Suwannee Democrat

Jasper News

January 10, 2013

White Springs Public Library holds many memories, but...“There’s a lot of pluses to moving,” said Tracy Woodard

Jasper — The town of White Springs will soon have a brand new library just a couple blocks away from the current one on US 41, but bittersweet memories will remain in the hearts of the townsfolk forever.

Tracy Woodard has been the librarian at the White Springs Public Library for 15-1/2 years. She currently has two library aides, Marlene Shaw, who has been there 11 years and Beth Kerr, a fairly new hire as the adult programming coordinator.

Of the current library building, Woodard said, “It was unfit for human habitation in the late 70s and we came in here in 1997.”

In April of that year, Danny Hales, the former Suwannee River Regional Library Director, brought Woodard to the building, which sits just outside the entrance to Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, and showed her where she’d be working. He also explained her duties, which included drumming up volunteer laborers to fix the place up, Woodard said, laughing as she recalled that day.

“There were holes in the ceiling, there were holes in the floor, and the bathtub was just disgusting,” she said. “People had come in here and vandalized, broke the windows and somebody had come in here and spray painted the walls.”

There used to be a gas station at the site with a small store inside the building. It was called The Riverside Filling Station, circa 1914. The building was nestled among shade trees and some very tall palms, and the unmistakable Texaco star sign out near the street let travelers know where they could fill up their tanks. The canopy and islands are still there, although the gas pumps have been removed.

Woodard said the owner/operators, Glover and Elizabeth DeLegal, lived in one part of the building, which explains why there’s a bathtub in the lone restroom, as well as a kitchen. The tub has since been covered up and is used for storage now.

“There were French doors that separated the store from their living area,” Woodard explained.

The bathrooms on the outside weren’t useable, she said, so they just blocked them off.

“I had the county commissioners down here cleaning windowsills and wiping windows,” she went on. “I couldn’t help it. I just had this burst of like...it’s got to be done! I was like a force of nature there for a while.”

Woodard said she had Subway bringing in sandwiches and at one point she had jail inmates helping out with the refurbishing. There were many days she spent alone with the inmates and no guard was there to keep an eye on them. The Sheriff, she said, assured her the inmates would be on their best behavior.

“That was before cell phones,” she said. “I can’t believe I did that.”

She said she quickly learned the trick, though. She fed them lunch and gave them cookies.

“They just treated me like a lady,” she said. “Like I was their mama or something. I should brag about the power of cookies,” she added, still laughing about the incident more than 15 years later.

Woodard is proud of the circulation desk that sits in the middle of the library that was made by prison inmates at Hamilton County Correctional Institution. It looks as good now as it did when they originally installed it.

“That cabinet shop is awesome at the prison,” she said. “Kenny Woods does an awesome job.”

Woodard said when she started working at the library she had two filing cabinets with an old door draped over top of them to serve as the circulation desk. It took about six to eight months for the inmate-made desk to arrive and when it did it had to come in through the window because it was so wide, she added.

It took about three months to make the place presentable and the library opened for business on July 30, 1997.  Woodard recalled times in the past when people would come into White Springs after hiking the wilderness trail and they would use the bathroom sink in the library to wash up. One time, she said, a man came in and did his laundry in the tub and then hung it outside to dry. Thus, the decision to establish a code of conduct at the library and the ultimate boxing over of the tub.

Parking is extremely limited right now and Woodard is looking forward to moving into the new building, which will have ample parking spaces to draw in even more patrons.

The town of White Springs holds the lease on the existing building, Woodard said, and Mayor Helen Miller has expressed a desire to use it as a museum, a craft shop or an oral history center, once the contents get moved over to the new library a couple blocks up the road. The land and building, however, are sitting on state property that is part of Stephen Foster State Park.

“The state of Florida came through in 1970 and bought the spring house, the Colonial Hotel and they bought this strip, too,” said Woodard. “It’s a neat old building.”

The new library, which will hopefully be ready for occupancy in late January, will have central heating and air conditioning, windows that close and men’s and women’s bathrooms; things the old building lacks, Woodard explained.

“There’s a lot of pluses to moving,” she said.

Another treat will be an office with a door, but Woodard said she’ll keep it open most of the time so that she doesn’t get lonely.

“I’m used to having everyone around,” she said.

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