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Book Reviews

Images of America: Gadsden Public Library: 100 Years of Service

By: Library History Committee, eds.
Reviewed by: Delores Jordan
Arcadia Books, 2008
$19.99, Paperback

This beautiful picture book of the Gadsden Public Library is not just a historical recounting of the many buildings that made up the library and its branches, but it also is a history of a literary community. Readers can’t help but be impressed by the outpouring of money, time, talent, energy, and love by the people of Gadsden and its surrounding communities. Images of America: Gadsden Public Library: 100 Years of Service is a jewel.

The editors open with black and white photos of a group of ladies in 1897 forming a club called the Bachelor Girls, which turned its mission into program structures and adopted local causes. According to the photo’s caption, “In 1889, this intellectual gathering evolved into the Thursday Study Club, which is still active today. One of the club’s earliest goals was to establish a reading room for Gadsden. Members raised $256 for books and opened a public reading room in 1900. When Gadsden Public Library opened in 1906, some 456 volumes from the reading room formed the nucleus of the library’s collection."

This book takes readers through eight library directors from the old reading room to the ultra-modern Gadsden Public Library of today. Not only do readers learn about this steady development and progress of the library system, but photos take readers through an intimate journey of the triumphs and tragedies leading to today’s great library system. Through these photos, viewers watch the heavy, long dresses of only white women give way to the casual clothing of different genders and ethnicities in today’s library system. The book shows photos of prominent people, various donations covering everything from priceless documents, and a wooden replica of the Globe Theater.

Readers find that Gadsden Public Libraries often led the state in developing the most efficient means of handling books and checkout methods and developing the methods for Friends of the Library to promote membership drives, which became a state symbol of success. Readers discover Gadsden’s innovation in bringing in huge crowds of patrons with events featuring literary giants and talented artists. These events helped raise the funding to open many branches, go through many renovations, and build a couple of brand new libraries.

As if this were not a rich enough read, the editors write about the ghost of Minnie Law, a nineteenth century school teacher whose classroom had part of the new library built upon it. Many people have heard and seen the ghost of Minnie Law, whose husband W.P. Law, founder of Alabama Power, was active in furthering the reach of the Gadsden Public Library to children, parents, and a community at large. Aug 2009

Delores Jordan is the author of the forthcoming novel In and Out of Madness, written under her nom de plume N.L. Snowden.

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