“We don’t need no liberry now”
For some, the Library Story will bring back memories long forgotten, for others, it is the writer’s hope it will help everyone understand how hard some of us worked to get a library for Jackson County, and how proud we are of what is going on at the Jackson County Library today
The Jackson County Library has had three homes!
First it was at the Community House located on Wynn Street on the Wynn Street Park property. It was a very large building used for many activities. One of the rooms in the building housed the only public library in the county. Marianna Woman’s Club volunteers opened it several hours a week for those wishing to check out and return books. Sandra Peacock tells how she and her little friends would walk down to the Community House and sit on the steps and wait for the ladies to come and open the building so they could exchange their library books.
In the early 1950’s, The Marianna Woman’s Club and Marianna Junior Woman’s Club won a $5,000 national award for a project they did in the county to eradicate hookworms which had infested hundreds of county children. They used the money to purchase and renovate the Messer Home on the corner of Clinton and Caledonia Streets. One section of the house was dedicated and prepared, with shelving on every wall, to house the Jackson County Library and the books were all moved there.
For the next twenty six years, the library was a part of the Marianna Woman’s Club, with most of the expenses being absorbed by the Woman’s Club. For many of those years, Mrs. J.R. Hooten and Pat Simpson almost single-handedly kept the doors open several hours a week. The clippings we found in the Library in scrapbooks which were so meticulously kept, state that in 197, Carole Davidson had been co-employed by the City and the County as the Librarian, assisted by Kathleen Carter. The library was open Monday, Wednesday and Friday 1:00 to 5:00, Monday night for two hours and Saturday mornings. The report states that many books had been donated during that year and the circulation for the year was 3,297 adults and 1,834 juveniles, for a total of 5,131 books for 1974 and 5,663 were circulated for 1973. That averages about 450 books distributed each month during those brief open hours. They were busy!
During this time, many futile attempts had been made by the Marianna Junior Woman’s Club, the Jackson County Heritage Association (which is now the Chipola Historical Trust) and other interested groups to convince the County Commission of the need for a real county library.
One particularly memorable event occurred one evening in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s when June Manor, Betty Joyce Hand, Claude Reese and this writer, representing the Jackson County Heritage Association, approached the County Commissioners one more time.
June and Betty Joyce were making the presentation, which we four thought was particularly sensible and heart felt. However, one of the Commissioners listened intently and then said, and I quote: “We ain’t never had no LIBERRY in Jackson County and we don’t need no LIBERRY now!”
And the ladies, after a very long pause, said, “THANK YOU!”
During 1974 there was a program by the Federal Government to encourage citizens to do a Bicentennial Project in observance of America’s 200th Birthday. They were offering matching funds to communities who could present a plan that seemed worthy, which would be chosen by a State of Florida selection committee named “The State Bicentennial Commission.”
Since our group had not taken “No” for an answer very well earlier, we four, representing several organizations, began to investigate what might be done to secure a library as the County’s Bicentennial Project and perhaps apply for some grant monies. A Bicentennial Committee, the “Action ’76 Committee”, and many other committees were formed. All interested citizens were drawn into the possibility of making this potential library project a community endeavor.
Strangely enough, the Jackson County Heritage Association had just been given a house which had been moved from the Pierce property to make way for the 1st Federal Savings & Loan Association to build the building that is now Regions Bank. The building was an 1855 Gothic Victorian house, which seemed quite adequate for a library, but it needed extensive renovation and we had NO money! The house was now sitting on its moving timbers on the Jackson County School Board property north of the City Hall.
“The Little Green House” was its official name---even though it was a pretty large old home. At some point in time the house had been painted dark green (which was so weather-beaten that could have been debatable.) The name seemed to fit the house, however, and it was always referred to as “The Little Green House.” “The Little Green House”
But just in case the group began to look for land and get estimates for the renovation. Slade West gave us a lot in his West Manor Subdivision. The Jackson County Bicentennial Committee had been formed in 1975 and had been working feverishly on the “Little Green House Library Project”. The State’s $15,000 grant application had been submitted and approved to renovate the donated house. The City of Marianna had earmarked $7,500 for the project and the group decided the time was right to make another approach to the County.
June and Betty Joyce went, once again, made their most sincere appeal, and this time the Commission agreed to match the State’s $15,000 grant for the “Little Green House Library Project”.
The groups that were working so hard were delighted, but when the estimate came back on the renovation, it was way more than all involved had anticipated. In addition, the donated lot just didn’t seem to fit the project. While disappointed, everyone was very determined! Everyone agreed we had to abandon “The Little Green House Library Project” and Plan “B” was immediately begun! With a pledge of $37,500 toward the project it seemed reasonable to begin to look at a new building…but we all knew that it would take WAY more than that to complete the project…and all agreed this was to be a County Library…..we would look to the entire COUNTY to help with the funding.