Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at places and events of interest in Bulloch County history.
Not only did the first bookmobile in the Statesboro area stop at nine different public schools, but it also made numerous stops at private houses in 18 of the communities across Bulloch County. The bookmobile also established a regular schedule of visit to nursing homes and day care centers scattered throughout the county.
Whereas the library served two counties at first, it added Emanuel County in 1969, Evans County in 1970, and then Candler County in 1975. On Oct. 7, 1977, the polls opened in Bulloch County for the vote on a special bond referendum whether or not to spend nearly $1 million to build a new 21,000-thousand-square-foot facility on South Main Street.
Unbelievably, early that very morning there was a tremendous fire at the library. It was found to have started in the upstairs apartment above the Statesboro Regional Library Annex. The annex was housed in a 75-year-old wooden house that had been purchased by Bulloch County in 1922.
Library officials had requested a new facility for the very reason that the old buildings were a fire hazard and had become very cramped. The bond to pay for the new facility was being opposed by a group calling itself “The Concerned Citizens of Bulloch County.”
Because of the timing of the fire, Georgia State Fire Inspector Bobby Cato made three separate inspections of the annex. He dismissed rumors of arson, saying that “It looks like it started in the area of a gas heater.”
The existing facility had opened in 1949. That building and the annex together contained only 5,700 square feet of space, approximately 1/4 of room the proposed facility would provide.
Statesboro Fire Chief Tommy Deal said later that “Our recent drill here at the library made all the difference. As it is, we were lucky.” The county’s residents approved the $750,000 bond by a 2-to-1 margin, which in conjunction with $250,000 in state grant monies assured that a new library would be built.
According to Head Librarian Isabel Sorrier, some 5,000 books valued at $35,000 and some $30,000 worth of equipment were destroyed in the fire, which was discovered at 6 a.m. The library was relocated, temporarily, to the Simmons Shopping Center in the space formerly occupied by a furniture store.
The library kept expanding, and by 1978 had 184 service points throughout the county. The regional libraries in Georgia now fall under the control of the Public Education Services Division of the state Department of Education.
The new library was finally completed in 1980 at a cost of $1,252,987. As the readership increased, another 2,000-square-foot addition (designed by local architect Edward Akins) to the facility was made in 1985 at no cost to local taxpayers. It was funded mostly by gifts from local citizens and some federal grant monies.
Several library expansion projects were undertaken. They immediately became very important parts of the Statesboro Regional Library, with the first addition including the Brannen Genealogy Room, and the second addition including the Isabel Sorrier Community Room.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.