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Exploring the Effingham Library’s history

POSTED: February 28, 2013 8:08 p.m.
Photo provided/

This version of the Effingham County Library was built in 1964. On the left is librarian Theresa Zipperer and on the right Libby A. Heidt, who was assistant librarian, with a group of children visiting the library.

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The Effingham County Library has been in existence since about the late 1930s. The first library was one room in what was known as the Treutlen Building in Springfield. The first librarian was Gussie (Morgan) Hinely.


Perhaps the first traces of the bookmobile are someone’s memories of her bringing books to their home during summer in the trunk of her car. This was exciting as many did not get into town for pleasure, only coming in town for necessities.


In 1943, the librarian was Ms. Edenfield. Marguerite Newsome is also remembered as a librarian. Many assistants worked in the library including Lettie Shipes Helmly and Melba Usher Hudson.


Sometime later, Effingham acquired a bookmobile that dated to the Works Progress Administration days. The doors would rise on each side and it had shelves that held books. The bookmobile visited homes on a route and the outlying schools on a schedule. Rosa Bell Webb was librarian at this time and did not drive. She had Edith (Kieffer) Anderson drive the bookmobile for her.


In the summer when Edith needed to be at home with her daughters, Katherine Kieffer (Webb) drove for her (from June 1944 to March 1945). In April 1945, Mrs. Webb’s son William H. “Bevo” Webb was killed in action in Italy during World War II. She took a leave of absence. Mrs. Anderson served during her absence and continued working as librarian until 1960.


In 1945, Chatham and Effingham counties decided to merge into a regional library and pool the state subsidy ($3,725.50). At the time of the merger there was already an operating bookmobile in Effingham.


There was a fire in the school in 1952, and the Treutlen Building was needed for classrooms. The library was relocated to new quarters, an old wooden drugstore at the corner of Laurel and Franklin streets. (This location is now the southern corner on Laurel Street of the Effingham County Judicial Complex). The new location was inadequate and most unattractive. As a child, I recall it was musky, dark, hot or cold and a little scary.


During 1955, with the help of the State Department of Education, the bookmobile was replaced with a small one built on a Blue Bird truck body. The old WPA-era bookmobile was at the time probably the oldest in service in the state, having been on the road since 1943.


The bookmobile served the county with four to five routes about every six weeks. It also served all the schools on routes every month. The library operated part-time and half-days on bookmobile days.


Theresa K. Zipperer was librarian in 1960, when the Effingham County Commissioners agreed to allow the Effingham County School Board to construct a new library at the corner of Pine and Franklin streets in Springfield. An agreement was that, if it ceased to exist, the property reverted back to the county. The board agreed to a contract with Newton Kieffer with an estimated cost of $17,300. It was a brick building with a glassed front door area in aluminum framework with zinc plaque lettering for the building. An additional $1,000 was allotted for installation of shelving.


Funds for the building came from a local bond issue and equipment was purchased with $1,500 from the State Department of Education. The dedication plaque bore the names of County School Superintendent Ernest B. Mingledorff and the board of education members, Chairman Herbert Kessler, Ben Griner, Perry Zipperer, George Allen and Jeff Trowell.


A new regional bookmobile was purchased in 1963 with funds from the State Department of Education, along with an allocation of regional share of $2,433 from Effingham County to the CEL Regional Library System. The old, short, green bookmobile that was replaced went on to be used as a service vehicle by the bus mechanics in the school system for many years.


The new bookmobile and new Effingham County Library were presented in an open house on Nov. 11, 1974. Also in 1974, the county commissioners released their partial responsibility to the board of education. Prior to this, they shared joint expense of the operation of the library. The bookmobile served our citizens as well as the public and private schools.


In 1976, Theresa K. Zipperer retired after 15-plus years of service. Jamie Ecceleston became the new librarian. Libby Heidt, having served as assistant for 10 years, became the supervising librarian in 1980. She had seen many changes in the library system, from knowing everyone who came in to tremendous growth and usage of the library in the county. The system went from registered library cards to automated library catalogs with Effingham connected to all the libraries in the system, a CD-ROM network of information and internet access. In 1984 it became evident by a feasibility study of use to discontinue the bookmobile.


In 1985, the citizens of Rincon, because of growth in the southern end of the county, requested a second library be established. The Rincon town council met and formed a library committee to fund the new library.


In 1986, Adams Construction received the bid at $361,421. Ground breaking was held in 1987, and the Rincon Library Branch opened in February of 1988. The library served the southern end of Effingham and was under supervision of librarian Paulette Perry.


The libraries began to offer videotapes, audiotapes, large print books, magazines and newspapers in addition to books. Fax machines connected the two libraries. Due to overcrowding and full capacity of summer reading programs, funds needed to be sought to build a new larger library in Springfield.


After three years of fundraising, the Effingham County Commissioners donated a site located on Highway 119 between Springfield and Guyton for the new library. The old site was to be given back to the county and was eventually remodeled and connected to the adjacent Department of Family and Children’s Services that needed additional space.


In August 1994, ground was broken on the 8,200-square-foot facility to be built by Spirit Construction Services from Savannah, who won construction rights. Close to $200,000 in local funds were raised by the efforts of the Effingham County Library Committee. These funds were made possible through efforts of private citizens, private corporations and state government. There is a wall of bronze plaques of donors in the library.


With a site three times as large, the new library was dedicated May 21, 1995. The new building housed around 40,000 volumes and offered a separate meeting room dedicated to Jack Ramsey through a large donation of the family. A plaque there shows that the school superintendent at the time was Dr. Michael Moore and the board of education consisted of Daniel M. Beard, Donald Brant, Preston Exley, W. Frederick Long and Chairman Charles J. Heidt. AutoCat was the regional library computer catalog, connecting all the branch libraries. Libby A. Heidt was supervising librarian.


After having seen her dream of a new library come to fruition, she retired on Sept. 1, 1995 after 25 years of service. Assistant librarian Brenda A. Helmly, with 15 years at the library, succeeded her as supervisor. She had to hire more staff and services grew utilizing computers for access to the “information highway.” Brenda retired in 2004 with 24 years of service.


This was compiled by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. Information came from a written history by Libby A. Heidt. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: susanexley@historiceffinghamsociety.org.

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