Silver Anniversary for the CALS Max Milam Library

Twenty-five years of bringing people together in Perry County

The Max Milam Library just celebrated its silver anniversary of sterling service to the community. At the July party, Milam staff gave a touching tribute to a silver patron.

Ms. Edie Knight is the oldest living patron of the Max Milam Library, at 98 years young. She has been living in Perry County for 30 years. Her eyes light up when she talks about books, especially her favorite mysteries by Clive Cussler.

With such a love of books, the Milam staff thought she needed a special place to put them, so they gave her a pillow with “book pockets.”

CALS Executive Director Nate Coulter was there to enjoy the presentation and is pictured here with Ms. Knight.

The 25th anniversary also brought in lively music from the CALS series “Sounds in the Stacks,” featuring gifted pianist Michael Heavner.  He serenaded the party with instrumental country, rock and pop hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s, including requests from patrons.

A history of success and growth

Guests heard a presentation on the history of the library from Timothy Nutt, Director of the Historical Research Center at UAMS.

Mr. Nutt recounted how the first dedicated Perry County Library building was built in 1961, totaled only 1500 square feet, and served the county for almost 30 years. The library was very popular and offered storytime and even a loan of prints of famous paintings that could be checked out to brighten patron homes for 60 days. However, by the end of the 1980s, the heavily-used building was suffering from age and wear and was far too small to serve its many patrons or hold all the needed resources.

In November 1990, Bobby Roberts and the Central Arkansas Library System led a successful millage effort for a new building. With additional funding from the Winthrop Rockefeller Trust, the Sturgis Trust, and others, construction began. The CALS board voted to name the new library after Max Milam, a supporter of economic development in Perry County. In 1993, the 4500 square foot Max Milam Library opened its doors. And in 2015, the library’s success and popularity led to another expansion that doubled the size of the library, adding a children’s space, teen space, a meeting room, and more access to computers. In 2017 alone, the library circulated over 95,000 items.

Jan Guffey, sterling service as Branch Manager

Jan Guffey (standing, left) has been Branch Manager of the Max Milam Library since its opening.

Mr. Nutt described her vital contribution over the years. “Jan has been an unstoppable force at the library and in the county. Her personality and winning smile make everyone who comes into the library feel special.”

Jan gives credit to the rest of her staff as well, because four of the five staff members have been at Max Milam for twenty years or more, including Denise Northcutt (far left, seated) who has been the Assistant Manager since the second year.

When asked to choose her favorite library event, out of all her many years of good memories, Jan brought out her scrapbook stuffed with photos.

“This was my favorite!” Jan said, pointing to a 1995 event called “Arkansas Heritage Days.” The two-day heritage fest attracted over 800 visitors and featured wagon rides, folk musicians, square dancers, and handicrafts.

“The schoolchildren who toured saw many treasures, talents and skills that they may never see again,” Jan said. “All so much a part of Perry County.”

Jan described some unusual sights at the event. “When those schoolkids saw people milking goats and sewing on a treadle machine, they did not know what to think! It was wonderful.”

She pointed to a picture of baskets sitting on a card catalog. “Three guys who lived on a nearby mountain with no electricity made those baskets out of kudzu. The men were all very intelligent and had advanced degrees, but they liked being out in nature, away from the crowd.”

Looking back fondly, looking forward to the future

Jan’s enthusiasm and dedication make it very clear why Jan Guffey and her long-serving staff have been such an integral part of this very successful library.

Many thousands of patrons, from the oldest to the youngest, have benefited from the staff, resources and programs of the CALS Max Milam library over its 25 years.

We look forward to many more years of Max Milam programs, books, online resources, helpful classes, and fun crafting projects.

Congratulations to staff and patrons on your silver anniversary!