It’s a project that’s been years in the making, and on Saturday the scores of Jackson County residents who gathered to watch the groundbreaking for the county’s new library couldn’t stop beaming.
The excitement and pride was palpable as — one after another — speakers at the ceremony had their remarks met with whoops and cheers.
“A few said this community would never be able to raise the funds,” said County Commissioner Chairman Brian McMahan. McMahan said he had just one thing to say to those who doubted the project: “Yes we can!”
Librarian Dottie Brunette dedicated her words “to all those in the community who have made sure all their wishes were heard and heeded.”
Indeed, it was largely the community that made the push to turn the historic Jackson County Courthouse, built in 1912, into the library’s new home. Plenty of roadblocks were thrown up along the way during the process as naysayers deemed the site unworkable. The board of commissioners was long split on the library location, and even went as far as to purchase another piece of land for the library.
But the community persevered and promised to raise funds for furnishings and equipment once the county chose the old historic courthouse site.
The Friends of the Library, the group that spearheaded the fundraising campaign, committed to raise at least $1.6 million to purchase furnishings and equipment for the new library facility, said June Smith, the group’s president.
“As of today, I’m proud to announce $1,023,153 has been raised,” Smith told the audience, a declaration that was met with cheers and applause.
Speakers commended not just the library, but the role the facility will play in preserving the county’s best-known landmark.
Howard Allman, chair of the Jackson County Library Board, called it, “a beautiful fusion of our past and our future.”
“(We’re) not just building a library, but saving and revitalizing a treasure of our past,” Allman said.
Boyce Deitz, a representative of Rep. Heath Shuler’s office, said Jackson County leaders of yesteryear would be proud of the effort.
“It’s a shame all the people who walked these halls couldn’t be here,” Deitz said. “I know they would be proud to know this was being preserved.”
After the speakers finished, the crowd migrated over to the site of the groundbreaking behind the old courthouse. County commissioners Brian McMahan, Mark Jones, William Shelton and Joe Cowan donned hard hats and grabbed shovels for the groundbreaking. Dr. John Bunn gave a moving speech just beforehand.
“It’s infrequent that we have the opportunity where the past, present and future come into focus at the same time,” Bunn said.
Bunn dedicated the library “to the minds, hearts, and people of this community .... that their lives may be enriched.”