Albemarle Regional Library celebrates 75 years

Published 9:20 am Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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Albemarle Regional Library (ARL), the library system that serves Bertie, Gates, Hertford, and Northampton counties, will celebrate its 75th anniversary on Monday, Oct. 9 with open houses at all of the seven branches.

The public is invited to stop by their local branch between 3-6 p.m. and visit with staff members before leaving with mementos of the occasion.

In addition to individual gifts, each branch will hold a raffle for a basket showcasing businesses representing the area each branch serves. The branches will be open for regular business during those hours as well.

Founded in 1948, Albemarle Regional Library originally consisted of county libraries from Bertie, Gates, and Hertford counties. In 1967, the county library in Northampton joined the system.

Also, in 1967, Sallie Harrell Jenkins Memorial Library in Aulander became the first municipal library associated with the system. The Ahoskie Public Library followed suit in 1970, and in 1973 the Murfreesboro Library (now Elizabeth Sewell Parker Memorial) joined the regional system.

In its 75 years, ARL has embraced many changes from card catalogs that consisted of paper cards in wooden drawers with books checked out by removing a card from the book and stamping a date on it to computerized systems that take care of the records of both the holdings of the library and the individual patron.

In that same way, ARL has seen the concept of library evolve. Once, books and other print material might have been the mainstay, but other forms of “reading” became popular: Books on tape were replaced by Books on CD which are now replaced by “Libby,” an app that allows access to electronic and audio books through the NC Digital Library.

Libraries are also a place to check out movies – VHS having moved to DVD to Blu-Ray to streaming. In addition to checking out desk computers for use in the library, patrons can also check out laptops to take home and even a hotspot to ensure they can access the material for which they have checked out the computer.

ARL also offers many other services, providing a place where a copy can be made, a fax can be sent, and a document can be notarized.

As a regional library system, ARL is a total greater than the sum of its parts. Each of its seven branches share resources, delivered three days a week by its courier, so that patrons can be better served. Rather than call on each of the individual counties or towns to provide everything separately, each library in ARL can provide full library services at each member branch and for all patrons. A card at one branch in the region works at all branches throughout the local area.

With regular programs for both children and adults, each branch serves as a gathering place in its community.

Each branch has a manager and staff, ranging from the most recent hire, Ryann Bryant in Bertie County Library for just over one year to Pat Familar at Gates County for 40 years.

Bryant, at the new location of the Bertie Library, is assisted there by Katie Carter, Ann Williams, and Chuck Williams. That branch, originally known as Lawrence Memorial Library, is in its third and second permanent location.

Familar, assisted by Kelsey Coburn and Erika Carey, is now in the fifth location for Gates County Library.

In between are the other five branches: Ahoskie Public Library (Manager Cindy Henderson, Assistants Annette Perry, Corelette Smith, Velma Stephenson, and Viretta Vann – one location); Elizabeth Sewell Parker Memorial Library (Manager Judy Hachey, Assistants Karen Cavin, Rosemary Cornwall, and Jean Matthews – three locations); Hertford County Library (Manager Tomeka Rouhlac, Assistants Gary Jones and Towanda Mitchell – one location); Northampton County Memorial Library (Manager Lillie Pernell, Assistants Mildred Gatling, Meredith Harrell, and Cynthia Joyner, with Earlie Boone assisting staff – two locations); and Sallie Harrell Jenkins Memorial Library (Manager Ellen Chauvin, Assistant Rosemary Cornwall – one location).

Each branch also has a volunteer Board of Advisors, and from those boards, representatives are selected to serve on the Regional Board of Trustees. Current Board of Trustees members are Dennis Babb, Marva Bond, Rusty Boyd, Harriet Byrum, Deborah Balmer Drew, Patricia Felton, Rhonda Jones, Christel Simmons, Annette Thompson, Irene Walker, and Helen Eure, Chair.

The regional office is housed in Winton in the same building as the Hertford County Library. Current staff include Kenny Rountree, Courier; Lee Bryant, Systems Administrator; Mylinda Eure, Technical Services; and Larry Joyner, Finance Officer. Serving as ARL Director since March 2020 is Hugh H. Davis.

Please plan to drop by any or all of the branches on Monday, October 9, 3:00-6:00 p.m.

Ahoskie Public Library, 210 E. Church St., Ahoskie

Bertie County Public Library, 102 Lancaster Ave., Windsor

Elizabeth Sewell Parker Memorial Library, 213 E. Main St., Murfreesboro

Gates County Public Library, 14 Cypress Creek Dr., Gatesville

Hertford County Public Library, 303 W. Tryon St., Winton

Northampton County Memorial Public Library, 207 W. Jefferson St., Jackson

Sallie Harrell Jenkins Memorial Library, 302 Broad Street, Aulander