Why I’m Thankful for My Library: Red Mountain Community School

The Birmingham Public Library loves partnering with surrounding schools. Among them: Red Mountain Community School, a longtime user of nearby Avondale Regional Library.

Founded in 2005 by a group of Birmingham residents, Red Mountain Community School relies completely on real books – not textbooks – to educate its students, said Head of School Melanie Walker-Malone. Avondale Regional Library has become “an invaluable resource for each classroom teacher and for the school as a whole,” she said.

In a Q & A, Walker-Malone talked about why she loves BPL and why she is thankful for Red Mountain Community School’s strong relationship with Avondale Regional Library. Walker-Malone says she has been a BPL patron for her entire life, from being read books as a baby in 1962 to the present day. After graduating with an elementary education degree from UAB in 1983, Walker-Malone worked briefly as a storyteller in the Central Library Youth Department. 

BPL: It is Thanksgiving season. Why are you thankful for the Birmingham Public Library?

Walker-Malone: Avondale Regional Library has supported, fostered and preserved a love of reading and the ability to have access to the best of written materials in my life, my own children’s lives and in the lives of the children who are or who have been a part of our local Red Mountain Community School since we opened our doors in 2005. I find great pleasure in finding out about a good book and then immediately being able to look online to see if our it is available in our library system. I then put it on Hold and await my friendly call from any of a number of faithful, attentive librarians at Avondale. Hoopla has also proved invaluable as I also enjoy listening to books on tape.

BPL: How has Avondale assisted your students at Red Mountain Community School? 

Walker-Malone: The Avondale Librarians create a number of programs for our students, provide treats for us at the beginning of school each year and on Halloween, allow us to use the meeting room for classes, and make their restrooms available to us on our weekly park outings or when we walk in the neighborhood. We come regularly to get books on our current research projects or to enjoy a quiet pocket of reading time.

  BPL: What do you love most about BPL? 

Walker-Malone: As a child, I not only enjoyed visits to the downtown and neighborhood libraries but I also remember visiting the Bookmobile which was parked at the Cahaba Heights Methodist Church regularly. I remember the grandeur and beauty of the Ezra Winter murals and the comfort and coziness of the Children’s Department and the wall of fairy tale characters. Miss Frances Hinkle was the children’s librarian and I can still see her now, leading me to a new book she thought I would enjoy or reading me a story. Click here for details on the historic Ezra Winter murals in BPL's Research Library downtown. 

I also remember the thrill of climbing the stairs or taking the elevator to the Music Department. We checked out records and later cassettes, then CD’s of new music or beloved favorites. I also remember checking out artwork for our home from the library! As a young mother I made library visits a regular part of our week. Gathering books, visiting pets, buying used books in the store, chatting with the librarians about books and daily lives nurtured a sense of belonging and community to my young children. 

All of my children now use their public libraries as adults. My mother remained an active participant with BPL until her death this past September 2020. She enjoyed the Brown Bag lunches, storytelling with Dolores Hydock, and the genealogy programs among many other library ventures.

BPL: What impact has BPL had on your students at Red Mountain Community School? 

Walker-Malone: Although we walk often to the Avondale Branch we also take the city bus to the Downtown Library. Each year our 5th/6th graders spend time with the Ezra Winter murals and choose a classic tale from the 16 stories to research and relay to their classmates and often times the entire school. We also do picture studies with the Fairy Tale mural and see how many we can identify! 

 It is hard to imagine a service/institution as valuable as the Birmingham Public Library in the life of our city. My life would be diminished without the gift of its presence in my own life. Although my own family had our share of sufferings, the library provided a regular respite and was a source of beauty, abundance, and possibility. 

BPL: Why do you feel libraries are a vital part of Birmingham? 

Walker-Malone: Libraries sustain the life of Birmingham and its residents by being a storehouse of new ideas, curators of our particular past, preservers of culture, and by promoting our local community life. By purchasing and maintaining relevant materials it keeps us connected to the wider world of knowledge, old and new. In a city such as ours, with a history of racial and economic divides, it is even more crucial to maintain the availability of printed materials to all of our residents.

BPL: Why do you feel it is important for the public to support BPL?

Walker-Malone: Birmingham Public Library is a gift to our community. Its holdings, buildings, and staff are a part of our heritage and reflect years of service and efforts on our behalf. To withdraw our attention to it now would appear that we are ungrateful for the century of labor and forethought behind us. Although many of our residents have access to books and ideas through other means it is naïve to think that we all do. 

The Library is one of the few places left in our city that promotes community without the strings of consumerism or capitalism. It is a treasure trove! There will always be a place for the written word. Many people can attest to the impact of one book, author, or moment with the printed material that changed the course of their life. The Library holds all of these moments in its hands, ready and waiting to offer this gift to its residents.