Thirty Years Ago – A Relative Perspective

April 2012

"History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time, illumines reality, vitalizes memory, and provides guidance in daily life..."     - Marcus Cicero, Pro Publio Sestio

Once upon a time, when the sounds and sights of spring were in the air, the Mathews Memorial Library (only recently moved from its original site on the Court Green to the iconic Farmers Bank of Mathews building on Main Street) hit the jackpot. It acquired a partner – a group of citizens who called themselves "Friends." The year was 1982, and the library had been in existence since 1935, even longer if one considers the fact that it had almost become a reality in 1933, but for the small matter of a hurricane which wiped out plans for opening in August 1933.

In 1975, Mildred Sadler Hudgins had replaced Miss Dahlia E. Callis as librarian. Miss Callis, the fourth individual to serve in the post had bestowed to the county a rich tradition of library service, one which was enhanced by the dedication and love of community that Mildred brought to the position. It was during her tenure that the organization, Friends of the Library, became a dynamic force in sustaining and expanding library service in Mathews. The foresight and vision of the leaders of the organization have remained as guiding principles of excellence in service.

Ten years ago in February, 2002, I was privileged to return home to Mathews to become a part of the library family. It was a time of high anticipation as the Friends were about to complete a major renovation of the library. Accomplishing what few would have thought possible, they had raised over a million dollars and converted the cramped quarters of the old bank building into a spacious, beautifully appointed library facility. Nothing was overlooked or omitted, from the dramatic mezzanine to the brightly painted youth wing. When the staff moved from the temporary library quarters located in the Orrell Building where they had continued to provide excellent service over a two-year period, the Friends reclaimed the building for their headquarters. More importantly, they established a book store which has become one of the most successful all of Virginia public libraries.

From its inception, the organization has demonstrated its support of the library and its programs. This record of outstanding service translates to the dedication and unselfish giving, both in resources and service, of those who have chosen to become a Friend of the Library. Their commitment was, and is, expressed in a variety of ways, none of which are motivated by a desire for praise or recognition. From story time to music programs, the Friends have established an unblemished record of support. Leadership has changed over time, but not the level of support that is available when needed.

Two years ago, the Friends once again assumed responsibility for a major rennovation. With the opportunity to purchase the adjacent building, they did not flinch in commiting to undertake the gargantuan task of raising nearly one million dollars at a time of economic uncertainty. Without their vision, the library would not be able to look forward to serving more members of the community by offering expanded services in an improved and up-to-date setting.

The staff of the Library joins me in saluting and congratulating the Friends of the Library on the occasion of their 30th birthday. Happy Birthday!