Noel Hubbard’s Gift of Books

Hometown Heroes, Iconic Communities, On the Road, People
on July 8, 2001

Among the first in line to check out books at the new Eunice Kelly Worthington library in Green Pond, Ala., were two school-aged sisters living just down the road. When the day came to return the books, the girls begged the man at the desk to let them keep them.

They told Noel Hubbard, the librarys founder, that these were the first books they had ever had in their home. Like some others in this rural town in west-central Alabama, their family was poor and the girls attended school only sporadically.

For Hubbard, it was a turning point.

Suddenly, I knew we were doing what we should be doing, he recalls of that day almost five years ago.

The idea for the library came one night in 1995 when Hubbard, a Green Pond native, was in town having dinner with his sister, Betty Johnson. A young neighbor came to the door, looking for encyclopedias to help with a school paper. The boy explained he didnt have reference books of his own, nor anyone to drive him 20 miles to the nearest library.

Hubbard, who taught high school in Birmingham for many years, was struck by how little things had changed in Green Pond. His own students had access to books and computers, and he wanted the children in his hometown to have the same.

The next day, he went to work forming a library board.

From their own pockets, board members, including Warren and Mildred Harmon, Jimmy Gamble, Rosa Lemond, Kelly Hicks, Roy Green, Stacey Allen, Pam Matthews, and Hubbard paid $1,000 for an old portable classroom, badly in need of repair. Hubbard himself paid most of the $3,500 needed to have it transported the 85 miles from Talladega to Green Pond.

It looked so bad, we had people asking if we could put a tarp over it, he says with a smile.

Under Hubbards direction, volunteers turned the disheveled unit into a nice addition to the community. Once a new floor was installed and a few books donated, the library opened. It took the next six months, working around library patrons, for renovations to be completed.

No one can refuse to help him if he asks, says Pat Platt, a Green Pond native whose family donated lumber and materials through their building supply company. We were all ready to step in and help in any way we could.

They patched holes, painted walls, and built a porch on the front. A friend of Hubbards donated carpeting, and a local resident built bookshelves. From old vertical blinds bought at a flea market, ladies from the community cut and sewed window treatments.

Volunteers from area churches came and helped, and businesses, individuals, and other libraries donated hundreds of books and seven working computers, which are now connected to the Internet.

Now boasting more than 9,000 volumes, the library has an impressive selection of childrens and classical literary titles, self-help books, cookbooks, reference works, and current best sellers.

Named for a local teacher who sparked a lifetime love of reading for Hubbard and many others, the library sits on seven acres in the middle of town. Through Hubbards vision, the landpurchased long ago by Green Ponds 700 residentsserves as the town hub, with the library, a childrens playground, walking tracks, and a softball field.

The library has been so wonderful for everyone, especially the children, says Sara Cofield, a local elementary schoolteacher whose own children enjoy the library. Last year, he (Hubbard) brought in volunteers to lead a summer reading program, which integrated arts and crafts. The children just loved it.

After graduating from high school in 1957, Hubbard joined the military. Eventually, he settled about 35 miles away in Birmingham, where he owned and operated antiques and floral shops before teaching horticulture at Hoover High School. Originally lured back to Green Pond to oversee renovations on a local church, he was re-introduced to the simple pleasures of small-town life.

I rediscovered the calm and tranquility I had been looking for, he says. At the end of the day, I didnt want to leave and go back to the city.

Not long after work began on the library, Hubbard was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatments several times a week. While this caused him to retire from teaching, it didnt stop him from driving to Green Pond every day to make sure work on the library continued as planned.

My doctor said getting down here and being involved was a good potion, since I didnt have time to worry about me, recalls Hubbard, who is now cancer-freeand plans to make Green Pond home again soon.

The library has led to an awakening in this community, to show people what is possible. We just needed a leader to bring it all together, says Platt. Every time I drive by, I have to smile. It means so much to everyone.