Erma Brooks: Dunbar Historical Library’s Secret Weapon
November 21, 2017
AmeriCorps VISTA Erma Brooks came to the Concho Valley VISTA Placement Project through the recommendation of Reverend Craig Meyers, a long-time friend and confidant. Erma had retired from working for the Department of Defense after 40 years of service, but was still actively serving her community. Erma was just what AmeriCorps VISTA and the Dunbar Historical Library needed: a dedicated, tenacious and creative Librarian with an authentic heart for service.
Before the Dunbar Historical Library had its Grand Re-Opening on September 30, 2017, it had been closed since 1972. Built in 1939, the library served San Angelo’s black community during the segregation era. It stands as the only once segregated public building in San Angelo still serving its original purpose.
Erma started her VISTA year in July of 2017. Dunbar Library was still under renovation so she began working in the Tom Green County Library, where she was brought boxes upon boxes of donated books and magazines. She cleaned each individual book or magazine and labeled them to give recognition to the donors. As word spread about the library’s restoration, donations of furniture, photographs, and historical artifacts came in as well. She cleaned and polished every piece.
Once interior renovations were completed, Erma’s next battle was to clean the library from top to bottom. One cannot really imagine how much dirt and dust had collected since it closed in 1972. However, Erma singlehandedly accomplished this laborious task in a “then” unairconditioned building without complaint. (Not normally a Librarian’s job) Hats off to the super servant!
While preparing the library for use, she also recruited 12 volunteers and collected $140 in cash and several donations of books or furniture. Erma spent countless hours shelving books and arranging the children’s picture books in a way that would be appealing to young children.
She greeted guests and gave mini-tours during the Grand Opening Event. Since the Grand Opening, Erma has been giving tours and talking to the community about the library in person and via email, which has resulted in a number of people accepting her invitation to come in and take a tour of the facility.
Books and DVDs are being checked out regularly and she has scheduled a tutor who holds sessions with two boys every Thursday evening from 6:00 pm. To 7:00 pm. The NAACP also held its Freedom Fund Banquet Committee meeting at the library. Erma would be happy to provide the space for other community groups to hold their meetings there as well.
There are minor renovation details and landscaping that remain to be completed, but the Dunbar Historical Library is open and ready for its new role of preserving the cultural history of San Angelo. Most importantly, to educate and enlighten today’s young people who know very little about their history.
Regular library hours have been set for Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 3-7 p. m., but tours are available any day or time upon request, with a 24-hour notice. The library is still in need of WIFI,
computers and a printer/copier. They will be appreciative of any gently used aforementioned items or cash donations. Everyone has a standing invitation to stop by for a personal tour. The Library phone number is (325) 450-9273.