertical, central open space in the building, from bottom to skylight, allows a view of portions of the upper floor from downstairs.

The circulation desk and work area will be to the left of the main door, which faces River Road. Beyond this office, adult browsing and periodical areas will be located.

Reference and young adult libraries will be toward the back and left of the first floor, with local history and genealogy occupying a room of there own.

To the right of the front door will be children's libraries, story hour room, parents' waiting area, and an entrance with portico and stairs leading up to the community room on the second floor.

Adjacent to a suite of offices at the back of the first floor will be a special garage for the bookmobile, where it will be loaded and unloaded and all incoming books, both new and old, will be processed.

Work areas, staff room, bathrooms, bookkeeper's office and librarian's offices will be against the back wall of the building.

The librarian's office, like the circulation office and local history room, will be glass-walled to facilitate better supervision of employees and to allow the librarian to see what is going on in the rest of the library, said Mrs. Sasser.

"I don't mind people seeing me at work," she said. "Sitting right here, I can see people coming in the front door, what's going on in circulation and watch activities in the children's room."

A reception area and board room near the librarian's office will be used for board meetings as well as some community activities.

Pillars in the library are situated on 20-foot squares, allowing each square to be heated and cooled separately.

On moderate days, air conditioning and heating may not be needed in the interior spaces, said Mrs. Sasser.

The adult learning and community room is one of the most interesting aspects of the building, said Mrs. Sasser.

Containing 125 chairs, a rear projection screen and coffee area, with room for art exhibits, the area opens off the stairs from the west portico on the second floor.

In the evenings, when library staff would not ordinarily be on duty, the room and stairs can be locked off from the library and may be used by community groups without necessitating the presence of library personnel, said Mrs. Sasser.

The rest of the second floor will house stacks, art for checkouts, areas for the blind and physically handicapped, soundproof booths for listening and recording and the audiovisual office.

Viewing screens and chairs will permit art patrons to view a variety of art from their chairs before selecting paintings to check out.

Community music groups are planning to use areas of the library for recitals and are hoping to move in their own piano, although one will be provided in the exhibit area, Mrs. Sasser said.

The building, with elevators and wide entrances, is fully accessible to the handicapped.

Ralston told of a telephone call he received from a handicapped girl when plans for the building were first announced.

"She said, 'is it going to be accessible to the handicapped?' I said yes, there are going to be ramps all over the place. She started to cry and said, "Mr. Ralston, I've never been able to go to the library before'"

Original Format


Social Bookmarking