Local doctor creates library to help the community

The Dr. Walter Smith Library is a two-building, former residential home managed by Dr. Walter Smith, where students of all ages can go to study and learn.

“Each day I saw the children playing in the streets after school with no place to go,” said Smith. “I decided I’d like to do something that would make a difference so they could have some place to come in, read and learn some things they didn’t know.”

Dr. Walter Smith in his library. Photo by Tyrah Walker.

The library was once Smith’s parent’s home before they died.  He continues his parent’s legacy by welcoming and educating the community.

Walking into the library for the first time feels more like stepping into a museum.  The library’s building one holds a variety of magazines and books on math, science and history.

There is a computer room with an exhibit of famous African-American astronauts—Robert Henry Lawrence and Dr. Mae Jemison. The exhibit hangs over a collection of dinosaur skulls that Smith has collected over the years.

“If you want to study biology, chemistry and physics [at the library],  then you have what it takes to study it,” said Smith. “There’s the periodic table, too, on the wall.”

The library also has a collection of African-American art and sculptures that Smith obtained during the years he lived in Africa. During his time there, Smith was appointed senior fullbright scholar at the University of Malawi.

Building two of the library holds more books and magazines on Africa and African-American history, such as the national bestseller, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”.

There is a room filled with photos of Smith’s heroes: former President Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

Nearby the dinosaur collection is an exhibit of the human body that hangs over the computers, where students can do their homework.

Smith was born in Tampa in 1935. He grew up in Cairo, Georgia; Tallahassee and Harlem.

Smith received his associate’s degree from Gibb’s Junior College. He then received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in leadership from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

He later became FAMU’s seventh president. After completing his master’s, Smith received his doctoral degree in higher education from Florida State University.

“It’s not all just sitting down at a computer,” said Smith. “You’ve got to read, you’ve got to do research, you’ve got to talk, you’ve got to travel. You put all that together and you grow.”

For Smith, it’s important that young people know their history.  One can expect a short history quiz when they come in the library and meet him for the first time.

“Education is very important,” Smith said. “We need to start educating our young people in our homes. Far too many parents don’t take the time to read the books.”

In honor of his mother, Smith has an area within the library that exhibits a dress she handmade for his retirement party. She was always proud of his achievements, he said.

“I told my mother I would never sell this property,” Smith said. “I bought the facility and began to make it like we wanted and care for young people. God works in mysterious ways.”

Smith has been given over 100 awards since his early adulthood.

He received the Soaring Eagle Award in 2003  for his lifetime contributions to American community colleges. Other awards relate to his outstanding professional achievement and work within both the Tampa and Tallahassee communities.

Smith’s library is located on 905 North Albany Ave. and is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

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