Free Knowledge

Published 9:23 am Thursday, March 28, 2013

GATESVILLE – The road was often lined with potholes, but, in the end, a smooth surface leads to the new Gates County Public Library.

The $1.5 million facility, one that faced an uphill battle during the planning process, opened on Monday, March 25 on Soney Lane in the Merchants Commerce Center (off US 158 behind the new State Employees Credit Union).

Three days earlier (March 22), county officials and special guests were part of a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the new facility.

“There have been so many involved in this project, ones that have shown, focus, forethought and diligence to see it through,” said Henry Jordan, Chairman of the Gates County Board of Commissioners. “There were three commissioners that would not give up on this. They saw the goodness and blessings of having such a facility to serve the citizens of this county.”

Jordan called on former Commission Chairman Graham Twine who worked hard to see the project to fruition.

“My mama told me that anything worth having was worth working and fighting for,” Twine stressed. “I’m very proud of this library. It was disheartening to go into the old library and see children sitting in the floor or adults waiting in line to use the computers.

“I’d also like to thank Art Carney and Kim Olds (developers of Merchants Commerce Center) for donating the property on which to build this beautiful facility,” Twine added.

Twine noted that the process to plan and construct the library was exactly how government is designed to work.

“We identified a need and we found a way to get it done without having to get into a long-term debt and without a tax increase,” he noted. “If government worked like this around the world and country then our nation would not be in the shape it’s in today.”

Veteran Gates County Commissioner Kenneth Jernigan fought back the tears as he spoke about the bumpy path that county officials took to get to this special day.

“I’m so proud of this,” said Jernigan. “We fought a hard battle for the people that work in the library; for the kids that go to the library for special programs and for all the adults that use the library…they all needed this. Gates County could have done better a long time ago when you consider where the library was and the many challenges it faced.

“When I first walked in and saw the children’s area, it tore me up, seeing these children enjoying it, all with a place to sit and read and learn,” Jernigan added. “What a great day this truly is for all of GatesCounty.”

“When you work with someone and they consistently hold onto what they believe, at some point in time you begin to see the vision the way they see it,” Jordan remarked following Jernigan’s emotional comments. “Initially, I wasn’t a big proponent of a new library, but I have supported this all the way since the board voted in a majority to move forward with this project. I’m glad to see this day.”

Commissioner Jack Owens was also a major force in favoring the effort to move forward with the library project.

“The funny thing about vision is sometimes you can’t see it,” Owens noted. “Sometimes you can’t see a vision until you look back to see it. We can look back now and see the things we talked about, the things we dreamed about and we can see them coming to fruition today.

“When I see this vision, I see hope; I see progress,” Owens continued. “The progress is we have this wonderful library to look at when the next new idea is developed over another need for this county. We can look at this and say it is possible for us to have the best for our citizens, and they deserve the best. I want to thank all our citizens – 12,197 – for your support. This library is for every one of you and I look forward to seeing the aisles full and people enjoying this new facility.”

Jordan also praised former Gates County Manager Toby Chappell for his efforts to work with the commissioners to have a new public library. Chappell, who resigned late last year to accept a similar position in Greenwood County, SC, was in attendance at Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. Additionally, Jordan thanked interim County Manager Ken Windley and current County Manager Jon Mendenhall for helping to keep this project moving forward.

Helen Eure, Chair of the Gates County Public Library Board, thanked the commissioners and county administrative staff for seeing the project all the way through.

“We also need to thank the community members who helped us pack, move and unpack,” Eure said. “We also had a group of Gates County High School students that came in and provided some special touches in the children’s section of the library. Thank you all for giving the children and adults of our county a new home for our public library.”

Gates County Librarian Pat Familar shared remarks of a seven-year-old who was speaking with her four-year-old sister.

“She told her younger sibling that she would love it when she learns to read; it’s like having a super power,” said Familar. “That is so true.

“Gates County has been fortunate over the years to have citizens who felt that having a library was an important and vital part of the community,” Familar added, and then traced the path of the county’s public library sites…beginning from the trunk of a car of a Home Demonstration Agent, then to a corner of that agent’s office, to an upstairs room in the old courthouse, to one room in the County Office Building, to the former Health Department Office, and back again to the old courthouse.

“And, finally, here in a building and a space especially built to be a library,” Familar said. “Libraries offer so much to a community, much more than just books. Libraries offer computers for public use; workshops and other learning opportunities…the list goes on and on. Knowledge is free here, just bring your own container.”

Familar asked those who regularly use the library to continue their patronage as well as encouraging others to obtain a library card and take advantage of a vast amount of knowledge and programs offered at the facility.

Also offering comments at Friday’s ribbon cutting were representatives of U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan as well as Jennifer Pratt of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. All commended Gates County officials for having the vision to improve the level of educational opportunities for its citizens.

Officials with LS3P, the library’s architect, and A.R. Chesson Construction, the contractor, attended the ribbon cutting ceremony.

The Gates County Public Library is open from 10:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 1-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday and 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.

For more information, call 252-357-0110.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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