Woodville Branch Library as Community Memory
A few months after Verna Brock became director of the Woodville Branch of Leon County Public Library System, she realized that people knew little about the area’s history.
Another issue: many people didn’t know the Woodville Branch existed because it was new, difficult to see from the main road and had no signage.
Brock had previously worked in Wakulla and Jefferson Counties, both of which hosted successful community festivals.
She decided to create the Woodville Founders’ Festival.
“Woodville has a rich, colorful and important history, and I believed highlighting it would help foster a greater pride among residents,” says Brock.
Brock and partners from local organizations spent nine months brainstorming and planning.
All the work paid off, and the festival has become an annual event.
Along with local history exhibits and historical re-enactors, the Woodville Founders’ Festival features such attractions as
- Railroad models by the Big Bend Model Railroad Association, a tribute to Woodville’s railroad history
- Pioneer crafts like quilting and flint-knapping
- Blacksmith demonstrations
- Traditional music
- One-act plays performed by Theater with a Mission from Mission San Luis
- Readings by members of the Tallahassee Writers Association
- Gospel sing-alongs
Local vendors add to the festivities. To participate, they pay a small vendor fee which is then donated to the Woodville Volunteer Fire Department.
It’s a win-win for everyone.
- Local businesses get affordable exposure and make a profit
- The WVFD receives funds to help protect the community
- Adding vendors to the festival provides an additional draw
- Attendees may discover a local business they love
Brock says, “I also hope to help foster the start of a merchants association, which can work towards promoting Woodville as a community (a project very much in the future).”
Festival Challenges and Tips
Event planning often entails challenges.
A big challenge for Brock has been choosing a festival date with little competition that’s also likely to have decent weather.
And she’s learned that she can reliably delegate responsibilities to only a handful of volunteers.
The payoff has been worth it, though -- the Woodville Founders Festival has drawn in new visitors and helped establish familiarity with the library’s location, staff and services.
Hosting a festival can help your library, too.
Brock’s top tip: “…Spend as much time as necessary researching and speaking to community partners about how they envision a festival – its purpose, its theme, its emphases. You really want it to be an event that will excite support and enthusiasm among residents and participants.”
In addition to working with local businesses and churches, Brock also makes a concerted effort to involve local schools and parks (county, state and federal).
School kids get involved through contests and creating displays for the festival, like this one commemorating Native American history.
The Woodville Founders Festival provides a good model for a fun way to bring people together, attract new patrons, educate, and demonstrate the value the library adds to the community.