Reese’s “Transplanted Library” for Historic Presidential Visit

Twenty-five years ago, on February 5, 1997, President Bill Clinton visited Augusta to speak on the importance of education. AU’s legacy institution, Augusta State University, hosted the historic event at the Christenberry Fieldhouse, and Reese Library made a significant contribution to President Clinton’s visit.

Reese Library and the Summerville Campus were given very little notice when Clinton’s advance staff requested that the Fieldhouse dance studio be transformed into a library setting for the president’s round table discussion on education. Gov. Zell Miller, local students, and teachers were participants in the round table discussion with President Clinton.

While Physical Plant employees constructed and stained 100 feet of shelving for the dance studio, the Reese Library staff was busy assembling 3,500 books to fill that shelving for the “transplanted library.” This involved removing the books from the Reese Library shelves, checking the books out, boxing the books, and loading the boxed books onto two transport trucks.

Multiple fictitious library accounts were created in order to check out the books. This avoided anyone being held responsible if a book was lost or damaged. Reese Library worked to ensure that the fictitious names did not match any student or faculty. One library account was created for a celebrity – Socks Clinton, the First Cat – and numerous books were checked out to him. Socks was Reese Library’s first and last feline patron.

Photograph of President William Jefferson Clinton with Socks the Cat Perched on Clinton’s Shoulder- 12-20-1993
The U.S. National Archives, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons

Once the trucks delivered the 200 boxes of books to the Christenberry Fieldhouse, additional Summerville Campus employees assisted Reese Library staff in unboxing and shelving the books on the newly constructed bookcases. President Clinton’s advance staff had wanted to remove or cover up the call number affixed to the books’ spines. However it was decided it would have been too time-consuming to do so, as well as possibly damage the books to remove Reese Library’s call numbers or place a cover sticker on the books’ spines.

From the newsletter “ASU Report” March 1997

The day after President Clinton’s visit, the labor intensive project went in reverse. The transplanted library books were removed from the temporary bookcases, boxed, and transported back to Reese Library. The books were once again unboxed, checked back in to Reese’s library system, and returned to their proper shelves in Reese Library. The Summerville Campus Physical Plant employees helped the Library staff complete this physical task.

This tidbit of Reese Library history was discovered while reviewing the library’s annual reports. From the 1996-1997 report:

…the entire library staff felt that all the hard work was well worth the effort when we saw and heard President Clinton in “our university library” on national television. Also, two local newspapers featured stories about the “miraculous transplanted library.”

Lillian Wan, who has worked at Reese Library since 1986, provided first-hand information for this blog as she was a member of the Reese Library staff that helped with the “transplanted library” for President Clinton’s visit.