Rededication of Weaver Branch Library, 1987

Weaver8.tif
Weaver9.tif

Title

Rededication of Weaver Branch Library, 1987

Subject

Public libraries
Tuscaloosa Public Library, Weaver Branch

Description

An article written about the history of the Weaver Branch of the Tuscaloosa Public Library published at the time of the rededication service for the branch.

Creator

Tuscaloosa News

Source

Tuscaloosa Public Library

Publisher

Tuscaloosa News

Date

June 14, 1987

Contributor

Elizabeth Bradt (Description)

Type

Newspaper

Identifier

2542

Coverage

Tuscaloosa (AL)

Text

Weaver Branch of library emerges again
By Denise Shepherd, News Staff Writer

The Weaver Branch of the Tuscaloosa Public Library has seen plenty of ups and downs in its 40-plus year history, as almost anyone associated with the branch will admit. It has struggled for funding, first from the Community Chest; then from city and county government officials; then from private donations; then from the library system. It was ousted from its original location when the building in which it was housed was slated to be demolished; then was forced to move again when it second “home” became uninhabitable.

The Weaver Branch in its current location closed for several weeks earlier this year when its librarian resigned her position to move to another city and a replacement could not be found immediately.

But the library branch formally opened again last week, and its new librarian said he hopes the branch will emerge stronger than ever in spite of – or perhaps because of – its struggle to overcome the many obstacles with which it has been faced. “It just ignites the fuel a little more and makes me want to push it that much harder,” said Yoga Jones, the new branch librarian for the Weaver library at 2937 18th St., next to the Barnes Branch of the YMCA on the city’s west side. And while Jones is familiar with the library and its history, he is undaunted by the task he has created for himself: He hopes to bring the library branch back, stronger than ever, and carve a permanent niche in the community through increased involvement in community affairs. A variety of community leaders showed up last weekend to support his efforts and the library itself when the branch had its “grand reopening” Sunday.

“Through the years the library has been here, I do firmly believe it has played a major role in the community – and with me,” Jones said. “I grew up in the community and I used to take part in the reading programs and other activities. “But I hope to increase the growth of the library and have a lot more activities and establish adult traffic here,” he said. “I want to develop more of a relationship with the city of Tuscaloosa instead of just with the (West End) community. We still want to serve the community but we want to expand” to service the entire city.

Jones said it doesn’t surprise him at all to find out there are many people in Tuscaloosa who do not even know the Weaver Branch of the library exists. “That just tells me some people have been apprehensive about coming because of where it is located,” he said. “It’s just a lack of knowing anything much about the west side of town and never venturing over here.” But he said he hopes that through community involvement, misconceptions will change.

“We want to stress the fact that adult organizations, clubs and civic groups are invited to come and have meetings here,” Jones said. “We want them to know they can and are invited to have meetings here. We want to get adults involved.” Although Weaver’s hours currently are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, Jones said he can arrange for groups to meet after hours and weekends. “Any group can meet there any day, any time,” he said.

Jones said he also would like to hear from local artists who are interested in having their works displayed at the library branch. The branch also plans to “re-enact” the General Educational Development program in the fall for adults who would like to take the GED test to receive a high-school diploma. He said he also hopes to begin offering adult reading classes at the library branch and to offer an array of speakers.

But for now, children are the focus of many of the regular programs in progress at Weaver. As Weaver’s first librarian recalled, that’s the way it’s been almost from the beginning. “We’ve had some mighty good children come through,” said Ruth Eaton Bolden, who served as librarian at the Weaver Branch for 27 years.

Mrs. Bolden said the library which later became the Weaver Branch of the Tuscaloosa Public Library opened its first facility in 1946 on 18th Street at 30th Avenue at the home of Samuel Minton Peck, who was Alabama’s poet laureate. At the time, the Peck home and adjoining homes served a community center for blacks in the area, she said. Then around 1949 the library moved across 30th Avenue to the old Alston building which was part of the YMCA facility there, Mrs. Bolden said. The Peck home was then demolished. During this time, the facility was known as the Negro Community Center and was funded by the Community Chest, historical records show. The Community Chest now is known as the United Way, Mrs. Bolden said.

In 1951, the Tuscaloosa Public Library, “began feeding us books,” Mrs. Bolden said. The facility received books and supplies for 18 months, but no salaries for employees, she said. Then in 1953, the facility became a part of the public library system. Ironically, Mrs. Bolden said, the Community Center’s “adoption” by the library system resulted in a funding cut to the facility. “I made $125 a month,” she said. “And I did everything.” She said the library was open six days a week and she served as librarian, fund-raiser, janitor and in just about every other capacity to keep the library open and running smoothly.

Then in 1960, the branch moved to its present facility next to the YMCA so the Alston building could be demolished. The Weaver Branch at its present location was dedicated in 1961 and named for Dr. George Augustus Weaver, a Tuscaloosa surgeon who died in the 1930s but who had opened his personal library to residents of the community.

Even in its new building, however, the library branch was still hurting for money. “They told me I wasn’t supposed to beg,” Mrs. Bolden said, but the need for funds left her no choice. She displayed with a sly smile a hand-written list she compiled at the time which included churches, civic groups and individuals who made donations ranging from 50 cents to $50 to keep the Weaver Branch afloat.

Mrs. Bolden also decided she needed some formal training if she were to run the library effectively. “I told my husband, ‘Lord, I have a job and I don’t know what to do with it!” Her husband recommended she attend the Atlanta University School of Library Service, which she did. And she returned to Weaver, serving as librarian for many more years until her retirement.

Many adults who grew up in the area will remember childhoods filled with stories, learning and activities administered painlessly by Mr. Bolden. And some of those adults who attended Sunday’s reopening reminisced that she also taught them how to dream.

Now, the Weaver Branch is on more solid financial footing, in no danger of having its building demolished and has a new librarian who hopes to make the facility even more a part of the lives in the community and in the entire city. But some of its goals remain unchanged.

Dreaming is still very much a part of the library – and so are children. “We want to make sure there is always some type of activity going on at the library that will benefit adults and children, educational- or entertainment-wise,” Jones said. Reading, games, videos and other activities are offered each week during the summer at Weaver. Programs are offered from 10-10:45 a.m. Tuesdays for 9- to 12-year-olds; from 3-3:45 p.m. Tuesdays for 3- to 5-year-olds; and from 2-3 p.m. Wednesdays for 6- to 8-year olds. Many of the “regulars” who attend the programs come from the Barnes Branch YMCA next door. Jones said the library “works hand-in-hand” with the Barnes Branch to coordinate activities for young people in the area.

People who come to the library will find reference books, a section for children’s books and adult books, paperbacks and record albums which may be checked out using the branch’s library card. Most of Weaver’s albums are classical, although there are a few contemporary jazz and older jazz albums available, Jones said. Although many of the same books found at Weaver also may be found at the main branch of the library on River Road, “There just might be some books here the main branch doesn’t have,” Jones said, especially “minority books.”

Jim Price, director of the Tuscaloosa Public Library, said he has spoken to Jones about having a variety of selections on “black history, black literature and black efforts in library service.” Price said, “I’m looking forward to the Weaver Branch really becoming both a source of information and reading for that section of town. “I know Mr. Jones welcomes suggestions from the community about what people want to have in that library,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it being an active agency in the community.”

Jones said he plans to have questionnaires available at the library desk so patrons may indicate preferred library hours and indicate their preference of reading materials. The point is not to duplicate services or to have separate facilities for one part of town, but to involve the Weaver Branch and the entire area in activities that will educate, entertain and invigorate, Jones said. “We want it to be known as more than a place to come and check out books,” he said.