By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer
The Madison County Public Library offers a variety of programs and services to thousands of residents every year, but Director Ruthie Maslin made sure Sunday at the library’s anniversary gala to give credit to the taxpayers.
“We offer everything for free at the library, but it’s paid for by taxpayers,” Maslin pointed out to the crowd gathered in the Richmond branch.
She said people often hear negative things about taxes, but the support of the county’s residents has turned the Berea and Richmond libraries into important community institutions.
Maslin said every year 30,000 people attend library programs, 90,000 people use the computers, and the libraries and bookmobiles log 360,000 annual visits.
Maslin recognized the Friends of the Library, which raises $10,000 each year for a variety of library functions, including summer programs, the annual Halloween party, movie licenses and adult programming.
Dr. Stuart Tobin, who was the chair of the first library board, spoke at the event about the “very painful delivery” of the public library in Madison County. The push for a public library began eight years prior to the taxing district’s creation, he said.
A group of residents created the Madison County Athenaeum and raised money, which got the attention of the community, Tobin said.
The money raised was not enough to endow a library, but it could provide supplemental funding. The next step was circulating a petition, as required by state law, and then getting enough votes from the Madison Fiscal Court to establish a taxing district. That would give the library a source of regular, perpetual funding, he said.
Peggy Rice, who was one of the two magistrates who voted in favor of the library, described the scene at the packed Fiscal Court meeting 25 years ago when it came down to Judge/Executive Harold Botner’s vote.
Rice and Forniss Park had voted in favor, and the two other magistrates had voted against. No one knew how Botner was going to vote, Rice said.
“He said, ‘I vote yes,” Rice said, adding emphasis to the word yes. The crowd at Sunday’s gala erupted in applause.
Tobin said Botner’s vote was “political suicide,” but a vote that took into account the long-term importance of enriching the community regardless of its affect on Botner’s political career.
“Many of the people who didn’t see why we needed a library see it now,” Tobin said.
At Sunday’s event, Botner, who is deceased, was represented by several family members, including his children. The Judge Harold Botner Community Meeting Suites were dedicated in his memory, and his family was presented with a plaque.
Also honored at the event was Sue Hays, the first library director, who passed away last fall. The building the library recently purchased behind the Richmond branch will be called the Sue Hays Library Annex. It will be used for administrative purposes, freeing up more community space inside the library.
The computer area of the library will soon be reorganized, Maslin said, and it will be named the Dr. Stuart Tobin Technology Commons.
The Madison County Athenaeum presented the library with a check for $25,000. The fund currently has a quarter of a million dollars invested through a charitable trust, Tobin said.
The 25th library celebration will continue over the next year with events highlighting library services and programs. It will wrap up in May with a closing gala at the Berea branch.
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 624-6694.