Library celebrates a century

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 6, 2011

By Shelley Smith
SALISBURY — Abigail Wells and her sister, Hannah, checked out books from the Rowan Public Library using their brand new library cards for the first time Sunday.
“It felt pretty good,” said Hannah, 9, whose favorite books are mystery novels.
And on the day of the Rowan Public Library’s 100th birthday, staff and volunteers hope the sisters will continue to use the library’s limitless resources throughout their lives as others have for the past 100 years.
Hundreds showed up for the birthday party Sunday for fellowship, enjoying cake and ice cream, the Salisbury Brass Band, Barbershop Quartet, Bar None, a scavenger hunt, and to meet celebrities like Andrew Jackson and Daniel Boone.
During a birthday toast, Phil Barton, the director of the Rowan Public Library for 30 years until he retired in 2007, called the library “an ongoing celebration of the ideas of mankind.”
“Rowan Public Library was established 100 years ago and dedicated to the common good and enrichment of our community,” Barton said. “Since its humble beginning, it has been a place that stimulates, encourages and nurtures thoughts and ideas.
“As we look into the future we envision a community that is knowledgeable, progressive, diverse and economically vibrant.”
Siblings Bailey, 9, and Abbey Birkhead, 11, sat in the children’s wing of the library enjoying ice cream Sunday, reminiscing on their time spent at the library since birth. With their father being Paul Birkhead, manager of the East Rowan Branch, it’s hard to not love to read.
“I like a lot of books,” Bailey said. “For a kid, I visit a lot.”
His favorite books are “The Kingdom Keepers.” He also enjoys playing games on the computers.
Abbey loves mystery novels and read all of the Nancy Drew novels in one year.
Nine-year-old Zinahji Goodjohn was busy Sunday afternoon working on a scavenger hunt, hoping to win a gift card to The Literary Bookpost. His favorite thing to do at the library? Watching movies.
But his favorite books to read are fairy tales, he said.
“I like ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ because it’s about her and a wolf, and she’s going on this adventure to her grandmother’s house,” he said.
The Rowan Public Library received a special gift Sunday from Salisbury’s sister city, Salisbury, England — a book on the history of the sister city, “Salisbury Past,” presented by Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz.
“When we speak of our assets of the city, and there are many, the library is always at the top of our list,” Kluttz said.
Rowan County Commissioner Chairman Chad Mitchell commended the library for being around for 100 years.
“Any organization that’s been able to make it 100 years is a great accomplishment,” he said. “Considering the services the library provides to the citizens and our community, it makes it particularly special.”
Friend of the Library Dale Basinger has worn many hats at the Rowan Public Library, and said he wouldn’t put any other library above Rowan’s.
“I believe there are good libraries, I believe there are very good libraries, and I believe Rowan County Public Library is an excellent library,” he said.
Rowan Public Library Director Jeff Hall said that in 1911 when the library was established, a public library was “not a new idea.”
“Our founding fathers believed that in order for our democracy to function properly, an educated populace was necessary,” he said.
At one time, Rowan County had 11 branches of the Rowan Public Library, he said.
“Even one in the Yadkin community; can you believe that?” he said.
“Each one of the libraries that stand today are cornerstones in that community,” Hall said. “Our community has seem the importance of libraries over the years.”
In 2010, 860,000 items went out the doors of the libraries, Hall said. And the main branch in Salisbury, he said, is the biggest cornerstone of them all.
“No other agency, in my opinion, has acquired, preserved and published our history,” he said. “Our county has served and our library has served to preserve those documents.
“Our libraries we believe are essentials to our community.”
Robert Clyde Allen, 50, is one of the members of the community who has been coming since childhood and has never left.
“My mother came here when she was a young woman, and my love for the library came from her,” Allen said. “The library is a suppository of all information.
“You could spend 100 years here and not run out of subjects. The library pays back its community 1,000 times fold in my opinion.”