Library celebration well worth the wait

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 20, 2004

As birthday celebrations go, the Selma-Dallas County Public Library’s 100th held yesterday on Selma Avenue was out of sight.

The reactions were overwhelmingly positive at the end of the 30-minute program – Selma was touched….The Celebration! children’s chorus were wonderful…. It was beautiful…. Lovely!…Terrific!…Great!

“It’s just wonderful,” said noted author Kathryn Tucker Windham who was autographing copies of her book “Ernest’s Gift” written for the centennial celebration, and illustrated by Frank Hardy.

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“(The library) is Selma’s crown jewel. It’s great to see all the people who’ve come -especially the children-to celebrate their library,” she said.

It was a perfect evening nestled in the midst of days of rain and soaring temperatures and humidity.

People were smiling and talking across all racial, denominational and class lines. Children were laughing, playing, singing.

The evening belonged to them. Because the celebration was not so much about the last 100 years, as Librarian Becky Nichols said in her remarks, but the next 100.

The celebration was all about the future and the community’s hopes for that future embodied in its library.

And thus the children which the library staff and others had gathered to bring to culmination the months-long celebration of the library’s centennial, were the center of the action.

The founders of the Selma-Dallas County Public Library 100 years ago would have been proud and would have rejoiced at the sight of Selma gathered symbolically to give thanks for the library which stands at the center – geographically and otherwise – of the life of the community.

More than 350 Selmians turned out to say thank you for the gift of one of the finest libraries of its type in the state of Alabama.

The program began with words of welcome from Librarian Becky Nichols and ended with the release of 100 brightly colored balloons that lifted off from the front lawn of the library into the clear blue sky.

The celebration was 28 days late due to a storm and power outage on June 20, the actual date of the library’s centennial – June 20, 1904 – the date when the Carnegie Library was dedicated. It stood a couple of blocks down the street and has recently been renovated and houses the city’s Centre for Commerce.

Celebration!, a 100-member children’s chorus which had been recruited from 19 city, county, private and home schools in Selma and Dallas County especially for the occasion, was the featured entertainment for the event.

Conceived by Judy Reed, an assistant librarian in the Children’s Department, and organized by Reed and Gordon Welch, minister of music at First Baptist Church, the group rehearsed a number of times in recent months in preparation for the big day.

They also recorded a CD which was on sale for the first time at yesterday’s event.

The crowd began to gather at 5:30 p.m. in front of the library on Selma Avenue where the block party was held.

The program began at 6 p.m. with the welcome by Librarian Becky Nichols.

“This library was born in the life of our community 100 years ago, and now it lives in the hearts of the community,” she said. “This is not a night for politicians and adults, but for the children, who represent the future of this community. Theirs are the voices and songs we will hear, along with their vision of what they want the community, nation and world to be.” She went on to give special thanks to Reed, Welch, Derryberry and the library staff which she noted had prepared for two centennial celebrations, the first one canceled due to weather.

The spirited singing of “God Bless America” led by Celebration! followed.

Minnie Lumpkin, a Celebration! singer, as were all the program participants,

offered a prayer and Steven Easterling gave the first of three presentations by young people – “What I Wish for My Community.”

Celebration! then led the assemblage in the singing of “To Sing A Simple Song,” followed by Lena Glaze’s remarks on “What I Wish For My Country.”

Celebration! sang “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing” and Mustafaa Tajuddin spoke on the topic, “What I Wish For My World.”

Celebration!’s rendering of “One Small Voice” was followed by a second prayer voiced by De’Andra Stitten.

The high point of the program was a special tribute to the Selma-Dallas County Public Library – an original song written by Christian recording artist Kevin Derryberry. Derryberry, whose studio in Alabaster had been used to cut Celebration!’s CD, led the chorus in the singing of his song, with the chorus, printed in the program sung by the audience. Derryberry is a native Selmian who has established himself through live performances and his own CDs which circulate widely.

The grand finale was “Here’s To The Next 100 Years!” sung by Celebration!

A number of persons and groups were noted in the printed program for their contributions to the event, including Gordon Welch, music teachers, Dr. James Carter, Wayne May, First Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church, bus drivers, Kevin Derryberry, Barry Reed, Pepsi Co., Mutt’s Pizza, Jason Kopp, Morris Productions, Bush Hog, The Selma Times-Journal, Jerry Yeager and Americorp Volunteers. Also thanks were given to the Celebration Chorus!, to the parents of members of the chorus and to the community for its ongoing support of the library.

Perhaps the spirit of the occasion was best summarized in the final words of the prayer offered by Stitten. After she had lifted up elements of the brief but inspiring words of the children offering their hopes for Selma, the nation and the world, she said, “And we give it all back to you (God).”