Organizations: Rural Library Project
Dan White grew up in Yatesville, Ga., a tiny town without a library.
“Building a beautiful library is actually very affordable,” says White. Two years after he approached the city council with a challenge gift in 1999, the town, which lies just west of Macon, unveiled a library that now serves 1,500 households.
More than 100 cities in Georgia still lack a public library, he says, so White established the Rural Library Project. The Atlanta-based nonprofit guides communities in the Southeast through every phase of establishing a library, from the initial capital campaigns and fund-raising, to construction and design, to summer-reading curricula.
“It’s a challenging time with shrinking discretionary funds,” White says, “but we need to think seriously about what makes a rural community attractive. Very few things come close to the value, on a per-dollar basis, that libraries add to quality of life.”
“Libraries provide music, movies, research and archival databases, literacy and arts programs for children and adults, meeting spaces for groups, and, of course, online access to the digital world,” says the organization’s co-director, Sarah Wynn. “Many households still don’t have a computer. Libraries help people search for jobs or start businesses in their homes. They are places where everyone is welcome, and they’re centers for lifelong learning.
“Without this foundation of information, freely shared, where would our democracy be?” Wynn says.