Perhaps author Rick Bragg said it best about the essence of the south when he wrote, “To be a Southerner, or to live Southern, is to feel, well, something special even in the quiet, something fine in itself after all those rebel yells and Roll Tides have finally faded into silence.”
This southern presence is hard to describe but the fact that it is there, well, there is no denying that.
Nearly every week the Spanish Fort Public Library welcomes newcomers to our community. People and families, hailing from as far away as Canada and Denmark, New Jersey, Missouri and Pennsylvania. With each of them there is a sense of excitement, something new, something to be anticipated. These newcomers always ask questions. Questions about the geography, questions about the seasons, questions about football and food and the history of Spanish Fort, Mobile, Baldwin County and Alabama.
Where is that Fort McDermott place located? How far away is Monroeville? What exactly is Mardi Gras? A close friend of mine and retired library director once told me that libraries are like bars minus the alcohol. She was right. The librarians are the bartenders serving up stories and sharing information to patrons, enticing them with truth, with a twist of local lore, all the time teaching, while attempting to enhance the sense of wanderlust.
With all these newcomer questions, and many local queries as well, it became apparent to library staff that we needed to showcase some of our fine southern qualities through a book display highlighting materials in our collection that focused on all things Alabama. In this display the library has chosen to showcase materials that include both Mobile and Baldwin county history and specifically southern authors and southern traits, both of today and those long gone.
Mobile native and savant Eugene Walter describes the southern front porch, “In my childhood, the porch was as a concept as well as a place, and people used them. Everybody would sit on their front porches shelling peas and exchanging neighborhood gossip. If my grandmother sat facing the street, that meant that she would receive. Other ladies across the street, next door, or passing by could come up on the porch and talk to her. If she sat sideways, in profile to the street, it meant that you could greet her and speak to her from the sidewalk but not come up on the porch.”
Fannie Flagg, a Birmingham native, who has connections to the town of Magnolia Springs here in Baldwin County writes in her book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, “Remember, if people talk behind your back, it only means you are two steps ahead.” Her latest book, The Whole Town’s Talking” was just released in November.
If you are a spontaneous creature, one amused by discovery and the thrill of something new catching your eye, then getting lost in the library stacks can be an adventure for you. Maybe you are creature of habit and only return time and again to select your favorite author, or visit your favorite mystery, historical romance, or detective series, reverting to the same section of the library, on each return visit. Whatever your books tastes are, the library is here to push you further on your reading and learning journey. Come discover, or rediscover, Truman Capote’s, Other Voices, Other Rooms, Carson McCullers Member of the Wedding and The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. Read about spoiled John Wesley and June Star, the selfish grandchildren in Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find. View Eudora Welty’s garden at her home in Jackson, Mississippi and see where she gleaned her inspiration. Modern southern writers showcase comedian Tig Notaro who grew up in Pass Christian, Mississippi. Sally Mann’s, memoir, Holding Still and her collection of photographs titled appropriately, Deep South and Beth Macy’s Truevine. Christmas in Birmingham by Tim Hollis pays special tribute to the magnificent Holiday display that Birmingham would unveil every December. Jesmyn Ward’s 2013 memoir Men we Reaped discusses the hardships of growing up poor in rural Mississippi and Rheta Grimsley Johnson writes about Cajun Louisiana in her book Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana. Whether it is southern recipes or southern history, the library staff at SFPL hopes that you will stop by and browse this new section and be inspired to read something new. We have created this display to highlight the rich history of where we live and we hope that you will be as equally inspired and intrigued.
Happy reading! See you at the library.