The present library building, the front half, used to be in the parking lot between the gray stone senior center and the old courthouse. It was moved from there to where it is now, and the half to the right of the side door as you go in was added at that time. If my feeble memory serves more or less correctly, I believe Bessie Duncan put up money to build the new wing; hence, the portraits of Bessie and Edwin painted by Rachel Tepker. Rachel was wife of Harry Tepker, landscape painter who made some extraordinary paintings and prints of our county.
The librarian in the original location, the first one I knew, was Mildred Torney. Mildred was one of the first people I met here, and I think the first I met in Sparta. Of course, my first time in Sparta, the next stop after the gas station was the library. New in Sparta in 1976 was the same as invisible; that is, unless you drove a Cadillac.
There came a time I got used to being stared at in the laundromat like I was a television. I'd speak to whoever it was staring at me and there'd be no reply. They kept on staring. Many times I thought of that childhood saying, take a picture it'll last longer. We didn't have Pee Wee then, but only Pee Wee Herman can say that grown up and it sound right.
Mildred spoke to me like I was a visible person, like she actually saw me, and next time we met she remembered my name. In that time in Sparta, a foreigner was the same as an alien from outer space, let alone Mexico. The suspicious eye, what do you want here? That was constant, something to get used to. Of the people I met the first couple years in Alleghany, Mildred Torney and Jr Maxwell were the only ones I can remember who knew my name the second time we met. It made them stand out for me. They were like shade trees on a hot summer day. It was a lonesome time.
Debbie carries on the tradition Mildred got going of hanging pictures by artists in the county, whatever they are, without judgment. In the old place, Mildred had a pegboard on one wall where she hung the pictures.
In the new addition, the new wing had a space specifically to hang pictures by area artists. Debbie has various cultural activities at the library, old-time music show, tall tales show, puppet show, every kind of thing like that there is around here, Debbie gets them to come to the library to put on a show. It's quite an active place.
Some years ago, I heard about someone writing a history of the county, but haven't heard any more since then. My barber Basil Landreth suggested years ago I write a history of the county, but I don't have organized enough mind to take on such an extended project. I'm a right-brainer.
Mildred always talked with me when I went into the library. She was good to get books on interlibrary loan from all over the state, things like essays of Paul Valery. Mildred's husband, Guy, was fading and she had to leave work to take care of him, leaving the library to Pauline Jolly. Debbie worked there all along. Debbie is a hard working county employee. When the library came to Debbie, she stepped right up to it and has kept it running very well.
Debbie's staff at the library is good as you could ask for. I'm sure everybody who goes to the library misses Lucy Roe, who has sailed away into retirement. I expect she'll continue with the clown troupe. Doug works the desk and makes wry remarks with a sense of humor all his own. He loves old-time fiddle and banjo music. Sherry is wife of Arnold Clodfelter from Piney Creek. She and Jean were friends.
None of them acts like you've interrupted their coffee break when you ask for help of some sort. In this way Alleghany County office staff are different from our surrounding counties. The others are surly by comparison. We are fortunate to have that attentive attitude in our county employees.
Debbie runs the library on a tight budget. Recession/Depression is nothing new to the library budget, except it will get tighter. Computer access is one of the great services the library offers. The computers are busy nearly all the time, such that the library needs about twice as many as they have. It needs much more space. Then all the other county services need more too. And the town needs water from the New River. So much to do and so little resources to do it with.