When residents and county officials celebrate the opening of a new library and performing arts center in Evans in the spring, it will be a bittersweet celebration for Gail Duffie Stebbins.
Gail Duffie Stebbins, whose father, Herbert W. Duffie, donated the land for the Warren C. Gibbs Memorial Library in memory of his stepfather, sits in front of the library. Ms. Stebbins is hoping that the name will remain on the Belair Road building after the library moves to its new location.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Stebbins' father, Hubert W. Duffie, donated land in 1980 for the Warren C. Gibbs Library on North Belair Road just so county children would have a library. And when the new library opens, the doors to Gibbs Library will close.
"It's a wonderful future we face, and I think the library is a wonderful future for Columbia County," Stebbins said.
Duffie gave the land to the county for the library under the condition that it be named for his stepfather, Warren C. Gibbs, who was one of Columbia County's first school board members.
"He believed very strongly in education and instilled that in my father, because he raised my father," Stebbins said. "...My father always had a very soft spot in his heart for education.... He wanted to give that (property) because there was no library other than the library downtown. He's always been a booster of Columbia County."
Stebbins said she hopes the Gibbs's and Duffie's legacies of promoting education in Columbia County will not be forgotten and that the portrait of Gibbs might find a home in the new library.
"I'm afraid, quite frankly, if I had to guess what I think is going to happen to it, I think they will sell it and it will be torn down and something else put there, which is kind of sad, but things have to change, " Stebbins said. "Certainly I think it's wonderful that the county is going to have such a wonderful new library. I think that is just such a gift to the children of Columbia County.... I think it's wonderful. I just wish that Mr. Gibbs' memory could be continued and associated in some way."
Columbia County Admini-strator Steve Szablewski said it will be several months before county officials have to make a decision about what will happen to the Gibbs Library.
"We're looking at options on that," Szablewski said. "...I think one of the options is that we can sell it, but I think the name of the building has to remain the same. The options are we are going to look to see if we can use it for a county purpose or if it would be in the best interest in the county to sell it and then use that money to improve or expand other buildings that would be more convenient such as on our location here in Evans."
Construction and Maintenance Division Director Kevin Lear said several county departments and other county-sponsored agencies have petitioned to use the Gibbs Library building after it is deserted in the spring. Only county departments or county-sponsored agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicle Services, the county Extension Services or the Department of Children and Family Services could use the building.
Selling the building, with the rise in property values in the area, could be the best option, Lear said, adding that commissioners have not made any decisions regarding the building's future use.
"We have a few months still to figure out what we are going to do," Lear said. "...It is starting to get time for that. It's something that is going to be a high priority for us in the next couple of months for us to figure out what we are going to do."
Stebbins said she knows progress can't be stopped. But she's sad to see her father's dream come to an end.
"It's bittersweet in a way," Stebbins said, adding that she vividly remembers Gibbs Library's construction and dedication. "It is sad. I guess it's sad when anything becomes obsolete in a way. It's good because you know there is something wonderful happening. But it's also sad when you know it something that somebody's heart was so into.''
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.