There were some pretty important items published in the Thursday, June 13, 1968 edition of The Columbia News.
On the front page of the yellowed old paper we see that young Jim Blanchard was receiving his law degree from Samford University. We see an even younger Randolph Frails of George T. White Elementary winning first place in a Rotary Club essay contest. We see that a contingent from Columbia County's newly created Recreation Commission was visiting Statesboro to study their sports programs. And on page 5 we see a photo of a young Charles Lord of Grovetown performing magic tricks.
The really important stuff, though, is on page 4. There we see a listing of library programs, with a schedule of routes for the bookmobile.
Under Route C, scheduled for June 19, 1968, we see the bookmobile will stop at the Grovetown residence of W.M. Lancaster from 9:30-9:50 a.m., from 10:10-11:10 at the Appling Courthouse, and then from 11:35 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. at the Winfield home of Mrs. Lloyd Paschal.
Time marches on. Thirty-eight years later, Jim Blanchard is now a superior court judge. Randolph Frails is retired from the military and now working as a local attorney. The county's Recreation Department has long since replaced the Recreation Commission. And Lord is now a respected Grovetown historian.
And, we got word on Friday, the Bookmobile soon will be just a yellowed clipping in our memories.
Mrs. Lloyd Paschal, the former Annie Laurie Griffin, was my grandmother. She loved to read, and even served as the librarian for Sharon Baptist Church. She was an old-fashioned housewife and never learned to drive, so the visits from the Augusta Library Bookmobile provided important access to books that she otherwise wouldn't have had.
As I grew older and became an avid reader, those visits from the Bookmobile were important for me, too. Our home was barefoot walking distance from my grandmother and grandfather's house, but it was a long way to anyone else's home. The nearest library was at my school, but North Columbia Elementary was closed in the summer - which made it as inaccessible to a young boy as what was then the nearest public library, in downtown Augusta.
As a young boy, I was amazed that the library would deliver a truckload of books to my country neighborhood - books that transported me to faraway places that my bare feet couldn't carry me. The truck even had air conditioning, something that neither our homes nor our schools had back then; that made the summertime visits both cool and unusual.
Time marched on, and soon that boy's summers were spent working instead of reading. About 12 years after that 1968 Bookmobile schedule was printed in the paper, Columbia County got its first public libraries in Harlem and Evans.
Now, 25 years after those first libraries opened, our biggest complaint is that the new one in Evans isn't open long enough. And in a society with increased personal mobility, the idea of a mobile library seems anachronistic.
Library officials, then, have announced that they are shutting down the bookmobile program as of Aug. 18. "Thirty years ago the Augusta library had two bookmobiles which provided service to residents of six counties," says a news release from the library system. "Now each county has at least one library building."
The library will still operate a delivery van to help provide service to day care centers and nursing homes, but the days of what it calls the "traveling library branches" will soon come to an end.
Time, sadly, marches on.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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