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Former Georgia first lady Sandra Deal to have special honor at library for dedication to literacy
Former Gov. Nathan Deal listens as first lady Sandra Deal reads to children at Friendship Learning Center. - photo by Kristen Oliver

The new storytime room at the renovated Gainesville library will be named after Sandra Deal, former First Lady of Georgia and a Gainesville native who has advocated for child literacy.

The Gainesville branch of the Hall County Library System, located just off the downtown square, is currently closed for renovations. A temporary branch has opened up across the street at 100 Brenau Ave., and when the library reopens in summer 2020, it will have a dedicated storytime room, a feature the library had been lacking.

The Sandra Dunagan Deal Storytime Room will be the first newly named area in the renovated library.

While First Lady, Deal visited all 159 counties and all 181 public school districts to read aloud to children. Her 1,000th visit was in Oakwood in November 2018. Deal, an East Hall High School graduate, is a former public school language arts teacher, and her parents were also educators.

Deal said in 2013 when presenting books to the North Hall Technology Center that she was an avid reader as a child.

“I was one of the kids who would pull the covers up and use the flashlight, or read by the crack in the door, if mama took the flashlight,” she said.

She kept that love of reading into adulthood and prioritized child literacy in the state during her tenure as First Lady.

“My goal is to encourage students to enjoy reading so that they will be prepared for a lifetime of learning,” she said in a 2018 statement. “Reading is the gift that keeps on giving and education is essential for all children to succeed in their pursuits.”

Mark Pettitt, chairman of Hall’s library board, said naming the storytime room after Deal is a reflection of her work to get children reading and her support of libraries.

“Mrs. Deal has dedicated much of her life to improving literacy and educating the children of our state. Dedicating the new storytime room in her honor is the least we could do to recognize her work in our community,” Pettitt said in a statement. “… We are all better because of her commitment to reading and public libraries.”

The storytime room will be part of an expanded children’s area of the renovated library. The 38,000-square-foot library will be the county’s largest.

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