Since starting a library in Loachapoka back in April 2012, Sara Beasley has learned it is never too late to work on something you care about.
“You don’t have to wait until you’re older because if you start now, think of how much of a difference you can make by starting early and finding something that you’re passionate about,” Beasley said.
A couple of years ago, while taking the ACT at Loachapoka High School, Beasley was surprised to learn that the town, comprised of only a couple hundred people, did not have a public library.
“Knowing that a town 10 miles down the road from me didn’t have a library really made me want to change that,” Beasley said.
However, it would not be until December 2011 that Beasley approached Loachapoka Mayor Jim Grout about starting a public library. Grout was on board with the idea and by April 2012, the library opened in the Loachapoka Community Center with a handful of volunteers and a couple hundred books.
Since opening, the library has accrued between 3,000 to 5,000 books, is open two days per week, and has gained a wide selection of video games and movies, all of which were donated by members of the community. Currently, the library is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Beasley said she has been surprised by the response from those who heard about the library’s needs and how the community came together to give it everything it needed, despite the economic recession.
“People really surprised me and gave more than I thought than we would ever have,” Beasley said. “They still want to make a difference and help people in need.”
In addition to its large space and Internet capabilities, Beasley said the two-room library also brings together a lot of common ground for young and old alike.
“It’s a great place for people to come, check out books and study,” Beasley said. “I feel like it really brings people together.”
Beasley said community involvement with the library has been great with 10-15 volunteers in the fall and up to eight volunteers in the spring, some of whom come from Auburn University. Currently, there are plans to add a full-time librarian once the library attains non-profit status.
“They want to help, so I have to have tasks for them,” Beasley said.
Looking to the future, Beasley said she is currently in the process of applying the library for non-profit status so that people will be able to donate directly to the library, as opposed to donating to the city, incorporating weekend hours for local programs and expanding to a third room in the building. However, Beasley would ultimately like to see the library put into the hands of the people.
“I won’t be here forever, but it will be neat to see the town really take charge of their own library and really get involved in it,” Beasley said.
Discussing his pride in Beasley’s work, Loachapoka Mayor Jim Grout said he is very proud of Beasley and what she has accomplished with the library in the course of a year.
“We’re excited that we’re able to offer that to the residents here,” Grout said.
With all the attention the library has been getting over the past year, Grout said he anticipates big things for the library.
“Right now, we are very excited about the future, but we don’t know what that will be yet,” Grout said.
Others outside of Loachapoka have also taken notice to the small town library, including AU guard Blanche Alverson. In fact, the library was one of the first libraries the basketball player worked with through her community service project, Ballin’ for Books, which collects books throughout the community and distributes them to places in need in an effort to better promote literacy in the area. During the project’s pilot year in 2012, the Loachapoka Public Library and the Pine Hills Literacy Project in Auburn were the first places the foundation worked through. Through Ballin’ for Books, the library received between 300-500 books.
“I was really blessed to have that opportunity,” Alverson said.
Originally, Alverson knew Beasley through her work as a majorette with the AU Marching Band and what she was doing in Loachapoka. Through that, both set out to help the other out with their endeavors.
“It was a great deal to collaborate like that,” Alverson said.
This year, Ballin’ for Books collected over 1,500 books, which will be distributed to Pine Hills and to the Hudson Family Foundation in Auburn.
Angel Miller, head librarian at Loachapoka High School, originally held a book drive last spring for the library and said she is happy with the results that have come from it a year later.
“We need this,” Miller said. “The kids and community really need this.”
Currently, there are plans in the works for a one-year celebration at the library slated sometime in May. For more information on the library, visit www.loachapokapubliclibrary.weebly.com.