By Richard Edmondson
Courtesy The Westview
White Bluff, A special dedication of the new Jennie Woodworth Public Library took place last Saturday, with town officials on hand as well as members of the Woodworth family, who traveled from out of state for the event.
While still not officially open to the public—Mayor Linda Hayes says the opening date will be some time in June—the dedication nonetheless afforded local residents an opportunity to get a peep at the inside of the new facility.
And it is indeed impressive, with shelves situated end to end and stocked with books, as well as an attractively-framed black and white photo hanging on one wall of the woman who did so much to bring literacy and learning to White Bluff in the early years of the 20th century.
The library has been put together entirely with donations, reflecting a spirit of volunteerism that is, as Hayes puts it, “alive and kicking” in White Bluff.
“It shows that volunteerism, generosity, and helping mankind and doing for your community is very much alive, well, and kicking here,” said the mayor. “We absolutely did this ourselves, for White Bluff.”
She said some city labor did go into the project—employees of the city Street Department did much of the remodeling of the inside of the building—but that otherwise no city funds were spent, and that when the facility opens it will be staffed entirely with volunteers.
A crew of volunteers in fact has already been hard at work, cataloging books and making trips to Dickson and Nashville to acquire furnishings, such as computer desks, and in some cases even paying for the items themselves.
One such volunteer is Buffy Cato, a member of the board of the Friends of the Library, who says she got involved because she has felt the need for a public library in White Bluff for the past ten years.
“I’ve been dreaming of this for ten-plus years—ever since my children were in the schools here I’ve been saying, ‘We need a public library here.’”
Present also at the dedication were three of Woodworth’s descendents: Jim Woodworth and Jane Lemons—her great grandchildren, who traveled down from Ann Arbor, Michigan—and their second cousin, Jan Woodworth Pettit, who came from North Carolina. The three were presented with the keys to the city by Hayes.
Like the many others who have donated to the library, the Woodworth family members (who may have also been taking a cue from their ancestor) brought with them a gift: a whopping 59 boxes full of books to go on the shelves.
“We work with the Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library, and they gave us a lot of books, and also our local Kiwanis has a resource shop, and they needed to clear out some of their old books, so they called us,” said Jim Woodworth.
Jim Woodworth says he never knew his great grandmother—she died quite a few years before he was born—but he says his father, who passed away seven years ago, did know her. And of last Saturday’s dedication Woodworth said, “My dad would have loved to see this. I think it’s an honor. I think it’s great. A library is a centerpiece of a community.”
In 1905, Jennie Woodworth founded Elizabeth House, a school and library which stood for many years as a beacon and a bulwark against illiteracy. Woodworth also played a key role in getting the town of White Bluff incorporated.