Editor's note: The following article has been corrected from its original version.
MOULTRIE, Ga. — Supporters of the Moultrie-Colquitt County Library System turned out for a second day Saturday to celebrate the return of the library to Fifth Street Southeast.
The library’s services have been housed at a temporary location for nearly a year as workers renovated the building, which the library has occupied since Nov. 27, 1964.
Library Director Holly Phillips gushed gratitude during both the ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday and the grand opening Saturday.
She said the renovated building is “beautiful, functional and honors our history in many places.”
She thanked state representatives who helped secure state funding starting in 2017, the first year that the Moultrie library was on the Georgia Public Library Service’s recommendation list. In addition to Rep. Sam Watson of Moultrie and Rep. Jay Powell of Camilla, who represent Colquitt County, she said Reps. Penny Houston of Nashville and Ed Rynders of Albany — both of whom represented parts of the county before redistricting in 2012 — also took an interest. Even lawmakers from outside the area got behind the project, she said.
The renovation was made possible by about $2 million in state funds over two years. The first year required a 10 percent local match, and the second year required a 50 percent match.
That local money came from many sources, and Phillips called out some of the biggest donors Saturday, including the DeLoache Charitable Trust, which gave $80,000 early in the process; Ameris Bank, who loaned the library a former bank building on Main Street free of charge while the renovation was under way; and ABM, which funded the SMALL Lab.
The SMALL Lab is a computer program and presentation technology that allows users to interact with videos or games projected onto the floor; the key is a wand that the system can track, much like a Nintendo Wii remote. Library staff demonstrated the system on Thursday with a video about lions; the user could pan the camera 360 degrees while the recorded narrator described what was happening with the pride. Staff also demonstrated a game for children in which they could match Dr. Seuss characters with the book they’re in; children playing the same game on Saturday appeared to really enjoy it.
Phillips also thanked the Colquitt County Board of Commissioners and the Georgia Public Library Service for their ongoing support.
“Their year-long support has helped this library to exist,” she said of the county commissioners.
Henry Klar, chairman of the library board, reflected back more than 100 years, when Moultrian J.E. Howell visited magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to get money for the town’s first library. Carnegie pitched in $10,000, and in 1908, the library opened on the corner of Main Street and First Avenue North, where it stayed until moving to the Frank McCall-designed building on Fifth Street in 1964. The original library now houses the Fallin & McIntosh law firm.
Klar spoke about the variety of people who use the library with anecdotes about a preschool girl who won an award for reading 100 books, a truck driver who “read” audiobooks while he was on the road, a man who rode his bicycle from south of town to the library because he couldn’t afford a car, and a widow who now had time to check out books and read.
“Our library is a lighthouse of hope,” Klar said.
Angie Patteson, president of the Friends of the Library, described advocating for the library, including the drive to get state lawmakers’ support in early 2017.
“It speaks to what the community values and what you think is important,” Patteson said.
David Moore, architect with McMillian Pazdan Smith Architects, and Melissa Smith, project manager with S.C. Barker Construction, praised the library and the staff they worked with in completing the renovation.
“(Holly Phillips) looked at the bones of this mid-century building and saw what it could be,” Moore said. “… It’s your new community living room, your new public square, and for everyone a window to the world.”