“I think that we need to change the image of ourselves into a place of promise,” Ross said, “And a library is a place of promise. I always want people that come in here to know that’s what it is.”
Ross began her job in 2011, just a year after the library reopened in the oldest incorporated black town in Alabama. Since then, the library has received more than $100,000 in grants and donations.
Ross’s background is as a school counselor, and she currently serves as president of the Anniston City Board of Education.
Working in Hobson City has been great, Ross said, because “you get to know everybody. It’s small so after a while people become familiar. It’s a community library.”
From being housed in the town’s former city hall, to its new home in back of the Hobson City Senior Center — built in 2003 — the library remains an important part of the community, Ross said.
“Twenty-first century libraries are community centers in a sense. It’s where you can come and meet, get what you need to get done done. It’s a place of learning and a place of technology, and we’re proud that we have that here,” Ross said.
The library’s technology comes in the form of eight computers that circle a table in the center of the library’s largest room. A $75,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture in 2012 paid for computers, shelving and new books.
The library had help from the Junior League of Anniston-Calhoun County in constructing a children’s reading room in 2010.
The rebirth of the library itself was largely made possible by a $25,000 grant in 2010 from the Alabama Civil Justice Foundation. Additional grants from the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama have paid for Ross’s salary.
Hobson City’s only retail business, Ross Handy Mart, paid for a license that allows the library to show movies on Saturday afternoons.
What all those grants and donations have produced is a library constantly working to engage its patrons.
Last week, Ross and a group of 40 took a bus to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The trip, part of what Ross calls the Passport to Progress program, was made possible by a $2,000 grant through the Anniston Community Education Foundation.
The program began in January after a student from Korea, staying with Ross’ family, led her to the International House at Jacksonville State University, which has partnered with the library.
Each Monday at 5:30 p.m., students from countries far and wide visit the library, talking with patrons about their home countries, bringing foods and teaching crafts native to their birthplaces.
“This week is Palestine and the Arab world,” Ross said.
Families come to the library for those Monday afternoon programs, Ross said, which will run through March 4.
“We call it Passport to Progress because I think that this is just a small part of the world,” Ross said of Hobson City. “And when we explore other parts of the world, we see the world beyond ourselves, and that’s something that books can do as well. So I think the library lends itself well to progress in any form, but also exploration and trying new things.”
Through another partnership the library has, one with Gadsden State Community College, adults will be invited to the library March 18 for the Empowering Adults Through Education program.
Ross said that program’s goal is to “help people get started on higher education and to help them through that process of enrollment and choosing their major.”
Library board members Shayna Mackey and Sherita Hayes both said they can remember visiting the old Hobson City Library as children, but only a little.
“I was so young,” Hayes said, but both women recalled that the old library in the former Town Hall was small and had few books.
Mackey lives in Oxford but was born in Hobson City. She said she’s excited about the things the library has accomplished in the two years she’s served on the board.
Hayes is involved with the partnership with Gadsden State and spoke about the possibility it has to affect lives of older Hobson City residents.
“What we hope to do is … to be able to form a cohort of students, get them enrolled and support them throughout their education,” Hayes said.
The library’s summer reading program will begin in May. Ross hopes this year’s program will be as good as last year’s, which saw about 75 children participate.
Ross recently met with administrators from Oxford public schools to ensure the books selected for the summer reading program will tie into the district’s summer reading lists.
With all the library has accomplished since reopening three years ago, there are plenty of opportunities left to help the community, Ross said.
“I would like to see more people using online resources here for GED programs,” Ross said. “I think that’s something that we want to see.”
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.