Millie Brooks Library Celebrates Five Years of Serving Wrightsville

In June, the Millie Brooks Library celebrated its five-year anniversary as a branch of the Central Arkansas Library System. The library opened on June 1, 2013.

Concert brings joy with classic cover tunes by Recovery

Town residents and guests gathered in the city hall to commemorate the fifth anniversary with a concert by the band Recovery, featuring Ken Richardson, a Wrightsville native, and Saboor Salaam, a gifted saxophonist. When the band launched into “Let’s Stay Together,” Ken sang over jaunty piano riffs and the sax popped and jived along. Pure joy filled the little hall. Residents of decades clapped and sang with the band.

Library directors share reflections

Between songs, the audience heard reflections on the past five years from the director of Millie Brooks Library, Vernon Johnson, and the current and former Executive Directors of the Central Arkansas Library system, Nate Coulter and Bobby Roberts.

Tena Brooks, daughter of Millie Brooks, also attended the concert. She now sits on the city council, like her mother before her. She spoke privately after the concert about her mother’s commitment to raising up people and improving community life. Wrightsville’s city council honored Millie’s work after her death from cancer by voting to give her name to the library.

A little library with a big impact

Wrightsville is a small town (population 2300) without many public establishments. Nestled between the City Hall and the public gymnasium, the Millie Brooks Library is a single, long room of only 2,000 square feet. A lot of knowledge and resources pack into that small space. Rows of books and CDs stand next to public computer terminals. A year ago, a tiny video game room opened for the kids.

At this branch of CALS, the town’s kids find healthy activities and a wholesome environment with caring staff who are good role models.

Caring staff members make a difference for youth

Vernon Johnson is the library director. Known affectionately to all as VJ, he is a native son of Wrightsville. As a young adult, he became a professional athlete, a career that took him to Florida, Idaho and Utah. After an injury ended his adult pro career, he eventually returned to Wrightsville to care for a sick family member. He signed on as library director five years ago. From the moment he heard of the library, VJ understood the opportunity it would provide for the town. “It means so much to me to serve this community, my very own people,” he said.

He radiates warmth to all library patrons, from oldest to youngest.  At well over six feet tall with an open, generous personality, he’s like everybody’s friend, big brother, dad, or son.

Library assistant Jammel Jackson spoke of his appreciation for VJ.  “Before the library opened, I was working at Dollar General. VJ came down there a lot. He and his wife were cool, and he pulled me in and asked me to apply for this job. I will always be grateful. I am always telling him that I can’t thank him enough.”

It’s easy to see why VJ recruited Jammel for library work. The well-spoken young man has cosmopolitan charm worthy of a young Will Smith, but more importantly, he shows an unusual spirit of respect and service to the patrons.

The youth at the library that day were eager to vouch that this library is a special place in town, a place of kindness and welcome as well as education.

A couple of teenagers were hanging out in the back. The 15-year-old said, “The people here are more friendly, more active, always smiling. It’s always clean. Ms. Shakeelah has programs for the kids and the doors are always open.”

Keith, 11 years old, was there with his mom. He said, “The workers here help you, and if you can’t find a movie, they help. My favorite things are the video games, books, movies, and cool air!”

On that day in June, with temperatures in the nineties, it was clear why the library’s cool air would be a haven for those who might not have central air conditioning in their homes.

Kaci, Keith’s sister, said she likes to play on the computer and check out books. She also mentioned the smiles and helpful staff. She said, “My favorite book is Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and I like math.”

Millie Brooks Library offers opportunity and support

For five years now, the Millie Brooks Library and its staff have been helping kids like Kaci to keep having a favorite book and keep liking math, as they move from childhood to adolescence. And as community leaders know, it makes a big difference when kids stay interested in learning and when they have a safe, positive place to go.

In a town as small as Wrightsville, one little library can change lives.

And that’s something to celebrate!