Hattie Gaines Wilson Youth Services Department Dedication Ceremony
The public is invited to attend the ceremony dedicating the Hattie Gaines Wilson Youth Services Department at the Central Library on Saturday, February 9 at 1 p.m.
A leading figure for expanding library services to the African American community of Marietta and Cobb County, Hattie Gaines Wilson served for 33 years as the branch manager of the library in the Fort Hill community located near the Marietta Square. The library, which was founded as a branch of the Marietta city library in 1947, was added to the Cobb library system in 1959.
Mrs. Wilson led the library from 1951 to her retirement in 1984. She died in 2001, fourteen years after the library she loved was renamed in her honor. The Hattie G. Wilson Library closed in January after the closing of the Fort Hill Homes.
Mrs. Wilson was one of the early volunteers for the formation of the community library before officially taking on her staff role. A former teacher of a one room school in Mableton, she spearheaded efforts to bring books to African Americans facing the hurdle of segregation that kept them from visiting libraries.
“That was the only way I saw to do it – just get in there and start to pushing,” she of her efforts to bring library services to her neighbors in an interview for the Kennesaw State University Oral History Project.
Mrs. Wilson’s Lasting Legacy
Archived newspaper articles about Mrs. Wilson have the terms “longtime volunteer,” “active,” and “tireless” used throughout them.
According to articles in the Marietta Daily Journal and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mrs. Wilson served more than 40 years as a Red Cross Volunteer and also devoted thousands of hours to the PTA, Boys and Girls Scouts, Zion Baptist Church and other organizations. She launched a book cart program for Kennestone Hospital patients, serving more than 2,500 hours in the role, according to a Journal-Constitution article.
CCPLS librarian Rachell Heard succeeded Mrs. Wilson as the library’s branch manager. Mrs. Heard, who served almost 29 years as manager of the Hattie G. Wilson Library, says Mrs. Wilson’s commitment to the community, especially the children, has long inspired her. The library was used as a cultural and community center, along with its homework lab function.
“I picked up where Miss Hattie left off,” Mrs. Heard says of her own service at the Wilson Library branch, which involved assisting library patrons who grew up to become parents and grandparents of the current generation of young library patrons.
Longtime library patrons still talk of how Mrs. Wilson took her role to heart, assisting children far more than simply helping them locate items in the library, but also encouraging them to aim high.
Austell resident Mary L. Shelton recalls visiting Hattie Wilson often at the library as a child living in Marietta. “I remember some 30 years later what Mrs. Hattie said: ‘If you do your best, the results will be great.’ Mrs. Hattie touched my heart.”
Hattie Wilson’s work for the library and support for community groups involved opening the doors of the library throughout the week, day and night, especially for young people engaged in school projects, Scout activities, and more.
“If it meant staying nights, if it meant staying Sundays, that was fine,” she told a Journal-Constitution reporter as the Fort Hill Library was renamed in her honor. “It was just like coming home, if you knew the children were going to be here waiting.”