As children, we often imagine what we are going to be when we ‘grow up’. That changes daily, weekly, monthly, for the most part for all children. They want to be a doctor, a fireman, a nurse, a teacher, a police officer, and the list goes on. This was not true for Jean Wiggins. Mrs. Wiggins said she knew from the very start she wanted to be a librarian.
She graduated from Blountstown High School in 1952 and left for Florida State University two months later to begin the pursuit of her dream. Mrs. Wiggins graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Library Science in May, 1956 and began as the librarian at Marianna High School three months later. She remained at Marianna High School as the librarian until May 30, 1991.
Wiggins says, “I have always loved books and I knew exactly what I wanted to do before I graduated high school I wanted to share my love of books with students.”
Wiggins saw lots of changes through her 35 years at MHS, but one that stands out was the addition of the new library in the late 60s, “That was one of the biggest highlights of my career. We went from having a couple of film projectors to having multiple ones. We were able to provide projectors to the classroom and tried to provide all the material to fit the curriculum with all the audio and visual equipment available. We had 16 mm projectors that were catalogued using the Dewey Decimal system just like our books were, only they were audio and visual.” The library was moved from the main hall of MHS to a freestanding brand new state-of-the-art building. The books were moved by students forming a human assembly line and books handed from one to the other. All students were in the hallways or under the cover of an awning of the sidewalks going to the new library. That was a real treat for students then to have time away from the books. Rest assured, it was a speedy process and little time was missed.
Assisting Wiggins throughout her tenure at MHS were Mrs. Margie Turnage, Mrs. Milton, and Mrs. Eunice Martin, “They were great help for me especially when we were a demonstration library for Florida. We had people from all over the state coming to observe our library. Some would come in early and some later to see how we operated. This was in the 70s.”
Wiggins says without a doubt to see some of her students in the work force today, doing well means so much to her, “Ernie Padgett our county administrator, Dr. Joe Gay, and a bunch of lawyers and teachers, and a county commissioner. Chuck Lockey, Jackson County Commissioner stood up in a meeting and said he owed me an apology for his so-called misbehavior in the library when he was in school.” Lockey responded, “I sure did that. You know just being a boy, you couldn’t stay quiet in the library and Mrs. Wiggins was pretty adamant about the library being quiet so people could study. She was a very good person that could handle all of us guys at one time. We tried her patience but she always prevailed. That look she gave could freeze us in our steps. We weren’t as tough as we thought we were. I owed her that apology.”
Wiggins has two children, Melanie and Todd who both live near Atlanta, one in Fayettville and one in Cummings. Melanie is a nurse and works as a case manager. Todd is a computer analyst. She is the proud grandmother of two granddaughters, Molly McMillian who just returned from having taught a year in China, and Morgan who lives in Fayetteville. Todd is married to Kimberly and she has a son Joseph who has two children. Prior to his death, Jean’s husband Bill had a florist which Jean assisted in many ways while working at the high school. She refers to herself as the gopher for him, getting whatever he needed for flower arrangements, catering, anything to do with the business.
Although she retired in 2003, she is still very active in the community. She teaches a lady’s Sunday School class at First Baptist Church, sings in the choir, is secretary of the Joy Club and is church clerk. She is past president of the Friends of the Jackson County Public Library and is still a faithful member.
Libraries have definitely changed over the years and as they did, Jean Wiggins changed with them, adapting and improving every step of the way to continually influence the students passing before her a love for reading which in turn produces a smarter, more well-rounded adult! Thank you, Jean Wiggins for 35 years of dedication to the Jackson County School system.