For many of his 42 years working in the Middle Georgia Regional Library System, Thomas Jones was responsible for upgrading and expanding the library’s technology.
So Tuesday at his retirement party at the downtown Macon library, it seemed perfectly fitting that the board of trustees unveiled a plaque renaming the computer room in Jones’ honor.
That was in addition to the announcement that the library’s new endowment fund would be named in Jones’ honor, and Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert proclaiming Tuesday to be Thomas Michael Jones Day in the city.
Macon-Bibb Commissioner Gary Bechtel got choked up when he read the proclamation and presented it to Jones.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Jones, who has served as director of the library system since 2008. “People have been so generous, so kind.”
Well-wishers packed the genealogy room at Washington Memorial Library, and several speakers shared their memories and anecdotes about Jones, an avid reader since age 8 when he would check out the maximum-allowed four books from the old library on First Street nearly every day.
Andy Newton, president of Friends of the Library, presented the organization’s $75,000 check from its annual book sale to Jones, representing the library system one final time.
“Everybody knows and loves Thomas, and knows what a terrific job he has done,” Newton said.
Beverly Blake, program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, noted that when she first approached Jones five years ago about expanding Internet access in the midstate by upgrading library technology, she told him to “dream big.”
“I said, ‘Let’s do this big, and boy, he did!’” Blake said.
As part of that project, Jones secured for the library a $500,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, which was matched by Bibb County. That led to the creation of the computer room, computer classes and training.
“The Thomas Jones I know is a visionary, creative, also likable and a nerd who loves technology,” Blake said. “Because of his vision, we have a fabulous lab for the 21st century.”
Suzy McCullough, representing the library staff, recounted her many years working alongside Jones who got his start at the library as a 16-year-old volunteer and who retired as director.
Harriet Ross Jardine, chairwoman of the library board, noted all the multiple hats Jones wore through the years. She said it was Jones who led the way in building a library in Marshallville and rebuilding the library in Twiggs County after it burned a few years ago.
Lamar Veatch, the state librarian and director of the Georgia Public Library Service, said Jones has been one of the state’s “bedrock, solid library directors.”
“He’s always run a great ship,” Veatch said. “He’s always willing to share his knowledge with other library directors around the state. We do a lot of things on a collaborative basis, and he always helps promote that.”
Jones said he’s not sure what he will do during his retirement, but he pledged to continue being a patron and an advocate for the library system.
“I’ve also got about 1,000 books at home I need to read,” he said.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.