Staff of the Cleveland Bradley County Public Library and members of the Friends of the Library Association looked back on the new things the library accomplished over the past year and looked toward the future at an annual luncheon Thursday.
The FOLA Author’s Luncheon, which featured a presentation by author Janie Dempsey Watts, took place at the Cleveland Country Club to raise money for the library’s programs.
Andrew Hunt, director of the library, was the first to speak, and he told how the library has been changing with the times. While he said some have called libraries “dead” because people are reading fewer books on paper, Hunt said the local library has been thriving because it has introduced more programming like events to get children and young people interested in reading, and online resources like a new database that allows people to read magazines for free.
“I want to assure you our library is growing with the times,” he said.
Meg Campbell, president of FOLA’s board, said the library has actually seen more people using its resources rather than less.
“On average, we have 800 people use the library daily,” she said.
People were taking more advantage of the 80 computers housed in the library and attending more events, she added. Campbell urged attendees to continue to support the library both by giving financially and volunteering.
The library has grown to offer activities and events for a wide variety of age groups, including book clubs for adults and teens and things like Lego and writing clubs for younger patrons.
Campbell then had the featured speaker take to the podium. Watts, a Chattanooga native, spoke about her book “Moon Over Taylor’s Ridge” and what inspired her to write it.
The novel recounts the story of a woman and her son who move to Georgia to settle the affairs of her late father’s estate. Along the way, she deals with difficult family members and an adventurous son who wants to find a legendary silver mine.
After reading portions of the book, Watts said she had been inspired by real-life places and events as she penned the work of fiction.
While this was her first novel, Watts had authored a variety of articles for newspapers and magazines and short stories for anthologies like the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.
Watts said she got into writing because she was fascinated by people’s stories, saying “there must be something in the water” that makes Southerners enjoy storytelling. Growing up, she heard stories of ancestors who had fought on both sides of the Civil War and how another ancestor had wandered into a Cherokee camp as a little girl and refused to eat some stew that was offered to her because she didn’t think she would like the taste of rabbit.
Remembering how she and her relatives had visited the Little Chickamauga Creek and found arrowheads on the banks as kids, she said the experience reminded her of the richness of the history of the South.
“History literally oozes up from the ground around here,” Watts said.
That likely accounted for the love of storytelling, she said. She encouraged everyone to share the stories that had been passed down to them so they could continue to be told for years and years.
“I hope if you have a story, you write it down,” Watts said.
Even if one starts with a short story instead of a novel, the author said the important thing was to start passing down stories to future generations.
For more information about the library’s programs, visit www.clevelandlibrary.org.
It costs $10 per year to join FOLA as an individual member, and the group is planning a silent auction of rare books on Nov. 17, at the library’s history branch on Ocoee Street.