Editor’s note: Homewood Public Library Director Deborah Fout first joined the library’s staff in 1985.
By Emily Williams-Robertshaw
Throughout March, community supporters have been sending birthday cards to the Homewood Public Library to celebrate its 80th birthday.
The official anniversary of the library was March 24, but in light of health and safety restrictions, the library teen advisory board found a way to celebrate while remaining socially distant. The board is a service group composed of local kids in grades 6-12.
“At one of their monthly meetings, they brainstormed safe ways for the community to celebrate the library turning 80,” said Assistant Director and Teen Librarian Judith Wright. “Since we cannot gather to celebrate, they suggested we ask our community to send us birthday cards to celebrate this big milestone.”
The Homewood Library’s first chapter began in 1941 in a small room at Homewood’s City Hall.
The library gained its first freestanding location 1952 and the library on the site now occupied by the Assistance League of Birmingham’s storefront Primetime Treasures.
Library Director Deborah Fout first joined the staff in 1985 when the library was still in its old location.
While the library has evolved in many ways over the years, the extent to which staff and patrons have had to adapt over the past 12 months has been unprecedented, Fout said.
“The staff always knew that the library was an important community hub within Homewood and Jefferson County, but the pandemic gave us a better understanding of how the library impacts lives,” Fout said.
She finds pride in the willingness of her staff to persevere through the changes imposed on the facility during the pandemic.
“Like businesses and schools, the pandemic forced us to completely revamp the way we did things,” Fout said. “The staff came together as a team, rising to the challenge and creating innovative ways to safely provide materials, services and programming to a community that needed educational resources, activities and entertainment.”
Birthday Card Display
A selection of the library’s birthday cards are on display at the library and will remain so through a portion of April.
“We’ve received some amazing cards, and it’s very difficult to pick a favorite,” Wright said. “Our sister library, Homewood Public Library, Illinois, sent us a giant card signed by their staff; a Homewood preschool class sent sweet, adorable handmade cards; and many people wrote lovely sentiments about the library on cards that they sent.”
Wright added that a few cards were even sent to the library’s “four-legged Reading Buddies,” who reside at the Greater Birmingham Humane Society.
In addition to the card campaign, library staff and support have found a variety of ways to help celebrate the anniversary.
Staffers created a birthday announcement video on their YouTube page, and the teen advisory board compiled a list of the top books they love, available on the library’s website.
The library also will be handing out gifts throughout March, including logo tote bags, crayon packs, notebooks and candy.
“Many libraries across the nation have suffered because of the pandemic, but because of the support from the library board, the city of Homewood, our Friends and foundation groups and our community, the Homewood Library has survived and even thrived,” Fout said. “The Homewood Library is ‘80 Years Strong’ and will come back fully and maybe even better to continue to serve the city of Homewood and Jefferson County for the next 80 years.”