Re-using tape and printing on both sides of paper are some of the many cost-saving techniques Fuller uses to put the library’s tiny budget to its largest use. And while libraries across Carroll County are feeling an economic pinch, the pain is especially acute in Whitesburg, located out on the county’s southeastern edge.
Being so distant is a tough reality for people in Whitesburg. With a median income of just over $42,000, a trip to Carrollton’s markets requires planning ahead. And high-speed Internet is not universal in the town of 588 people — a large number still rely on dial-up access.
Yet the children of Whitesburg have the same educational needs as students in the rest of the county. To them, and their parents, the Whitesburg library is an outpost of learning, providing books to study and high-speed access for homework. But more than that, the library is a seemingly endless trove of other resources – GED education, reading programs, talks, movies, etc.
It is amazing that so much can come from so small a building, but it does. And Fuller is the driving force behind it all. She is an Army Air Corps/Air Force “brat,” having lived all over the United States. As a child, she says she was “an average reader,” who was so behind in learning to read she was in a remedial program. Now, it is clear that experience taught her the value of both reading and education, and she has devoted herself to turning the library into an educational resource for the community.
“We want to make sure the students who are in the school have a good reading foundation; (if) you don’t have a good reading foundation, you’re in trouble. If they’ve got a foundation, they have a chance at life. We’re trying to help the community.”
Fuller is the only full-time employee. That means she and a part-time worker are responsible for not only running the library, but in administering a seemingly endless array of free resources, all of which are designed to facilitate learning. And that includes some of the items that are available to anyone with a library card.
One of these is a family pass for Zoo Atlanta, which can potentially save a family of four $75 off admission to the zoo. All one has to do is check out a video about the zoo; when you check it back in, you get a card that you turn in during your visit. Another benefit is a card that provides free admission and parking to some of Georgia’s state parks and historical sites.
Other libraries in the West Georgia system provide these resources, but the Whitesburg library goes further by adding special reading classes, computer classes and other programs that benefit not only children but adults as well. One of these is a GED program, in which community volunteers help tutor those who wish to take the GED test.
Students “can come in at any level” and take the tutoring to the point that they feel comfortable in taking the test, Fuller says. “And everyone who has gone up and taken the test has passed. It’s just phenomenal.”
The GED course came about from Fuller asking patrons for help. Indeed, the Whitesburg library would not exist had it not been for the determination of the town’s residents, who began planning the library in 2002. Using $100,000 in SPLOST funds, land donated by the county Board of Education and another $150,000 raised mostly by donation, the community was able to build the facility next to the elementary school.
That took care of the building and equipment, but the library itself had nothing inside but empty shelves. To fill them required donations from the community, as well as gifts from donors such as Carroll Electric Membership Corp. The library opened on March 31, 2008, and has since relied on further donations and gifts to both add to its collection and expand the services it offers to the community.
A recent donation enabled the library to expand its collection of young adult literature. The library has also been able to get new computer terminals, which enable students – many of whom flock into the building after school hours – to use the high-speed internet or free wi-fi to complete homework assignments. But the computers also allow adults in the community to search for, and apply to jobs.
The building serves as a meeting place, learning center and even a museum of Whitesburg’s history. Anyone who visits will learn about all of its many offerings and resources from Fuller, who, along with being the head librarian, is the facility’s biggest booster.
“It’s been a job that was kind of like made for me,” she says. “I enjoy the people and we’re all in this world together, so I’m just working together with everyone, encouraging people to read – there’s nothing else like it. Reading puts the world at your hands. If people get a good hold of reading they can go through any subject and be a success.”