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The compact library still offers rows of good reading with more than 4,000 books. 

Jail is for bad people, said 3-year-old Quinn Butler, daughter of Tim and Amy Butler of Madison. She visited the old-county-jail-turned-library Sunday afternoon and picked out a book with her mother.

Patsy Harris (L), chairman of Friends of Morgan County Library, and Miriam Baker, library manager for 10 years, stand with a display of new books and travel DVDs during Sunday's open house.

By Judy A. Maxwell
Staff Writer

While strains of "Jailhouse Rock" played on a boom box outside, the Morgan County Library threw open the doors of the old detention center Sunday afternoon in an effort to nab new patrons and encourage current card holders to return.

Library workers and a host of volunteers, including Friends of the Morgan County Library and library board members, were on guard in the afternoon during an open house of the library's new, but temporary, home. During the two-hour event, traffic was steady as residents visited the facility on Athens Highway, which, until a year ago, was the site of the county jail. Library board members gave tours of the site while refreshments were served as well as new book titles and library cards.

"We were very pleased with the turnout," said Patsy Harris, chairman of Friends of the Morgan County Library.

"We want everyone to come and see what's been done here," said Maxie Jones, a member of the Friends of the Library. Where steel bars stood, book shelves now reach from floor to ceiling.

The children's section is organized where the trustees' cell once stood, and one side of the reference room is flanked by a bank of phones and thick glass, where inmates securely talked to visitors.

In just a few weeks, county workers dismantled jail cells and painted the interior walls of the ex-slammer to make way for 4,400 books and tapes, several computers and DVDs, a check-out counter and a reference room. 

Friends of the Library had been planning Sunday's open house for more than a year, said Harris. The purpose was two-fold: "We wanted to get people who may be uncomfortable coming to a jail to visit us, and we want to recruit more 'Friends' of the library." Four people joined Sunday. The non-profit Friends group has more than 100 members who raise money to buy books, tapes and other library items. Miriam Baker, library manager, said the Friends provide about $500 a month to the public library that is part of the Uncle Remus Regional Library System. 
Baker said the library moved from its East Avenue home, which will be razed to make way for a new $2.9 million facility scheduled to open June 2012.

Volunteers relocated the library in four days in the last week of April, and two of those days were dominated by the F2 tornado that struck Morgan County. "We moved by flashlight and lantern," Baker said.

Making do will be the mission of the library over the next 12 months. To demonstrate, Baker came up with the idea of hanging plastic rain gutters on the walls to display new books.

Despite the compact space, "the building is well-lit and comfortable," said tour guide Jones. One of the most popular areas is the computer bank, where visitors go online to find out about unemployment benefits, job training or just surf the Internet. "Folks are in here (at the computers) all the time," Jones said. "It is just amazing how the county helped us get organized and opened. The whole project speaks in favor of a county government that is in favor of its citizens."

The library hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and 2-6 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 706-342-1206 or visit www.uncleremus.org/morgan.htm.

Printed in the June 16, 2011 edition



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