On a Saturday morning nearly 50 years ago, I read Green Eggs and Ham at the Monticello library, then located on South Main Street. Today, I took a trip down memory lane and reread that book, ironically, on the property where I drew my first breath.
The Monticello library officially opened for business Monday at its new location on the property where Drew Memorial Hospital was once located.
Drew County took the idea of literacy seriously just over three years ago when, during a recession, it clenched its collective teeth and approved a half-cent countywide sales tax increase to finance a $5 million bond issue to fund the construction of a new library. The measure passed by a nearly 2-1 margin with 60 percent of the voters supporting the tax hike.
The former library had simply outgrown the 56-year-old brick building on South Main. The new library has twice as much space, providing more room for children’s programs, tutoring, books, periodicals, computers, videos, genealogy research, meetings and parking.
A large 150-seat meeting room (pictured below) is equipped with a small refreshment prep area, coffee bar, two 72-inch screen televisions and a retractable wall capable of separating the room into two spaces.
The brightly-colored children’s section has two computers, an activity wall, books and child-sized seating and tables. The children’s computers are not internet connected. Instead, they are equipped with about 40 software programs suitable for children.
As a nod to the past, the vintage chairs in which I once sat reading Dr. Seuss books were brought over and placed in the children’s section along with all of the new chairs and tables.
While the modern design looks out of place in Monticello’s historic district, its vaulted ceilings and large windows provide a great deal of natural light throughout the 20,000 square-foot structure. The open design has very few interior walls so that when technology, ideas and usage patterns change, the library arrangement can change.
Outdoors, there is a “secret garden” featuring an Alice Guffey Miller sculpture “Tree of Enlightenment.” The Monticello artist cast items relating to the history of Drew County into 36 stone blocks to create the base of sculpture.
There is also an outdoor walking path around the perimeter of the building.
The library recently hired a program coordinator who will routinely schedule events such as movie night and painting classes, according to Judy Calhoun, director of the Southeast Arkansas Regional Library which is also housed in the new facility.
The new library hours are 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays Thursdays and Fridays; noon until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays; and 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
While it is a bit sad to say goodbye to the old library, the place that took me from Green Eggs and Ham to War and Peace, I find it somewhat poetic that the new library is located on the property where so many Drew Countians took their first breath.