Princess Clare Castle coming to OPL

Published 11:43 pm Friday, July 29, 2016

Opp’s beloved librarian Gayle Presley Clare left the community a better place in her lifetime, and it only seems fitting for the community to tackle a project as profound as her legacy.

531577_425988580785450_1799792681_nClare died in 2014 after losing her battle to cancer, but the last nine years of her life were spent bettering the Opp Public Library and expanding its programs.

When she died in August 2014, rather than have flowers, her family requested donations go to the Friends of the Opp Public Library.

Clare’s daughter, Leslie Jones, said Friday that plans are underway to make a Princess Gayle’s Castle inside the children’s area of the library in memory of her mom.

Jones said the idea of the castle came from Clare’s first year as director.

“During her first year as director, she and I instituted the summer reading program,” Jones said. “We got refrigerator boxes and made a crawl through tunnel and painted it to look like a castle.”

Jones said her mother used the cardboard tunnel for three summers.

“She always wanted us to do another that was a little more permanent, but we never had the space,” Jones said.

When Clare died, Jones said she mentioned it to “The Friends” and family members who had made donations in honor of her mother.

“I thought that instead of buying books with her name in them, decorating the children’s area would be a better tribute,” she said. “So, I said, ‘How about Princess Gayle’s Castle?’ ”

Jones said the castle will feature a castle gate large enough that it will be wheelchair accessible.

There will also be a large wall that will stick out from the bookshelves and will include an interactive walk-through for the children, which will be large enough for the handicapped children to go through.

Additionally, the façade will be painted on the back of a bookshelf that is already present in the library, and a fake wall will appear as a castle to make a grand entrance when one enters the library.

“There will be a wall of windows for kids to poke their head out of and (pose for) photos,” she said.

Other plans call for brick support structures to be turned into bastions, and possibly a tree with branches that create bookshelves.

Jones said they have carpenters and painters volunteering to help with the project and she will paint the decorative portion.

“This will make a more exciting fun area for the children,” she said.

Jones said the castle project will be a culmination of Clare’s vision and hard work for the library.

The project will begin once the city of Opp is done making repairs to the aging library.

Mayor John Bartholomew said Friday that city planner Jason Bryan is currently working with engineers on the roofing project for the library.

Anyone who wishes to make a donation may mail it to: Friend of the Opp Public Library, 1604 North Main Street, Opp, AL 36467.