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Library celebrating 75 years of service at Jan. 23 open house

The Friends of the Library invite everyone to the annual meeting and an open house reception on Jan 23, at 6:30 p.m. as the public library celebrates 75 years of service.
Come and tour the library, enjoy refreshments and learn new things about its history. There will be four major stations: Trustees Room – history of public service in Grady County; Adult area – focus on the Friends and 20 ways to become a Friend; Teen and Children’s area  learn about programs that transform children and young adults into lifelong learners; Auditorium – Why is the Friends important, what we do and history of the RML Friends.
At 7 p.m., the annual Meeting of the Friends. We will elect officers and vote on revised by-laws, which are available for review at or will be mailed on request by calling 229-377-3632. Enjoy refreshments and learn more about our library’s history and the Friends.
RML History Highlights
The Roddenbery Memorial Library is one of Cairo and Grady County’s greatest treasures. Quite apart from its collection of books, journals, photographs, recordings and computers, all made available and serviced by helpful and friendly staff, its gracious and attractive building impresses visitors to our town/county.
But how well acquainted with the library’s services and history are you? Do you know how and when it was established? How it got its beautiful building? What agencies support its budget? How you can help maintain the excellence of our outstanding library?
Here is a way you can help. Come to the library open house next week and join the Friends of the Library to  make your voice in support of the library heard.
The mission of the Friends is to foster community awareness, to support and to enrich library programs, resources and services, as well as to provide a forum for sharing interest and enthusiasms for the world of learning.
The library was organized in 1939 as the U.S. recovered from the Great Depression. President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) had a program designed to help unserved communities, especially rural areas, start libraries, prompting a group of civic-minded citizens and organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, the Womans Club of Cairo, etc., to adopt a library program. At that time, fewer than one-third of Georgia’s counties had libraries and those libraries were in the cities, so the group was breaking new ground.
With some help from the WPA, the Cairo City Council and concerned citizens, the “Cairo Public Library” was formed and opened its doors on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 1939, in a former storage room in City Hall with something over 110 books on its shelves and a promise of $10 per month for books from the city. Miss Wessie Connell had been chosen to be the first “Library Clerk” at a salary of $37.50 per month, paid by the WPA.
“Miss Wessie” went on to become one of the nation’s foremost library directors, honored not only locally and in Georgia, but nationally, as well, during her 38 year of service. On April 21, 2004, RML named the auditorium in her honor.
During World War II, the WPA program ended, so the city took on more financial support and Grady County joined in by subscribing a $35 per month book fund. Thus, the library became a local initiative with some ties to the state.
In 1954, the library moved across North Broad Street to a store building, which is now part of the Grady County Board of Education central office.
The year 1964 brought significant changes to the library. The construction of its classic building’s first phase gave the library a permanent home, as well as a change of name.
The “Cairo Public Library” name was dropped and replaced by “The Roddenbery Memorial Library” to honor the late Mr. Walter B. Roddenbery, Sr.
The Roddenbery family, long supporters of the library, donated the financial gift that underwrote the cost of the new building. Their gift was gratefully accepted by the community and the building appropriately named.
That carefully planned 9,000 square foot building is still the heart of the library and remains its public image as it reaches its 50th birthday later this year, although it was almost doubled in size by an addition in 1986.
The 1964 planning document quoted John Ruskin – “When we build, let us think we build forever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone.” The document also states, “For conditions 20 years hence all capacity should probably be 50% larger than standard figures.” That was excellent thinking and planning, indeed.
By the mid-1980s, increased patron service demands on the library required significantly more space, so planning and fund raising began to add 7,000 square feet to the existing building. In a six-week campaign, citizens raised $265,856 to match $742,072 in state funds provided. The project went forward with the addition wrapped around the sides and back of the original building in the same good taste and style.  
That addition in 1989 brought the library to its present size and capacity.
By 1995, the RML catalog of holdings had been converted to a digital base and the library had a program for patron access to electronic information on the Internet, one of only five Georgia libraries to provide that service. Moreover, in 2000, RML joined with 25 other libraries in the Georgia PINES (Public Information Network for Electronic Service – PINES) network, greatly expanding its access to other collections and services.
Your library has grown, added collections and services since its humble beginning in 1939 and is now a modern community center providing information services and resources for citizens and students, meeting rooms for civic organizations, lectures and speakers on various subjects and much, much more. It needs your support – please join the Friends.

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