Whether you were a student studying for a final, a graduate student searching for research material or a community guest looking for a good read, walking into the Gus Nichols Library on campus was met with Barbara Kelly’s welcoming smile and joyful attitude.
What you may not have realized while browsing the thousands of volumes in Gus Nichols is those shelves would have been bare if it were not for Kelly’s nearly 25 years of hard work.
Kelly celebrated her retirement from Faulkner as Director of Libraries surrounded by her friends, colleagues and family on May 21, 2021 as guests signed large “library cards,” and gave thoughtful well-wishes.
Earlier that day, Kelly sat in her office for one of the last times surrounded by large bouquets of colorful flowers gifted to her to celebrate her many years of service. She reminisced on her time at Faulkner, fun memories of “Ghost Gus,” her adventures with mentor Brenda Turner, and shared her future plans.
Coming to Faulkner in 1996, she and her husband Dean Kelly, who was a minister at the time continues to serve at Faulkner, were looking for work. Dean’s parents were former switchboard operators at Faulkner and the pair decided to apply at the university. At that time, Barbara was employed to clean a physician’s home in Montgomery and sent Faulkner an application to work in the library or any position that was available.
“Brenda Turner who was the director of Gus Nichols Library at the time called me for an interview,” Kelly said. “The job had benefits and it would help get my children through school so Brenda was very convincing and I took the job starting in serials.”
A year later, Turner encouraged Kelly to get her master’s degree library science. She followed the advice and was promoted to various departments in Gus Nichols Library before eventually taking its directorship in 2005. She also served as a tenured professor, and taught Informatics with Faulkner’s Department of Computer Sciences from 2012 – 2018. Kelly holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Faulkner University, and a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Alabama.
Kelly has since served on several SACSCOC reaffirmation committees, offsite and onsite, as well as SACSCOC substantive change committees. She has served on committees and held offices in the Christian College Librarians (CCL), and has presented at its conferences as well as on committees and panels with the Network of Alabama Academic Libraries (NAAL). Kelly has had book reviews published with the Association of Christian Librarians (ACL), and with the Southeastern Library Association (SELA). Kelly holds active memberships with the Christian College Librarians, Association of Christian Librarians, the Southeastern Library Association, and she is an institutional member of the American Library Association (ALA) and Association of College and Research Librarians (ACRL).
Not only has she been able to promote library science through her position, she has been blessed to know hundreds of students who have come to Faulkner and who find their way to the quiet halls of Gus Nichols. She’s also had the opportunity to send her three children to Faulkner, two of whom met their future spouses as students.
Kelly enjoyed working with Faulkner for many reasons but most of all because of its mission, “to educate the whole person”. She viewed this mission as an opportunity to reach people with information that will assist them with their future physical lives, and information that will aid their spiritual wellbeing.
“I’ve loved the people here, the students here and working in such a loving and caring environment. You can’t ask for a better environment to work in,” Kelly added.
When Kelly came, there was a limited collection at the library and at the time, Faulkner was up for SACCS accreditation and in desperate need for a robust book inventory.
It was around that time when Kelly and Turner had the opportunity to buy two large collections.
A collection came up for sale after Marymount College closed in California. It was heavy in religion and philosophy, a perfect inventory for Faulkner.
“It was a really good collection and Turner and I traveled there to assess the collection,” Kelly said. “We were low on volumes at the time and we needed books on the shelf so we decided to buy it. It came in two semi-trucks. Boxes after boxes were stacked everywhere. It took us four years to catalog them. There was nearly 100,000 volumes.”
Kelly and Turner were able to assess another large collection, which eventually became the Kearley collection for the V.P. Black College of Biblical of Studies.
The Kearley family contacted the university to donate their entire collection to the library. Like the Marymount collection, it was rich in religion and philosophy, a perfect fit for the Bible department. However, getting the collection from Abilene, Texas was rife with close calls.
“That trip was certainly one memory I will never forget,” Kelly said. “It was Brenda, myself and Ross Kramer. We drove out to assess the collection, but had no idea how large the collection was. We filled one large U-Haul full and we were only halfway through. Ross was going to drive the first U-Haul, but I was not comfortable driving a second one. I had to though. Brenda just had eye surgery and we needed to get back to Montgomery.”
They almost didn’t leave. It had rained while they were there and when they moved the first truck sank in the mud. After calling a tow truck they got it out and onto the road. On their way to Alabama, God was looking after them, Kelly said.
“I was driving behind Ross and his truck was so heavy, when the truck would sway, the bottom of the truck was almost hitting the road, so we stopped and evened out the load between the two trucks,” Kelly said. “If that wasn’t bad enough twice, not once but twice, I had another car pull up alongside me and point to my tire. We stopped, called the U-Haul service and found the tire had a bubble and would have exploded if we didn’t stop. We had that happen again, but were able to change the tire and finally made it back to Montgomery at 11 p.m. at night. It was such an adventure, Ross said he’d never travel with us again.”
Now that Kelly is retired, she plans to spend more time volunteering at her church in Highland Home, teaching a ladies’ class and spending time with her siblings in Tennessee and her children and five grandchildren in Alabama.