Local History Notes

Notes about the history of Iredell County by Joel Reese, Local History Librarian.

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Dec 23

Arlene Foster and Godfrey Williams, Library Champions

Posted on December 23, 2019 at 3:44 PM by Iredell County Public Library

The Iredell County Public Library celebrated both National Library Week and our 5th anniversary last week. The Iredell County Public Library opened at its new location on N. Tradd Street on April 11, 2005.  A couple of supporters in particular stand out as being modern day champions of library service in Iredell County. One was a concerned citizen and the other a member of county government. Arlene Foster, as a library patron, saw for herself the inadequacies and lack of space in the old library building on Water Street. She championed the idea to build a new library. She initiated a petition, spoke before the county commissioners, and led fund raising efforts. She focused patron dissatisfaction with the old library in a positive direction and turned it into a new building project. The new building was received with great excitement and enthusiasm by the public, with 392,570 visitors coming in during the first year it opened. 

We lost the other library champion when he passed away just a few weeks ago. Arlene wrote with admiration about him to me recently:
“Count me in” were the words spoken by Mr. Godfrey Williams as I approached him introducing myself along with the Statesville Junior Service League’s “More Space NOW” campaign for a new Iredell County Public Library.  I had barely begun my conversation with him and was just starting to launch into the list of the many concerns of our members when he quickly and enthusiastically joined our efforts.  By being a member of the school board, he immediately knew the importance of our county library.  He knew of its significant benefit to all of Iredell County, especially to our children.  Godfrey was most interested in technology being available to those who did not have access at home and wanted to provide the appropriate location and size for today as well as tomorrow. As the Junior Service League members and their families worked hard during the summer months on the library campaign, Godfrey labored to get the word out as well.  He joined with the Iredell Friends of the Library board and immediately garnered the enthusiastic support of Marvin Norman, Vaughn Sprinkle, and Julian West along with many other business leaders in our community.  Godfrey worked very hard and logged many hours for the needs of the library -- not for a photo opportunity but to truly help with a crucial need of our community. 

His accomplishments were many while serving as a county commissioner, but his role was exceptionally pivotal in the completion of our new facility. Godfrey along with county manager, Joel Mashburn, approached the city council for their involvement with the project.  He was very instrumental in bringing these two separate governing bodies together, which did not seem to be common practice.  Bringing the two boards together was important to him because of the significance of a downtown location. He did not lose his temper nor join in any antics while dealing with the opposition to the project.  He simply continued on with the quiet determination of a southern gentleman.  His resolve was slow, steady, and with great public purpose and never self promotion. It is because of his willingness to introduce the idea of a joint venture between the county commission and the city council in order to build a new library and have it remain in a beautiful downtown location that we celebrate the fifth year anniversary of its opening in his remembrance.  Thank you, Godfrey!”

Arlene Foster and Godfrey Williams were among many who played a part in building the new library. The county commissioners and city council showed both courage and foresight to undertake the project while the economy was still strong. Was it all worth it? The numbers don’t lie. In the past five years since we opened nearly 2 million people have visited the library and more than 27 thousand new patrons have received library cards. Over the last five years nearly 3.5 million items have been checked out and the library’s Internet computers have been used for more than 350 thousand sessions. The library is open 70 hours a week and offers a variety of programs and services for both adults and children. More than 5 thousand adults attended over 3 hundred special programs and more than 64 thousand children attended 2 thousand children’s programs. The library’s public meeting rooms have become a popular attraction with over 27 thousand people attending over 2 thousand meetings since we first opened. Thanks to the vision and hard work of people like Arlene and Godfrey, the Iredell County Public Library is able to provide our citizens with the library services they need.

Joel Reese, Local History Librarian
Iredell County Public Library

This article appeared in the Statesville Record and Landmark as “Foster and Williams led push for library in Iredell” on April 19, 2010

Tag(s): library