January 21, 1935 marks the date when the very first library for African Americans in Lowndes County was opened. Housed in the Walton Building, in a room given by the City Council, a heavy loss of books and lack of staff led to its closure in February of 1939. It would not reopen until 1955, when the South Georgia Regional Library System would once again expand to extend services to the African American community. Its new home known as Branch No. 1, located in the community building of the Hudson Dockett Housing Project, was managed by Adelle Lee, the system’s first African American librarian. She was succeeded by Fuleria Gertrude Manning in 1961. By this time, with the purchase of a second bookmobile, the collection was being shared with African-American schools in the region. At one time, Lomax School housed a collection. Historical documents record 1963 as the year library facilities became integrated.
Opened May 31, 1992, the Mae Wisenbaker McMullen Memorial Southside Library was named in honor of the mother of J.C. McMullen, a Lake Park businessman who donated the land. This library was the fouth installment in a five-libraries building campaign begun in 1988. Built to accommodate people living in the southern part of Valdosta, the McMullen Southside Library is home to an impressive African-American book collection and state of the art technologies available.
One would think, given the gorgeous view of the lake out back, and the open, lofty interior, that this facility’s appearance alone would be enough to cause anyone to reflect. But, in truth, its most inspiring asset is its present manager, Beverly Sanders, who grew up in the very neighborhood this library serves. Her determination to bring a smile to every patron has earmarked the McMullen Southside Library as a star in customer service.
A veteran of the South Georgia Regional Library System, Sanders worked in many areas before being named library manager in 1992. Loved and admired by the community, Sanders is the very heartbeat of this place.
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