JANE MAY, WEST END MIDDLE SCHOOL LIBRARIAN
One of the most significant people in the preservation of the history of West End High School is Jane May, the librarian at the Middle School, who retired in 2014 after thirty-six years at the school. Other than a personal passion for historic preservation, the Giles County native had no connection with the school during the years it served as a high school (1937-1968). After graduating from high school in 1969, she came to Nashville to attend George Peabody College, now a part of Vanderbilt University. She received a BS degree in 1973 and a Masters of Library Science (MLS) degree in 1974. At Peabody she received the prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, a recognition of "individuals whose nobility of character and service to others sets them apart as examples to all."
After working at Wharton Junior High, she arrived at what was then West End Junior High School to take the position of librarian held by Mrs. Mildred Allen since 1948. When she arrived at West the second floor library was almost unchanged from the arrangement of tables, chairs, and shelves filled with books that high school graduates will recall. Today the space is an attractive mixture of the old and new with computers occupying many of the tables while pictures of famous libraries from all over the world hang on the walls above the shelves which still hold hundreds of books. Over the years high school alumni through fund raisers and reunions have donated several thousand dollars for additional books for the library. The large windows on the north side of the building still look out on the green space of Elmington Park.
Those of us who were students during the high school years will remember the rooms at the west end of the library which were available for individual conferences. The space also served another purpose, but I'll let Ms. May describe it.
"When I came to West in 1978, there were all of the student newspapers and West High memorabilia that I found in the back room. Loving the past, I thought they should be preserved, and I started collecting them. It wasn't until years later that we started thinking about an alumni room to house all of these important memories. It was largely through Ray Sharer that the alumni room came to be when we moved back into the building after the renovation in 2007."
Ray Sharer describes what happened next.
"At that point I discussed with Dr. Hall (principal at that time) and Librarian Jane May the possibility of obtaining a room for an Alumni Room. We got approval for the small room just west of the library. We owe Ms. May a deep gratitude of thanks for storing so much of the printed items in the room: West Winds, annuals, and many other items of interest and value. She has always been an ardent supporter of the West High Alumni."
At the June 2014 Lunch Bunch gathering Jane May's contributions to the high school she never actually knew, but preserved for those who do, were recognized and she was made an honorary alum with a t-shirt to prove it! When asked about her plans after retirement, as the Alumni Room began to move to a larger space, she said she plans to relax and take a trip to Europe.
UPDATE: In February, 2022, the Alumni Room was returned to the West Middle School library after acceptance of the memorabilia by the Metro Archives, which is located in the Public Library on 6th Avenue in downtown Nashville. Our material is the foundation of their collection of high school memorabilia. This will ensure the preservation of all of the West High material which Jane May so lovingly preserved.
Reprinted by permission of Whit Stokes, Class of 1954, from his book, "If These Walls Could Talk, What Would They Say?".