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|Senior elementary education major Sara Beasley celebrated the grand opening of Loachapoka's community library with Aubie, among others. Credit: Eric Savage|
It’s never too late to make an impact in the world.
Sara Beasley, a senior majoring in elementary education and minoring in non-profit studies, first heard these words and took them to heart during her junior year. Those words motivated her to become involved in creating the Loachapoka Public Library.
As a student in a “Gender, Wealth and Philanthropy” course, she decided to act on professor Sidney James’ challenge for students to make a difference in an area in which they were passionate. Beasley focused her energy on the small town of Loachapoka, located just outside of Auburn.
This inspiration sparked long before she became a university student. Beasley first noticed the need for a public library in the community while taking the ACT at Loachapoka High School as an Auburn High School senior.
“I realized that many communities do not have the resources and books at their fingertips I had growing up,” Beasley said.
Three years after her initial encounter with Loachapoka, Beasley found a way to make her dream for the 200-person community come true by introducing an important educational resource. With the help of Mayor Jim Grout, the Loachapoka Community Center became the birthplace of the town’s new library.
“Sara first came to me about this in the fall of 2011, and by April of 2012, the library had its grand opening,” Grout said.
Today, resources for all ages colorfully line the shelves of the quaint community center’s rooms.
Sections of shelves feature various titles, including “Movies,” “Adult Fiction,” “Children Fiction” and “Textbooks.” A computer and printer sit on a desk. A table and chairs occupy the middle of the room, waiting for someone to sit down and get lost in the world of literature. Homemade posters line the walls encouraging all who enter to open a book. “Reading is fun!,” says one.
|The Loachapoka Public Library offers residents more than books. Credit: Elizabeth Griffith|
From ACT preparation books and church records to a collection of Dr. Seuss books and thrilling Stephen King novels, the library has something to share with every member of the community. The library is open on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
To Beasley’s surprise, collecting a wide range of books was the easy part. Donations came from organizations in surrounding communities, including the Auburn Mission Thrift Store, Montgomery’s Beasley Allen Law Firm and sixth graders from Auburn’s Drake Middle School.
“It has been great to see the communities of Auburn, Opelika and even Montgomery working together to help another community in need,” she said.
Beasley serves as the director of the library and is in charge of finding volunteers and keeping the facility running. All the while, the community continues to provide donations for the growing library.
“It’s been very successful,” Grout said. “We closed for the holidays and even then, we found a bag or two of books at the door. People are still donating.”
As the library approaches its first birthday in April 2013, the donations continue to steadily roll in, but there is a new need.
“What we really need is bookshelves because we have an abundance of books but not enough shelf space,” Beasley said.
With no shelves to fill, fliers were put on the windows of the community center to notify generous citizens from surrounding areas that the library could not accept any more books.
“The present capacity is packed, and we just don’t have any room,” Grout said.
A new project with Auburn High School students currently serves to raise money, get donations for supplies and find builders for the shelves in order to continue the success of the Loachapoka Public Library.
Auburn University also continues to offer a helping hand for the town’s library through its central resource for volunteering, a student organization called IMPACT. Students help every Thursday evening by shelving books, cleaning and organizing book donations.
|As it nears its one-year anniversary, the library now finds itself more in need of volunteers and additional shelves than it does books. Credit: Elizabeth Griffith|
Stephanie Houpy, a senior in human development and family studies, served as the IMPACT group leader for Loachapoka Public Library last fall. Houpy took up to five volunteers a week to help out.
“It’s interesting to see all that has happened in the span of a few short months,” said Houpy. “The library has a wonderful selection of books, a great atmosphere and many helpful volunteers.”
The efforts of the university encourage Beasley to continue making a difference for Loachapoka.
“I hope Auburn stays involved in the library because lives can be changed if we simply reach out of our comfort zone and help this small town only 15 miles down the road,” Beasley said.
A major goal for the library is to become state-funded and sustainable so the Loachapoka community can continue to have access to books and other resources, according to Beasley. Grout said the process of gathering the necessary information and meeting requirements to become a nonprofit agency is a slow one. Of greatest concern is finding a certified librarian.
“If we can show we have funds to pay one, the state will issue a designation so we can proceed,” Grout said.
Beasley says the public library’s ultimate mission is to raise literacy rates. The statistics won’t be accessible until a year after the foundation of the library, but Grout has high hopes.
“Based on ACT scores and aptitude tests, results should start showing up. I’m hopeful that they will be raised,” Grout said.
One year ago, the Loachapoka community was without a library. Today, educational resources overflow two different rooms.
“I’ve had the blessing to watch the Lord take control throughout the entire project by providing books, money, facilities, volunteers and other resources,” Beasley said. “I can’t wait to see how the library grows in the future.”
Contributed by Elizabeth Griffith
Last Updated: Jan 30, 2013