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Library Board Honors Frances Darnell
Written by Debbie Gregory   
Tuesday, April 8, 2014

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The Macon County Public Library Board of Trustees previously commissioned local artist Linda Johnson to do a sculpture in honor of Mrs. Frances Darnell, which is now displayed in the new foyer at the library.

The sculpture, entitled “Ageless Word” is in recognition of Mrs. Darnell’s commitment to strong libraries both in Macon County and across the state.

“Nancy Doss called and asked if I would be interested in doing a piece for the library,” Linda said when I sat down with her, Frances Darnell and Dana Richardson on Monday morning. “I agreed and I did about three different ideas and the board accepted one when the library construction first got underway. There was a lot of bouncing around on how we wanted to present the piece, but we finally finalized the idea.”

Linda said the sculpture is a monk. “You think of monks sitting around in solitude, coming up with thoughts and ideas and putting it in print and getting it in a form where it can last forever,” she said. “It is written down and thought through seriously.”

The monk has his thoughts in a word book and Linda wanted him to look old and like he had age on him. “I’ve known Frances for quite some time now, and we are very good friends,” continued Linda. “She has a wonderful spirit and I wanted to capture as much of her spirit as I could in the piece. She loves nature, birds and just animals in general. So I wanted to put as many of the little creatures in the background as I could. The whole time I was working on this piece, I had Frances on my mind. I would get up with a cup of coffee and keep her right next to me in my memory all day. We kept this a secret and she had no idea what we had planned.”

“What I like most about the piece is the trees,” said Frances. “I was raised in the woods. It is so nice to be honored like this and I knew absolutely nothing about it. They say women can’t keep secrets, they can believe you me. This was all certainly overwhelming and I thank everyone for thinking of me.”

Linda said the sculpture is clay and clay is very difficult when you have something this large. “I had to put it together in pieces,” she said. “It is all parts and pieces that are bolted together, but it was worth the hard work for Frances Darnell.”

The new addition and renovation project at the public library was funded by a $229,000 endowment from the late Mrs. Geraldine Hire, a $100,000 grant that was administered by the Tennessee State Library Archives (which is a part of the Secretary of State’s office), and the library foundation.

“Mrs. Geraldine Hire lived over on the Haynestown Bridge and she was married, but the couple didn’t have any children,” said Frances. “When her husband died, evidently he left her well off with money, so she gave part of it to the library and that was the core money that started the construction project. Without that we might not be sitting in this room today. It was a very gracious act of her.”

Frances has been a library lover all of her life and she said she was so proud of the Macon County Public Library. “Our library is cozy. You could come in her and read all day long. I have volunteered at this library for many years, plus I have worked all over the state. But I am certainly proud of this library.”

Dana Richardson started working at the Macon County Public Library in November of 2009. “My husband and I frequented the library quite a bit since our son was like six months old and we started bringing him to story time,” said Dana. “We just really loved the local library and we would spend the afternoon here before we would pick our son up from school. We noticed that they were a little busy and I inquired whether they had a position available. Mrs. Julia hired me and I started to work.”

Dana started off as a library assistant and she says that Mrs. Freda and Mrs. Judy were just wonderful in training her. “I started off as a library assistant and my responsibilities were just checking books out to the public and that kind of thing. If the public came in and had any questions about the computers that was my responsibility to try and assist them.”

As Dana began picking up on things, Mrs. Julia started entrusting the young woman with more responsibilities. “I went from there and in the 3½ years that I was there Mrs. Julia kind of pulled the rug out when she mentioned that she was retiring. After I discussed it with my co-workers I decided to apply for the position as library director.”

“I couldn’t ask for a better place to work,” Dana continued. “Our patrons are wonderful and my co-workers are wonderful. I still see them as my co- workers because it takes all of us to accomplish this job, and accomplish serving our community. This is a wonderful place to work and I have been blessed with a group of men and women who are passionate about the library. They are easy to work with and we always work through the problems.”

Dana said that being in the middle of building construction during her first year as the director has been a bit challenging, but it has been a fun challenge, but stressful also. “It has been nice.”

The new addition has been a process, according to Dana. “We have the new foyer, which is beautiful and has been extended to give us a bigger area for people to come in. We also have the new community room, which we will be using for our summer reading club and I plan to use it for our Tuesday story time, which will be starting again before long. I would also like to set up a little lab where people could come in here and do research.”

“There is also a kitchenette, a back room for shipping and receiving, and the drop box is in there also,” added Dana. “We have work rooms and a little break room for the girls and I have a small office. We also did some rearranging and painting.”

The director said that this addition will give them the room that is needed, especially for the summer reading club. “I want the kids to be able to enjoy their time here. It made it difficult for other patrons to come in during the summer and utilize the library during the time of this program. So the community room will help with that. The children can come in and express themselves and not disturb anybody in the reading room.”

“This first year has been fun, stressful, and a learning process all combined,” Dana said. “I love my job, I love this community and I love the people I work with. Macon County is a great county and I couldn’t ask for a better place to live with my family. We have a wonderful group of people in this community and I am looking forward to great things to come. Being at the library isn’t just a job, it’s a part of my life. This job is an opportunity for me to meet new people and see old friends. I’m definitely excited about the future!”