Behind the Scenes at the Library
by Tiffany Jothen
June 5 marked the Library’s five-year anniversary. Guests celebrated the milestone with cake and a commemorative gift. But what does it take to keep the Library running? Take a look behind the scenes.
Click here for pictures from the anniversary celebration.
More than 20,000 people have made decisions for Christ since the Billy Graham Library opened in 2007. Impressive, yes, but as staff members will tell you, it's no small feat to keep the site running six days a week. Located on a 63-acre campus that includes BGEA headquarters, the Library is a ministry first, but incorporates retail and customer service. From landscaping the front lawn to preparing the Dairy Bar's famous chicken salad, here's a look at the Library behind the scenes.
People and events
More than 620,000 people have visited the Library in the past five years. According to TripAdvisor, it's the No. 1 attraction in Charlotte, N.C.
"There's no day that's the same as the day before," Library director Debra Cordial said.
Cordial came on board in 2004 as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was preparing to open the Library. The original Graham homeplace, moved a few miles down the road to be situated in front of the Library, falls under Library operations. It takes about 57 employees and 260 active volunteers to keep both landmarks in tip top shape. Thanks to Library recruiting and word of mouth, more and more young people are offering to volunteer.
In Cordial's eight years on staff, she has shaken quite a few famous hands. At the Library dedication alone, she met former presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. George W. and Laura Bush once visited the Library for a book signing.
Other notable guests include Jim Cymbala, pastor of the multicultural megachurch The Brooklyn Tabernacle, World War II prisoner of war survivor and Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini, pastor and radio host Greg Laurie and presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich.
The Library hosts four annual events – Christmas at the Library, the Teddy Bear Tea, Ladies Tea and Tour and Bikers with Boxes – and hopes to add an Easter celebration after this year's great turnout.
The Library is popular with North and South Carolinians, but some guests come from thousands of miles away. It has seen visitors from all 50 states and 73 countries.
Ruth's Attic bookstore
"Just in the last two weeks alone, we have had people from Indonesia, Pakistan, France, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, China and Hungary," Ruth's Attic manager Cheryl Bradberry said. Ruth's Attic is the Library's bookstore, featuring roughly 1,220 titles.
"Our aim is to lift Christ up through written testimony found in the classics that document the ministry of servants to the Lord," Bradberry said. "The print materials we carry are based solidly upon the Word of God."
While bookstore staff might point to just the right book for a guest's particular situation, sometimes it's the staff members who are blessed.
"Our bookstore staff will often share how, in the course of helping a guest find a helpful resource for sharing the faith, the guest will minister to them by sharing what Christ is doing in their lives," Bradberry said.
Billy Graham's desk and many books from his own collection are on display.
The Graham Brothers Dairy Bar prepares about 110 pounds of chicken salad each week. The barbecue sandwich is another best-seller.
"The first thing we have to do to prepare for a large group is to project what we think that they will order and then order the products in to have on hand," Food Services Manager Donna Foreman said. Then it's slicing, chopping, mixing and measuring until everything on the menu is just right. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays are the busiest.
Every day, first-time visitors to the Library stop in front of the building, pull out their cameras and position their friends and family so that the large cross entryway is in the background. Part of what makes the landmark so picturesque is the endless hard work of the maintenance team.
Facilities employees clean up the Library lawn every morning. They trim rosebushes, pull dead flowers, plant new ones and do just about anything else that needs to be done. Cordial has a hand in picking which flowers will grace the sidewalks, which alone takes considerable planning. When will they bloom? What color are they? Will they attract bees?
BGEA employees participate in devotions every morning, giving the maintenance crew an hour to work before guests arrive.
"We try to be gone before the guests show up, especially with anything with noise," Facilities Manager John McVey said.
They also clean, fix and paint where needed. With the homeplace and prayer garden, as well as four galleries and seven exhibits inside the Library, they stay busy. Every night, the housecleaning crew cleans the front glass doors and Plexiglas crosses at the end of the tour. And that huge glass cross at the entrance? Forty feet from top to bottom. It's cleaned each month. Then there's dusting, sweeping, vacuuming and buffing the floors once a month. Even the rafters got a good vacuuming after renovations a couple of years ago.
But that's not all. Facilities employees are also in charge of replacing light bulbs and making sure the lights light up the right walls on the tour. They control the heat and air to keep the Library at 72 degrees year round.
Library Technical Coordinator Tim Sieber oversees the technical part of the tour, which features video, audio and memorabilia from Billy Graham's ministry. He's in charge of making sure all seven racks of computer servers are working every morning. Bessie, an animatronic cow that introduces people to the tour, greets guests every 10 minutes. Employees and volunteers at guest services know her speech by heart.
On a personal note
So, how do Library staff members feel about working there?
"We have a wonderful, talented team in the bookstore that strives to exemplify Christian values day to day. … Every morning, the bookstore staff prays to honor Christ in how we serve here. Personally, I consider it a blessing and an honor to work for an organization that always has been and always will be all about Jesus Christ."
- Cheryl Bradberry, Ruth's Attic manager
"For me and my guys, it's ownership. We own the building, we own the grounds – that's the way we look at it. We treat it like it was ours and we just want it to be the best guest experience it can possibly be."
- John McVey, facilities manager
"Every one of us feel like we're called to be here. … It was just God's planning in our life and directing in our life that we ended up here."
- Debra Cordial, Library director
"I was in business for myself for 30 years, then I retired. When this [position] came up, it wasn't so much the position, the salary. It was to be here, … not only in Christian ministry, but this one because of what Billy Graham stands for."
- Tim Sieber, Library technical coordinator
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