Due to restroom ren­o­va­tions, the Wes­ley Chapel-William C. Brown Library will be closed on Sat­ur­day, July 20.

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Michael L. Thurmond Named Georgia Public Library Champion of the Year

Geor­gia Pub­lic Library Ser­vice has named DeKalb Coun­ty chief exec­u­tive offi­cer Michael L. Thur­mond Library Cham­pi­on of the Year in the 2023 Geor­gia Pub­lic Library Awards. The Awards hon­or pub­lic libraries and their cham­pi­ons who have made a pro­found dif­fer­ence in their communities.

Strong pub­lic libraries are essen­tial to a pros­per­ous state, and this year’s hon­orees show­case the vital role that pub­lic libraries play in post-pan­dem­ic recov­ery, com­pet­i­tive­ness, and resilience through­out Geor­gia,” said Vice Chan­cel­lor for Archives and Libraries and State Librar­i­an Julie Walk­er. Our pub­lic libraries are a mod­el of col­lab­o­ra­tion, inno­va­tion, and excellence.”

Thur­mond was rec­og­nized for his role in DeKalb Coun­ty Pub­lic Library’s post-pan­dem­ic recovery.

Michael Thurmond’s mul­ti­fac­eted sup­port for the library, from rec­og­niz­ing the unique, hard work of staff; secur­ing vital fund­ing and resources; and advo­cat­ing for employ­ee well­be­ing, tru­ly sets him apart as a Geor­gia Pub­lic Library Cham­pi­on of the Year. His influ­ence is not only felt today but will leave a last­ing lega­cy for years to come,” said Ali­son Weissinger, direc­tor of DeKalb Coun­ty Pub­lic Library.

Thur­mond is known for his life­long ded­i­ca­tion to serv­ing the pub­lic. In 1986, he became the first African Amer­i­can from Clarke Coun­ty elect­ed to the Geor­gia Gen­er­al Assem­bly. He received a guber­na­to­r­i­al appoint­ment to serve as direc­tor of the state’s Divi­sion of Fam­i­ly and Chil­dren Ser­vices in 1994. Thur­mond was elect­ed Geor­gia labor com­mis­sion­er in 1998 and served three terms. He lat­er served as super­in­ten­dent of the DeKalb Coun­ty School Dis­trict from 2013 – 2015 and was elect­ed CEO of DeKalb Coun­ty in 2016 and reelect­ed in 2020.

Thur­mond has sup­port­ed the DeKalb Coun­ty Pub­lic Library through­out his tenure as CEO of DeKalb Coun­ty. Some exam­ples include:

  • Assist­ed with the restora­tion of 111 oper­at­ing hours to the library in 2017, includ­ing bud­get approval for extend­ed night and week­end access to branches.
  • Increased the books and mate­ri­als bud­get back to its pre-reces­sion lev­el of $2 mil­lion in 2018. This allowed the DeKalb Library Foun­da­tion to allo­cate funds to oth­er ini­tia­tives such as expand­ing Wi-Fi hotspot ser­vices and lit­er­a­cy pro­grams includ­ing 1,000 Books Before Kinder­garten and the Sum­mer Read­ing Program.
  • Raised wages and updat­ed salary ranges for staff, which have increased reten­tion and sup­port­ed career advancement.
  • Advo­cat­ed for the inclu­sion of the library in two of DeKalb’s SPLOST (Spe­cial Pur­pose Local Option Sales Tax) ref­er­en­dums, the most recent of which passed in 2023. This will result in $13.8 mil­lion to finance build­ing ren­o­va­tions and oth­er improvements.

Dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, Thur­mond rec­og­nized the library as an essen­tial depart­ment by enact­ing front­line pay for all library employees.

Thur­mond also helped to secure fund­ing and resources to sup­port the library’s shift to curb­side ser­vices includ­ing the exten­sion of Wi-Fi to the library’s park­ing lot for work­ers and students.

Mr. Thur­mond made clear the impor­tance of the library to the lives of every­one in DeKalb, espe­cial­ly those hard­est hit with the shut­down. In fact, the library was one of the first depart­ments to reopen, oth­er than those involved with pub­lic safe­ty and infra­struc­ture,” said Weissinger.

Thur­mond is an avid read­er and author of three non­fic­tion books of his­to­ry includ­ing Free­dom: Georgia’s Anti­slav­ery Her­itage, 1733 – 1865,” which was award­ed the Geor­gia His­tor­i­cal Society’s Lil­la Hawes Award. His lat­est book on the life of James Oglethor­pe is sched­uled for pub­li­ca­tion in Feb­ru­ary 2024.

Hon­orees will be cel­e­brat­ed in local cer­e­monies in ear­ly 2024. To read more about all Geor­gia Pub­lic Library Award recip­i­ents, vis­it the Geor­gia Pub­lic Library Ser­vice web­site.