1013 Hoover Public Library
Linda Andrews has been the director of Hoover Public Library since it opened its doors to the public in 1983.
Driving down U.S. 31 in Hoover, it is hard to miss the glass-front structure that sprawls across a picturesque hillside. The Hoover Public Library, now a community and cultural hub of the South, began as a simple petition 30 years ago.
In July 1982, a group of Hoover citizens who eventually became the Friends of the Hoover Library circulated a petition for a library. It soon had thousands of signatures. By April of the following year, a spot had been chosen for the library at River Oaks Village on Lorna Road.
Linda Andrews was working at the Eastwood Mall Branch of the Birmingham Public Library at the time and recalls the exhilaration she felt when asked to be the director of the new Hoover location.
“It was very appealing to me to be able to start a library in a small community,” Andrews said. “At that time, Hoover seemed like such a far-off suburb. We wanted to give the community a taste of what was out there.”
Andrews and her team of three employees purchased and prepared more than 8,000 books and materials, and on Oct. 8, 1983, the Hoover library held a grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony performed by Mayor Frank Skinner.
“We were just serving the community the best we could,” Andrews said. “We wanted to be respectful and welcoming.”
In the first few years, the library began to receive funding and support from the city government and local civic organizations. Andrews has vivid memories of those early years. She recalls busing citizens from Hoover to downtown to view art galleries, which supported her vision that a library should be more than just a warehouse of reading materials.
“I’ve always thought library programs should be more than just books,” Andrews said. “It’s good for people to be exposed to all sorts of cultural experiences.”
In November of 1985, the library reopened on the second floor of the Hoover Municipal Complex, which was more than double the space at River Oaks Village. Andrews remembers how the Alabama Symphony Orchestra performed to a small crowd in the parking lot of the complex that April.
There was no doubt the library was becoming a population destination. Authors such as E.L. Konigsburg, Steven Kellogg, and S.E. Hinton entertained children. Circulation increased to the fourth largest in the state in 1990.
In 1992, the Hoover Public library hit a milestone when it opened its permanent state-of-the-art facility. The 45,000-square-foot building features innovative additions such as the Library Theatre, which has become a cultural destination in the South and welcomes groups such as the Alabama Ballet. Also that year, the library began the annual tradition of Southern Voices, a three-day conference exploring Southern culture through contemporary arts.
“We were growing up with the Hoover community,” Andrews said. “When you’re helping people, you feel good. We have a lot of fun.”
February 2001 marked a new stage in the library’s evolution with a total renovation and construction project. Andrews explained the meaning behind the library’s current all glass front entrance.
“The whole front of the library is glass to represent all access and no barriers,” she said. “We had over 700,000 people come in the library last year.”
Today the 85,000-square-foot facility is thriving with programs, events and gathering spaces for the whole community. Andrews recognizes that while people come to the library for independent study, they are choosing to be surrounded by others.
“Everyone is pursuing their own mission, but it’s very important to feel connected,” Andrews said.
Andrew also notes how the growth of the Hoover library is reflected in her personal journey through the years.
“When I started out, I had never supervised more than eight people. Now, I supervise 100.” Andrews said. “You grow with the job.”
To commemorate the 30-year anniversary, the library is planning to have a speaker and refreshments on the Library Plaza. Additionally, archival photos will be displayed throughout the facility along with the paintings of featured artist Darrell Ezekiel. To further the celebration, the Library Plaza Café, Coffee-ol-ogy, will have a cake.
Andrews always hears that technology will erase the need for libraries. She disregards this idea, standing firmly by the same creative vision she had when her journey began 30 years ago.
“It’s a place where people can come together and enjoy a book and the cultural arts,” Andrews said. “Libraries will survive. We just have to adjust and be innovative and embrace the future.”
Hoover Public Library Celebrates 30th Anniversary
Sunday, Oct. 6, 2:30- 5:30 p.m.
Hoover Library Plaza