Community treasure is decade old


Years, and even decades, of hard work and dedication will be celebrated Saturday, Sept. 18 when the Alba Public Library and Museum marks its 10th anniversary.

The official date for the facility’s first decade was in March, but the event was postponed.

Though the joint museum and library officially got its start that spring of 2011, it marks a much longer genesis.

The idea for a library was floated by various community members for many, many years.

As Saundra Burge recalled, each effort ran into a road block. The price was too high, the building was too small.

Finally the word came in 2008 that the city had acquired the building on the north side of the square whose last tenant had been a restaurant.

It started out as the Ford dealership almost a century ago and was also a lumber yard.

As Burge and Ginger Patrick described, it was not in good shape. Rain poured through the roof.

But with the city’s assistance and its economic development corporation – and lots of blood, sweat and tears from innumerable volunteers – the space was transformed over a three-year period.

Furniture and shelving were built by volunteers and acquired through grants.

Visitors today will find a welcoming facility, with the south half or so housing the library’s collection of around 17,000 titles, and the two spaces on the north side holding a priceless treasure trove telling the community’s amazing history, whose population peaked at 1,352 in the 1920 census when it was a coal-mining and cotton farming center.

It had banks, theaters, professionals such as a doctor (Patrick’s grandfather, Dr. Farrington), dentist and lawyer and much more.

The museum has mementoes from all of those and more – schools, churches, and the town’s newspapers which once chronicled daily life.

At the museum entrance resides a collection celebrating the community’s contributions to the U.S. military.

Once the museum was established, area residents flooded it with donations of memorabilia – important pieces of the history that could have been lost.

That spirit continues with weekly calls concerning possible donations. What at first seemed spacious is now filled with an incredible variety, ranging from farm implements to Alba and Golden letter jackets from the days before the two schools combined.

Burge recalled when she attended Alba High School that it had a very small library, not even the size of the current front desk area.

The library has an active children’s program, and the volunteers pride themselves on keeping its collection up-to-date.

As it operates on funding from the county, the city and EDC and donations, the budget does not include payroll, and a large share of the funds goes to book purchases.

It has come a long way from the early days when “hand-me-down” donations made up the bulk of the collection.

When the library in Bedford offered a huge donation of used titles, the Alba volunteers headed west in a U-Haul and brought back dozens of boxes.

The library does not restrict card holders to the community or the county. As Alba benefits from visitors to nearby Lake Fork, the library has card holders who visit the area and are looking for something to read.

Come by for refreshments from noon-4 p.m. at 109 E. Holley St. The volunteers will be glad to show you around.

And they would always welcome more volunteers.