07/21/14 — Mount Olive gets first look at its new library

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Mount Olive gets first look at its new library

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 21, 2014 2:02 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- For a few hours Sunday afternoon, Steele Memorial Library patrons could celebrate and talk above a whisper without being worried that they would be shushed by branch manager Jerilyn Lee.

Hundreds of people roamed the state-of-the art facility that officially opened at 9 a.m. this morning.

At 23,000 square feet, the new library is nearly eight times the size of the old facility. It has a large computer room, a self-checkout system, a large meeting room and several smaller ones.

The county library's tech services, once housed at the Goldsboro branch, have relocated to Steele.

"I am beyond tired," Mrs. Lee said. "Tomorrow (Monday) will be the eighth straight day working for me. I was overwhelmed at the number of people who showed up. I can't believe it. We had such a wonderful turnout. We were expecting about 200, but I think we probably doubled that.

"They finally just opened the front door and back door and just let them in. We are really excited about the turnout and really proud of the work that has been done to get this place together. We are so thankful for the support from all of the people."

The excitement surrounding Sunday's event had been building all week, she said.

"We have had people all week long coming to the front door, the back door, the side door, peering in the windows wanting to know, 'When is the library going to open?'" she said.

The celebration isn't over. A cornerstone rededication is planned for Saturday, Aug. 16 at 10 a.m.

The open house included the dedication of the J.D. Evans Community Room, named in memory of the late county commissioner who was a steadfast supporter of building the new library.

It was standing room only during the dedication ceremony with more than 100 people on hand well before the 3 p.m. start.

Wayne County Library Director Donna Phillips said that Evans wanted this library "so much" for this community.

"You all who knew J.D., knew that he was an educator and that he believed in education," she said. "He believed in a future for children and that is why you all are here today. He saw a promise in every child and that is why the library is here today."

Mrs. Phillips said that the size of Sunday's crowd indicated how much the people love their library.

"It has been a process, and today is a wonderful day in the life of this community and the life of the Steele Library story," said Lynn Williams, who chaired the Steele Memorial Library Steering Committee. "It has been quite a story for the past five or six years.

"But it has been a story since the 1930s. The original library was dedicated in April of 1935. We have heard about Dr. (W.C.) Steele and how he got the (fundraising) idea rolling (back then), that this was the first public library in Wayne County. So you know, we have always had it going on in Mount Olive.

"It is a testament to what can be accomplished when dedicated and involved people work together toward a common goal," Mrs. Williams said. "The new Steele opens for business tomorrow and a new chapter in the Steele story begins."

Cal Shepard, head of the state Library System, said she had prepared remarks, but was tossing them aside.

"I am so impressed by what I am hearing here today," she said. "Instead of just canned comments I want to respond to what I have seen as an outsider and as a librarian. You all are what make libraries work. Libraries are a reflection of their communities and all I can say is that I want to move to Mount Olive."