Going ‘Full Circle’ – Decca Slaughter treasures returning to new Clemmons Branch Library after getting first job at previous facility at age 16

Published 12:10 am Thursday, December 7, 2023

By Jim Buice

For the Clemmons Courier

CLEMMONS — Decca Slaughter started her library career at the young age of 16 at the previous facility on Clemmons Road and admits it was “kind of like full circle” when she was brought back as branch manager of the new Forsyth County Public Library Clemmons Branch in the summer of 2021.

“The response of the community has been great,” Slaughter said. “We are the highest circulating branch in the entire (county) system. We actually out circulate the central library each month but not always on a daily basis. For the last several months, our circulation has been higher.”

Slaughter, who recently turned 50, has spent most of her life as a bookworm and always dreamed of a career as a librarian or teacher.

“When I was little, I used to play library at home with my own personal books,” she said.

“My father has always been a volunteer fireman, and he was with South Fork Fire Department before they dissolved and merged with the Clemmons Fire Department. My dad and Jerry Brooks knew each other very well. I remember when my dad had this fire department stamp, and I came up in the age where we were still signing cards and stamping due dates when I was younger, and we started automating. In fact, this system automated I think in 1989 — so right before I first started we were with our first online system and barcoding books and that kind of thing. 

“I was probably 5 or 6 and would cut out pieces of notebook paper and use my dad’s fire department stamp to stamp them like they were due for folks. My mom used to take me to the really old Clemmons branch, which used to be in the building beside where the Courier is now. We actually lived in Advance until I was 10, and then we moved to Forsyth County, so it was actually closer for my mom to take us here instead of Mocksville.”

Slaughter said that Hazel Myers was the librarian at that much smaller facility and that she had the pleasure of working with her at the time when she transitioned from checking out books to being a library page at age 16 at the newer library (at that time) when she was still in the 11th grade at Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem.

Carolyn Price, who was the longtime branch manager in Clemmons, was adult services librarian at that time and served as a mentor to Slaughter, who later became the branch manager at the Southside Branch in 2005 and came to Clemmons just prior to the June 2021 opening as the two “kind of switched places” before Price’s retirement in July of that year.

Of course, the new 20,000-square-foot facility located less than a mile from the previous library, came with a final price tag of $6.6 million — while providing a much larger facility for a growing community with a checklist that included a drive-through materials return, lots of natural light in the building, more parking, an outdoor reading space and courtyard, study rooms, distinct children’s spaces and additional computers, along with extending James Street to make the connection to Stadium Drive.

“I really like the largeness of the space, the brightness and much more welcoming atmosphere with more room to spread out for our collections and meeting spaces that are utilized almost all the time,” said Slaughter, who added that the new library has six full-time staff members and four part-timers. 

“One of the things I love most here is the variety in the work tasks I have and also mentoring the library staff to be the best they can be and provide the best customer service,” she said. “The most challenging thing is keeping up with the technology changes that some so quickly and being able to keep up with it.”

Certainly, it takes more than the new building, staffers and amenities to make a successful library.

There’s the Friends of the Clemmons Branch Library, which Slaughter said “have always had a significant impact with regard to fundraising for items/programs/services needed at the branch location through ongoing and semi-annual book sales as well as through Friends memberships and member donations.” 

The Friends group enhances the resources, facilities and services of the Clemmons Branch Library in many ways, Slaughter said, including providing funding for youth, teen and adult programs each summer as part of the Forsyth County Public Library’s annual Summer Reading and Learning Program as well as for other programs at the Clemmons Branch throughout the year. 

Slaughter added that The Friends also provide funding to augment and increase audiovisual collections as well as to supplement the library system’s electronic and downloadable resources, and also supplement youth collections through an annual subscription for high-quality library materials from the Junior Library Guild.

Also, the Village of Clemmons has faithfully donated funds throughout the years to support the Clemmons Branch Library.

“In the past two years, funds donated by the Village of Clemmons have supported the purchase of some opening day collections for the new location, additional audiovisual and print materials, additional special operating supplies, technology for the branch’s Creative Space and outdoor library courtyard furniture,” Slaughter said.

The Clemmons Rotary Club and the Clemmons Kiwanis Club are two other organizations that also have played a key part in helping the local library over the years, according to Slaughter.

“The Clemmons Rotary makes consistent donations of youth materials to the branch that are added to our collections,” she said. “The Clemmons Kiwanis Club most recently donated funds in honor of Carolyn Price, the former branch manager, that were used to purchase a new large, colorful rug and carpet rounds for our Storytime Room.”

For Slaughter, who has been working in libraries for 34 years — 26 years full time in Forsyth County, five years part time in Forsyth, one year at Salem Baptist Christian School and also worked at the Z. Smith Reynolds Library as an undergrad at Wake Forest University — it’s been a dream come true.

And Clemmons, where she has lived in and around for most of her life, was the first step in her journey, starting as a child at the previous libraries when the town became incorporated into a village, and then from 1990-93 and again from 1994-96 before returning in 2021 as branch manager at the sparkling new facility.

“It’s been a lot of fun, and I love being a branch manager here and love the Clemmons community,” Slaughter said. “I have wonderful staff, and it’s truly a blessing to work here.”

 

BY THE NUMBERS

 

Total item holdings in May 2021 (right before the move to the new location): 37,079 items

Total item holdings currently as of Nov. 30: 51,689 items

 

Total item circulation (items checked out and checked back in when returned) November 2022 – October 2023: 185,825 items

 

11/1/2022 – 10/31/2023:

Total door count/visits: 144,838

Total public computer users: 18,507

Total directional and reference questions answered: 50,357

Total library programs offered: 390

Total library program attendance: 14,869

Total meeting space reservations/uses: 3,400

Total meeting space users: 7,114

**Note: Meeting spaces reopened to the public on Nov. 15, 2022. Meeting spaces across the library system had been closed until that date due to COVID-19 restrictions that were in place.

 

PROGRAMS OFFERED

 

Adult programs:

• The Book Lovers Book Club

• The Clemmons Cookbook Club

• Genealogy programs

• Freelance writing programs

• Jewelry-making programs

• Financial literacy programs

• Advanced Directive programs

• Free movie screenings

• Red Cross blood drives

• Technology literacy programs

• Volunteer opportunities

 

Youth Programs:

• Toddler storytimes

• Preschool storytimes

• Family storytimes

• Preschool crafts

• Make and take to-go craft kits

• Tinker Tuesdays

• Music and movement

• Celebration Wednesdays

• Chess Club

• Pokemon Club

• Gaming programs

• Teen Advisory Board

• Teen volunteering opportunities