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Rockdale’s library celebrates milestone and eyes the future

Sometimes longtime Rockdale residents go into the Lucy Hill Patterson Memorial Library and play a little game.

We stand somewhere in the area of the circulation desk, look around and try to visualize the original library, the way it looked brand new back in the spring of 1963.

It’s been renovated and expanded so many times over the past 50 years that the little library we once knew has disappeared, even though all of it is still there.

Thursday evening there will be a reception to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that no-longer little building, of which Rockdale was so proud in 1963.

It may have been small but getting that library was a major step for Rockdale and a small army of dedicated volunteers.

In the early 1950s, there were only 65 counties among Texas’s 254 that did not contain a public library. Milam was one. Rockdale residents were granted the privilege of checking out books from the high school library.

That volunteer group decided they’d change all that. The library founders quite literally went door-to-door asking for book donations. They collected enough to make a start. Rockdale’s, and Milam County’s, first public library opened in part of one room on the second floor of City Hall—today’s police station—in 1954.

It was crowded, it was hot in the summer and cold in the winter, but it was ours. It didn’t take long before those volunteers began to dream bigger dreams.

Rockdale already had a potential location, the lot at Ackerman and Cameron where Scarbrough & Hicks once stood. The dream became a reality when Dr. George Patterson, a Los Angeles neurosurgeon, decided to make a substantial donation to Rockdale in memory of his mother, who was born here.

That, and a lot of hard work, led to that magical day in the spring of 1963 which will be observed on Thursday.

It’s grown a lot in 50 years, along with the technology. But there will be more than one person standing there Thursday evening and seeing that special little building where it all started.—M.B.

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