MAGNOLIA SPRINGS — In February, the Magnolia Springs Town Council was struggling to figure out how to keep the town library open longer hours.
As public demand for the library grew, the council knew the budget needed to grow along with it. They also knew there was no easy solution to increase library funds before Oct. 1, when the new fiscal year begins.
In the audience that night, Harold Sherman listened. As discussions continued, he knew he could help. He wanted to help.
Then he stood up and offered the council a solution: a $10,000 donation to the library from his family owned business.
The reaction in the room was immediate.
"I think all of our chins dropped to the floor with awe and appreciation," said Paige Monaghan, library director. "There was immediate appreciation for helping the town to solve a problem instantly, that otherwise could not be solved until its October budget. It was an unexpected support for our community and the library that is unmatched to date. Our hearts, we're so grateful for the people in the community to support us, to step up."
The donation will be used to increase the Monaghan's available hours, allowing for longer operation times and providing an opportunity for more events.
"Under state labor law, we're limited to less than 20 hours a week, 19 hours. We can't run the library on 19 hours a week," said Magnolia Springs council member and Library Board Treasurer Nick Shields. "This money will go to our ability to increase Paige's hours to something reasonable, and it allows us to do so outside of our budget cycle."
The Sherman family has been a longtime staple of Magnolia Springs. During the 1950s, property owned by the family included the current location of the library. Local business M&N of Alabama LLC was started by Sherman's grandfather 65 years ago. Today the business is owned by Sherman, his mother Barbara, and his brother Clayton.
"We have smaller children in our family, and we want to contribute to Magnolia Springs and the library in any way that we can, because education of our youth is a big deal," Sherman said. He said two young members of the family, Mason and Mackenzie, are learning how to read and beginning school, and their local library has been a source of inspiration helping them along.
"We just want to contribute what we can when we can to make sure the library is upkept and maintained and a place for people to come," Sherman said. "Not only for children, but adults as well. And Paige and the staff here do an absolutely remarkable job with the different types of programs and things that they have, especially during the summer when school's out, for bringing children in and letting them have access to learning."
In honor of the donation from M&N of Alabama LLC, the library plans to have a plaque made with the company's name.
"This means that the community values their library and the people in this community, and it allows us to continue doing what we do and to do what we do better," Monaghan said. "That's always what we want to work towards, to grow and serve the community's needs.
"A town is not memorable without a library, and a library exists to serve all people equally, and that is a beautiful thing," she said. "So, when a town values an institution that goes back to 300 BC, it says a lot about the integrity of the town."Mitchell Lee, library board president and executive director of South Baldwin Literacy Council, said that when he brings students participating in the literacy council to the Magnolia Springs Public Library for story time, he often sees the Shermans there during the programs.
"They're already utilizing the library and seeing the positive aspects and seeing all the good the library does, and it can do more," Lee said. "I think for the Shermans, being able to see the kids have such a positive experience with some of these library programs only made it that much easier to open up their hearts to support this place."
The library is currently open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 1 p.m. - 5 p.m., Fridays from 1 p.m. - 4 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. Many Saturdays include programing that brings music, arts and crafts projects, science lessons and of course, reading activities to the community.
With the donation, it will be possible for more programs and more chances to drop by the library.
"What I love about a community library, particularly a small one, is that the librarian gets to know the people who come in through conversations and also what they check out," said Ann Grandin, member of the library board. "A tiny library can curate its collection beautifully to the specific needs and requests of the people who come through the door, and I see Paige doing that. I think a tiny library can be very powerful that way and people can come here to get books they might not necessarily find somewhere else."
For more information on the Magnolia Springs Public Library, visit www.magnoliaspringslibrary.org, call the library at 251-965-2305, or email at email@example.com. Drop by the library at 14794 Camellia St., Suite 600, Magnolia Springs.