Forest Public Library celebrates 10th year anniversary in new building – Scott County Times

Posted: October 3, 2020 at 4:55 am


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R. David Lankes said, Bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, and great libraries build communities. However, ten years ago, a great community built a great library.

According to Branch Manager Dianne McLaurin, the Friends of the Forest Public Library had begun plans in January 2020 for a community-wide library celebration. Unfortunately, Covid-19 had other plans. The Friends group created a Ten-Year Anniversary Committee with Shawna Alexander, former branch manager and member of the group, as the chairman. The event was to be held in August or September 2020 to commemorate the grand opening of the current facility,McLaurin said. When the library closed on March 16th of this year, library life as we knew it changed for everyone. Even after we reopened to the public, the library programming has been completely virtual. Much to everyones disappointment, we knew that our plans for a Sunday afternoon celebration were not to be. I am so grateful for this opportunity to pay tribute.

Some people have called the Forest Public Library the Taj Mahal of Mississippi libraries. Mayor Nancy Chambers described it best ten years ago in a quote from The Scott County Times. Is this not a fantastic facility? Chambers question was answered with resounding applause at the librarys dedication ceremony hosted by the Forest Area Chamber of Commerce. She continued her address to a large crowd of residents in attendance, I dont believe there is a finer library facility owned by a municipality the size of Forest in the entire state of Mississippi. It says much about our people, it says much about our city, and it says much about our community. It tells everybody that we recognize where the emphasis should be.

Although much success was shared on that day in August 2010, the path to success was sometimes rocky and rough. Former Branch Manager Shawna Alexander remembers those days.

When discussions first began about building the new library, Mayor Chambers wanted to build the new facility in the same location of the previous library, Alexander said. She faced some serious opposition from those who wanted to preserve the structure because of the old band hall. They did not want the facility torn to the ground and a new one built in its place. However, the mayor was firm in her defense of the location, and the decision was made that the new library would remain in the heart of the downtown area.

Alexander said that the rocky road did not end with that positive decision. Everything in the building had to be packed up and moved to the Community Bank annex building and then unpacked for a year of continued library operation during the demolition of the old library and the construction of the new library.

The headquarters staff of the Central Mississippi Regional Library System helped with the transition of materials by offering support, organization, and physical labor.

We moved out of the building in April 2009 and stayed at the annex until of August of 2010, Alexander said. Some items had to be stored upstairs, so we made many trips up and down to make sure every item had a safe place until the building phase was finished. Mrs. Kaileen Thieling was the CMRLS director at that time. She was so helpful throughout the process. Four new libraries were built during her tenure as director, so she definitely knew the most efficient way to get everything done.

From the ambitious vision to the dedication ceremony, one part of the journey required the help of everyone.

This building would not be here without donations, Alexander said. She explained that everyone asked for donations. Mayor Chambers, Director Thieling, and Branch Manager Alexander visited every civic club, business, and organization to solicit donations.

Then Friends President Beverly Rhodes and Vice-President Esther Perry gathered up jugs and jars and took them to individual classes at the schools. Each class competed to collect the most change from the students.

I remember that we rolled piles and piles of change, Alexander said. It wasnt about winning a competition; I think the class that won received snacks from the Friends group. It was about everyone in the community doing their part, even children.

The community donations came from every corner of town. Whether it was a furniture company donating a recliner to be raffled or a bank donating a conference table, the community stepped up to the challenge. Soon the path to completion was becoming smoother, and the end destination was in sight.

The formal dedication and grand opening of the $2.5 million facility was held on Thursday, August 26, at 5:00 p.m. Former Scott County Times editor Sid Salter served as emcee for the event. Mayor Chambers enumerated the many people who had significant roles in building the new facility, including Bryan Brown architect, John Laws general contractor, the Forest Board of Aldermen, city administration, library staff, county officials, and the many donors.

Current Branch Manager Dianne McLaurin has strong ties to the Forest Public Library. She understands the appreciation of the new facility and the continued emphasis on community.

McLaurin is the only librarian to serve as childrens librarian, circulation clerk, assistant branch manager, and branch manager of the Forest Public Library. I cannot imagine this facility any other way than it is now, even though I worked in the former library, she said. At one point, we removed the carpet in that facility, painted the interior walls, and even painted the childrens area Bearcat Blue! I loved that library, but all the upgrades and repairs could not sustain the condition of the building.

There is nothing like experiencing the seasons in the new library with its floor to ceiling windows the spring blossoms, the summer sunsets, the fall foliage, and the Christmas decorations! I know why everyone feels welcomed and special here. I remember when WAPT news anchor Scott Simmons was covering a story in Forest, he was so impressed by the library. His exact words were this place is amazing.

John Grisham once said that all he had to do was visit the public library for an accurate impression of the town. The Forest Public Library continues to make a lasting impression upon everyone who drives around the city block, enters its doors, or uses the space for the services provided.

A few years ago, someone asked McLaurin how it feels to work in the beautiful facility, and she replied, It feels like being a part of something grand and common every single day. To me, true community feels the same.

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Forest Public Library celebrates 10th year anniversary in new building - Scott County Times

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