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Emily H. Taber, 1911-2011

Emily H. TaberMost people would like to be remembered for something positive.

Such is the case with Emily Taber, who died this week just short of her 100th birthday.

Surely she was aware she would be remembered by Baker County mostly for her efforts to bring a library to what was, well, a library-less community. A Baker County commission decades ago did just that, naming the county’s library in the old courthouse for Mrs. Taber.

She once said what mattered most to her wasn’t the fact that her name was attached to the library, but that Baker County had dedicated an historic building that housed a library. She truly believed that, but those who knew her believe she was quite appreciative of the honor nonetheless.

An avid reader until later years when even audio books didn’t do the trick as her hearing failed after her eyesight, she told and re-told how she (and a few others) got motivated to do something about the lack of a public library here.

She was rebuffed by individuals who could have made it happen using private funds, yet supported by others. Ultimately, her persistence paid off with a modest, quite modest, beginning in rented space on College Ave. in Macclenny. That initial collection of donated books stayed mostly modest, and the presence of a county library remained understated until it was moved upstairs in the old courthouse on McIver St.

Mrs. Taber continued to play an active role as the library grew to two floors when the health department moved out and, with the help of the late Peggy McCollum, who took on the role of librarian and redefined the term “persistent,” a combination of grants, public and private money funded an extensive renovation.

The Taber Library, now with a recent addition to the first floor, is an ideal use for the significant and imposing old courthouse building — a perfect fit on both ends.

And it all started with Mrs. Taber.

Those of us who knew Emily Taber when several of our young families resided on the Glen St. Mary Nursery grounds where she reveled in her role as matriarch in the 1970s remember her as having the ideal personality for that role.

Gracious, she was, and fiercely loyal to her beloved “George” (the late George Taber Jr.); maternal, she was, in another role as “substitute mother” for those of us who found ourselves in Baker County, a new home far from our homes. She was no slouch on the tennis court, either.

Futurists predict that free-standing libraries will go the way of the horse and buggy now that printed information is delivered electronically. Maybe so, though it’s hard to fathom a world where hard bound books aren’t available somewhere.

The Internet and Kindle weren’t around when Mrs. Taber saw the need for a library in Baker County a half-century ago. Back then it was books, shelving, cataloging and bricks and mortar.

The need was there and Emily Taber was at the forefront of filling that need. She made a difference.

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