- About Us
- Library History
- First Board
The first Board of the Williamson County Public Library was appointed to secure the representation of all citizens in the county and was as follows:
- Judge J. M. Burke, County Court
- Mrs. James Buford, Staff Consultant (library expert)
- Reverend W H. Armistead, Clergy
- Mrs. Tom Henderson, American Legion, and Women's Auxiliary
- Jim Campbell, Kiwanis Club
- Dr. Rosalie Carter and Miss Winifred Zwemer, B. and P. W Club
- Jim Eggleston, Finance Committee
- Mrs. W W Harlin, PTA
- Harry Kitrell, Business element
- W. L. Lowry, Citizen at-large
- Miss Virginia Carson, Home Demonstration Clubs
- Professor Daly Thompson, Williamson County Schools
- Joe Cliffe, Board of Aldermen
- Dr. William F. Roth, Jr, Physicians
- G. L. Cleland, Agricultural interests
- Squire J. H. Patton, County Districts
In the July 1, 1937 issue of the Williamson County News is found the following clipping which appeared along with the list of the Board members as given.
HONOR ROLL PRESENTED AT CLOSE
OF SUCCESSFUL FUND CAMPAIGN
Two dozen Williamson Countians Tuesday were named by Miss Winifred Zwemer, of the Business and Professional Women’s Club, on an honor roll of persons whose services as committee members
made Williamson County Library out of the whole cloth of a vision in the minds of members of the club with the help of hundreds of our citizens.
Listed by committees, the names follow:
- B. & P.W.: Miss Ollie Lynch, Miss Mary Pope, Mrs. Benton Sparkman, Miss Margaret Tucker
- Finance: Jim Eggleston, Mrs. Tom Henderson, Dr. W. F. Roth, Jr.
- Location: Miss Helen Gildea, Mrs. James Buford, Jim Campbell, Winder McGavock
- Personnel Standards: Dr. Rosalie Carter, Mrs. John McGavock, Miss Nell Shea, Daly Thompson
- Furnishings: Mrs. J. A, Hamilton, Mrs. Reams Fleming, Mrs. J, M, King, Mrs. Pope Mullens, Mrs. Gene Rice, Mrs. Postlewaite
- General Chairman of Opening: Mrs. James Buford
- Assistant to Librarian: Miss Mary D. Voorhies
The First Meeting
At the first meeting of the Library Board on a Friday night the 1st of June 1937, W L. Lowry was elected chairman to replace James H. Campbell who had served as temporary chairman; Mrs. Tom Henderson was elected vice chairman; Dr.William F. Roth, Jr, treasurer: and Miss Loraine Binkley, secretary. Mr. Lowry resigned after about two months as he was moving to California. The Board in September named Mrs. Tom Henderson as chairman and James H. Campbell as vice chairman.
In addition to electing officers, the Library Board at this first meeting asked the finance committee that had raised funds for the six-month operation to provide sufficient funds for a year until other means of support could be arranged. Squire J. H. Patton of College Grove was added to the committee at this time.
The Second Meeting
At the second Library Board meeting on Monday night, August 2, the chairman, W L. Lowry,
opened the business by suggesting a discussion of policy in matters such as underwriting the goods of magazine salesmen. It was decided that no such salesman would be permitted to use the name of the library as a means of sales promotion.
The Need for a Library
From the time the doors opened to the library room in the Post Hotel, there never was any doubt of the need for a county library or of the desire of the citizens for one. It is said that the use of the library exceeded all expectations - books and money for books continued to come into the library. A report early in August 1937 showed that in less than two months 205 persons had registered in the library and 455 books had been circulated. During this period there was a need for the library to be kept open more than three days a week but finances did not permit this.
From the beginning, the library not only distributed books but performed other services. In July 1937 a story hour was begun for children. Sometimes the librarian told the story but more often an interested member of the community did this. Mrs. James Buford in August was appointed to the Community Service Committee to be in charge of the children’s story hour. The members of the B. &P. W made attractive “sit-upons” for the children to use during the story hour.
That fall “book talks” were made. The one on October 13th was to members of the Beta Club of Franklin High School at which time Miss Binkley, librarian, spoke on books that were made into motion pictures. In November Dr. W Carter Williams, former director of the Williamson County Health Department, talked to local doctors and their wives and members of the Williamson County Health Unit at the library. One of the purposes of the talks was to encourage people to become better acquainted with the library facilities.
On March 23 of the following year, Miss Kate Reese initiated a series of book chats at the library to which the public was invited. The Community Service Committee of the Library Board announced in February 1939
that Miss Reese is to continue as official story-teller for the Saturday afternoon programs sponsored by the Library and Recreation Center, This arrangement comes as a courtesy of the Nashville City Supervisor of Recreation, and of Mrs. Garvin of the WPA Division of Recreation.
Dr. Roth reported to the Library Board on September 16, 1937, that there was enough money on hand from the initial drive to start a library to last until January. Funds now must be raised for the remainder of the year. Various means were employed in addition to donations by the citizens.
On November 3 and 4 in the auditorium of the Franklin Grammar School, there was a minstrel show for the benefit of the library. It was directed by Robert H. Polk and included many of the leading men of Franklin. The proceeds from this show were sufficient to run the library for two months according to Mrs. James Buford.
Then in April 1938, the Board sponsored the appearance of the Curtis players of Nashville in a four-act comedy-drama, "Cozy Comers, ". The same month the Library Board, with other organizations whom they would enlist, conducted a campaign for subscriptions to the Williamson County News. Those participating received cash commissions on subscriptions sold and on payments collected on delinquent subscriptions. On two Saturdays in May they had rummage sales with the proceeds going for the support of the library.
Showing a Need for a Library
The intention of the B, &P. W in beginning this demonstration was to get a library started, thereby showing the need for one, and then for the county and city governments to take over the financing, Mr. Jim Eggleston appeared before the County Court at the January 1938 session on behalf of the library. He reported to the court that 543 patrons had registered at the library to that date (174 in the rural area and 360 in Franklin) and that 2441 books had been circulated - 759 by rural patrons and 1682 by Franklin residents.
As a result of his appearance, beginning in July 1938 the County Court included funds in their budget for the library in the amount of $1,000. The county agreed to appropriate this amount
on the grounds that services rendered by the Library would make it possible for Williamson County Schools to fulfill the State Library requirements for the 8th-grade certificates. As a result, the library felt it could now operate on a full-time basis.
Mrs. Mary W, Hasty, librarian, in a report on the library in January 1939 wrote about this earlier period,
For the first six months, the only support was from private donations. The first state aid came in the fall of 1937 when the rural teachers raised money in their communities to match state funds. In 1938, Williamson County appropriated one thousand dollars as a book fund to be matched with state money. It also set aside another thousand dollars as a maintenance fund for the library.
Money Raised by Teachers
The money the teachers raised was used to start a circulating library as can be seen from the following written in the Library News Column in the Williamson County News by Miss Loraine Binkley in January 1938. She wrote,
The Williamson County Elementary School Circulating Library is being developed as a special collection in the Public Library. These books, which now number 120 volumes, are being circulated to the elementary schools of the County through the teachers. The purchase of the books in this collection was made possible through the cooperation of the elementary school teachers with the State Department of Education. " By the end of the first year of operation, there were 674 new books in this special collection. "These books were first available on December 18, 193. Between that time and May 21, 1938, they were used by 69 teachers in 44 schools with a total circulation of 2,013.
In the fall of 1938, the librarian began visiting the county schools, taking books, and receiving helpful suggestions from teachers. Many teachers were taking books from the librarian for their children.
Asking for Support
In authorizing the increase to full-time service, as was mentioned earlier, the Library Board was anticipating favorable action by the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Attorney General John Henderson, chairman of the Library Board, along with civic leaders and a delegation of citizens appeared before the City Council in July 1938 to ask the Council to appropriate money for the library. The application for funds was referred to the City Finance Committee which was instructed to report the next month.
In October Mr. Henderson and Mrs. Hasty, librarian, appeared before the City Council asking for $50 a month for the library. In trying to get the Council to understand how important the library was to the county, the librarian stated that 40% of children between 14 and 17 were not in school and needed to have access to books and that 124 teachers in the county used the 2,000 books in the library for their students. (It might be well to explain here that at this time none of the elementary schools in the rural areas of the county had a library. Some teachers, however, on their own raised money to buy books to be used in their schools.)
Mrs. Hasty went on to say that 455 local citizens and various local civic organizations signed a petition asking for city support. Mayor Marshall did not think the town could afford that amount, and the Council did not know whether, according to their charter, that they could legally do this. The Council agreed to act on the matter in November.
Help from the City
When Mr. Henderson attended the November meeting, he reminded the aldermen that the county's appropriation for the library could not be kept unless the city did its part, as that was the basis upon which the county made an appropriation. It was after his remarks that the Council voted $50 per month for the library, but this was not to be paid until a ruling was made on its legality. Mr. Henderson says that neither the mayor nor any of the aldermen wished to file suit, so his wife, Mrs. Margaret Henderson, brought suit so that the issue could be heard.
It passed the local court, favorably for the library, and was carried to the Supreme Court where it was presented June 13, 1939. Within about two weeks the Supreme Court ruled that the city could legally give $50 a month to the library. As a result, prior to the Library Board meeting of July 10, the library had received $400 from the city.
The case had been carried to the Supreme Court by Franklin lawyers at no cost to the town, and the Board minutes of June 12, 1939, stated that Captain Tom Henderson "was due most of the thinks for work on the suit." A letter of appreciation was sent to him after the final decision.
In a statement to the public through a county newspaper in March 1939 and signed by the Finance Committee of the Williamson County Public Library, the financial situation of the library was given. They told of the position of the City Council as stated and asked for donations to keep the library open until funds could be received from the city which they felt would be in about two months. At that time the library was operating with a monthly deficit, but the Board felt this could not continue.
John H. Henderson, chairman of the Library Board, had already been urging citizens to continue donations until the city could make funds available. In talking with Mrs. James Buford, she said if it had not been for the excellent money management of Dr. Roth, treasurer of the Board, during those early years that the library could not have kept going.
A Book Drive
Early in 1939, the Library Board conducted a drive for more books. Each family in the county was asked to donate one readable, wholesome book, which need not be new. In January Mr. W B. Shearon of Nashville had made a gift to the library of 250 books, and the State Department of Education had loaned the library books to be taken to the communities for adults.
In addition, in November 1938, Colonel John L. Jordan, U. S Army Retired, gave his
Valuable Library to the John E Stephens Post Number 22 of the American Legion, which, with the other books in the Legion Library, will be loaned to the Public Library as soon as proper shelving can be had. This loan will give the Franklin Library probably the most valuable collection of books on the Civil War there is in the State. Most of the books contributed by Colonel Jordan are out of print and are of great value.
A list of the books contributed by Colonel Jordan was also given. In a newspaper clipping dated May 4, 1939, it is noted that Mr. and Mrs. Tom Henderson were still keeping the Jordan books because of lack of space at the library. This was the case even though the John E Stephens Post of the American Legion had voted in February to pay for one year the monthly rent of $4 for an extra room for library use. Superintendent of Schools, Fred J. Page, in the fall of 1940 gave 300 books to the library. Only the American Legion had donated more books than him.
A Full - Time Librarian
As of August 1938, the library had a full-time librarian, Mrs. Fred (Mary W) Hasty, but the library was still not open to the public every day. At the December 1938 Library Board meeting the following hours were approved for library patrons - Monday through Thursday 12 noon to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The librarian was to use her other time for cataloging and visiting schools.
An excerpt from the library column in a county paper on February 23, 1939, shows how important the library had become, at least to several children.
A child from a rural community telephoned the office of a local dentist, recently, to inquire if the library was open on Friday. When informed that it was not, she replied she and a group of her friends would have to cancel their engagements on the following Friday. They would not come to town on a day when the library was not open.
Peabody Reflector & Alumni News Report
The Peabody Reflector and Alumni News in January 1939 carried a full report of the Williamson County Public Library written by its librarian, Mrs. Mary W. Hasty. Since it gives such a good picture of the library as of that date, it is being quoted here in its entirety.
The Williamson County Public
Library, Franklin, Tennessee
Mrs. Mary W. Hasty
The challenging opportunities which confront us in the Williamson County Public Library are probably very similar to those of numerous other communities in the South. A large percentage of our readers live in rural sections and have more time for reading than do city people with their many diversions. Therefore they have more need for reading matter since they, until recent months, have been entirely without access to libraries, as has been such a large part of the rural South.
Our library differs in several ways from the usual public library. First, it serves not only the town in which it is located, but also the entire county. Second, it circulates two different collections of books, one a general collection for any child or adult in the county, and the other a school collection for the use of the children in the rural elementary schools. A third difference is that it is governed by a library board of eighteen men and women representing the farming, business, professional, and organizational groups of the town and county.
Late in 1936, the need for a community library, long felt by a group of citizens, was crystallized. It became the community project for 1937 of the Business and Professional Women’s Club. A county-wide campaign for funds was launched and completed in a few months. A room, fifteen by twenty feet, centrally located was rented and equipped, and a part-time librarian was appointed for three days a week. The library was formally opened in June 1937.
For the first six months, the only support was from private donations. The first state aid came in the fall of 1937 when the rural teachers raised money in their communities to match state funds. In 1938, Williamson County appropriated one thousand dollars as a book fund to be matched with state money. It also set aside another thousand dollars as a maintenance fund for the library. Later an additional six hundred dollars was voted by the town of Franklin. These funds, together with private donations, constitute our budget.
This is our set-up. There is a full-time librarian who was employed in August 1938. She is assisted by a volunteer worker, by N.Y.A. girls, and by volunteers from the city high school on the busiest days. As previously mentioned, there are two book collections, one for the general public, and the other for the rural school children. The teachers of these children take the books to them, being encouraged to come to the library as often as once a week to return their books and check out others. They take away an allotted number each time, at first only six when the collection numbered less than seven hundred volumes; now ten, since there are more books. This arrangement gives the maximum number of readers for each book. A cross section of the patronage for two collections shows people from every walk of life, rich and poor, young and old, students from pre-school age to college, laboring, business, and professional people, housewives, invalids, and shut-ins.
Two major problems have confronted us. The first, how to make people library-conscious, is being solved by several methods. The board members representing all the interests of the town and county keep always before their respective groups the needs and progress of the library. Each month the librarian takes a message to the County Teachers’ Association. The County Health Department, the Williamson County Child Guidance Study, the city and county superintendents of education, and the rural teachers spread the library message. The two newspapers print each week articles about the library and its projects. A Saturday afternoon story-hour, exhibits, and window display further remind people of the Public Library.
The second problem has been how to build up the two book collections. The county and state funds have taken care of the school collection. Due, however, to a delay in getting one appropriation, the general collection has had very little book money. A loan shelf, made up largely of new books borrowed from interested friends, has been started. Shelves of community books have been borrowed at various times from the Department of School Libraries of Tennessee. Inter-library loans from Carnegie Library of Nashville and from George Peabody College have further added to the book supply. A small rental shelf of best-sellers has helped, also, to satisfy readers.
Figures for the last three months reveal amazing growth in many directions. The number of volumes increased from 1,658 to 3,000. The circulation for the twelve library days in November was 2,154 - slightly under the combined circulation of the last six months of 1937. This figure really means 7,314 books read, since according to the best estimates each book going to a county school, is read on an average by more than five pupils. And this, in turn, means approximately $7,314 worth of books read from the library in one month, with the books still available for numerous other users. High days in circulation showed a range of 441 to 687 books and periodicals checked out on these days. One hundred thirty-three new patrons were added to our registry. The highest story-hour attendance came December 3, with an audience of two hundred. Such growth, of course, cannot be credited to any one individual, but to the combined efforts and enthusiasm of many, and to the great eagerness on the part of the public for good reading matter.
A Librarian Resignation
Mrs. Hasty resigned in the late spring of 1939, and it was not until the following September that Miss Laura E Howard was hired to replace her. When Mrs. Hasty came, she agreed to fill out Miss Jensen’s term and to have charge of the library until the City Council took action on an appropriation. Mrs. Hasty was asked to remain on the Library Board as a permanent member after her resignation, and when she died in 1943, the Board on July 12 voted to place a plaque in the library in her honor.
During the summer months after Mrs. Hasty resigned, Miss Blossom Amis kept the library open when otherwise it would have had to be closed. She was paid $15 a month instead of the $10 she had been receiving for helping Mrs. Hasty. Miss Amis worked at the library until the spring of 1940.
A Growing Library
At a Library Board meeting in October 1939, it was decided to rent larger quarters for the library as their present space was too small. These rooms were in the Old Bank Building on the Square. Before the rooms could be used, it was necessary to do cleaning and repairing as well as to install light fixtures. Dr. Roth obtained the services of Mr. Charles Oliver of Franklin High School and his Franklin High School Manual Training Class in constructing the shelving needed for the books. The move was made on October 31, 1939, by John Henderson, Miss Addie Eggleston, Miss Chloe Yates, and Miss Howard. Now it was possible to unpack and 22 place on shelves a large number of books that had been in boxes and under tables.
The entrance to the new library quarters was through a lobby where there was a table and chairs, a magazine rack, a bulletin board, and a display of books. The circulation desk and the shelves containing the three thousand books Elementary School Collections was behind these. Both the elementary books in this collection and the high school books in their schools were purchased by the librarian, Miss Howard, with county funds matched by state funds.
The large room in the back was the General Reading Room and housed here was the public collection of books, numbering nearly three thousand. The library also had a rental section where there were copies of nearly all of the best sellers. Mrs. Hasty had started the rental library to have a small fund to add new books to the general collection.
The rental fee was two cents a day, and after a book was rented for a while, it was placed in the general collection. New opening hours were now in effect. The library was open on Monday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 12 to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Library hours were changed again in September 1940. This time the library was to be open Monday through Saturday between the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
In March of 1940 Miss Martha Parks, State Library Supervisor visited the library and complimented it highly. She visited the library from time to time and was said to have been a helpful friend to the library from its beginning. Later that month at a joint meeting of the Tennessee Library Association and the Library section of the Educational Association, the subject was Community-wide Library Service.
The discussions centered around the Williamson County Library, and during the meeting, Miss Howard spoke of the history, growth, and development of library service in the county. The program of the library at that time was threefold: (1) provided library service for the elementary schools of the county in a central location; (2) supervised the libraries of the three county high schools (Bethesda, College Grove, and Hillsboro); and (3) conducted a public library for the people of Franklin and Williamson County. Mrs. Hasty began the first service, and the second was begun by Miss Howard. The high school books were selected by the librarian and the high school principal, and Miss Howard readied them for the shelf.
Financing the Library
Financing the library was still a nip and tuck situation for the Library Board as they moved into larger quarters even though the county was paying the librarian’s salary for ten months of the year and the city was giving $50 a month for maintenance. During the summer months of 1940 when Miss Howard was away, the WPA paid Mrs. Jessie Broadwell to keep the library open. Miss Clemmie Jo Frost took Miss Amis’ place and worked about a year.
The library had some NYA help from time to time, and the WPA paid for some library help in the county high schools under Miss Howard’s supervision. In February 1941 the Board discussed ways and means of changing the library from a ten months basis to a twelve-month plan. They voted to pay the librarian $100 a month to keep the library open during June and July, and they agreed to raise the money for this.
Later that year, they asked the city to increase the amount they were giving, but this was refused. As of April 1942, all NYA help was discontinued and all WPA help with the exception of one worker in the library itself. Miss Howard, as of this, time was no longer required to do supervisory work in the county “except that which might be done at long distance. She did have some help one Saturday each month when the teachers had their meeting in Franklin. After that meeting, they came to check out books. Four high school girls helped that day and were paid $1 each.
Effects of World War Two
World War Two affected the library as it did the people it served. The Board voted because of war work to meet every other month instead of a month, and by 1947 it was just meeting quarterly. Book reviews which had been arranged for some time by Dr. Rosalie Carter were - for a while because everyone was so deeply involved in the war. The library was asked to aid in collecting books for soldiers. Dr. Roth was on war duty as of October 13, 1942, according to the minutes of that date. Mr. Jim Campbell took his place as treasurer. Dr. Roth visited the Board in October 1945 and July 1948 but seemed not to have served on the Board again.
After the war, many citizens of the county were anxious for there to be some meaningful memorial in the county honoring all who had served their country during the war. A charter registered September 17, 1945, and signed by Joe C. Carr, Secretary of State, was issued. It read -
Be it Known, That Lytle Brown, E. E. Byars, H. G. Channell, A. G. Overbey, and T. P. Henderson are hereby constituted abody politic and corporate, by the name and style of THE WILLIAMSON COUNTY WAR MEMORIAL ASSOCIATION for the purpose of raising funds for creating, managing, and maintaining a MEMORIAL in the Town of Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee,to the SONS and DAUGHTERS of WILLIAMSON COUNTY who have served their country during War.
Funds for the Memorial
The American Legion Auxiliary, the American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars were especially interested in this memorial. Committees were formed and work was begun on collecting the necessary funds. By early in 1948 a decision had been made as to what the memorial should be. The Joint Committee met on February 26, 1948. A copy of this meeting follows as the recommendations laid the plans for the memorial.
At the meeting held in the Circuit Court Room at the Court House in Franklin Tennessee, at 2 p.m. o’clock February 26, 1948, under call of T. P. Henderson, Chairman of the Joint Committees, the Committees on our War Memorial representing the local Posts of the American Legion, the Legion Auxiliary and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, unanimously made the following recommendations:
FIRST: That all unpaid pledges to the Williamson County Memorial Association for the War Memorial be canceled, and all cash subscriptions be returned to the respective donors.
SECOND: That the Memorial to our Soldiers be a modern Public Library, to be called The Williamson County Memorial Library; and that sufficient funds be raised to purchase and properly equip a suitable building to house said Library.
THIRD: That the raising of funds, and the purchase or erection of the Library building, and its equipment, be delegated to a Committee of ten members to be known as the Memorial Library Committee, two members of said Committee to be appointed by each the local Post of the American Legion and its Auxiliary, Governing Board of the Public Library; and the copies of these recommendations be furnished said five organizations.
Present at the meeting were T. P. Henderson, Lytle Brown, Glenn Overbey and R. H. Jennings, Jr., of the American Legion Committee; Mrs. B. T. Nolen, Mrs.Will Lynch and Mrs. Dave Alexander of the Legion Auxiliary Committee; and Howard Sands and Frank Boyd of the VFW Committee.“The only member’s of the Joint Committee who did not attend the meeting were Fulton Beasley of the Legion Committee and Tyler Berry, Jr., of the VFW Committee, both were unavoidably detained by other business. Both Beasley and Berry have stated that they approve of and join in the foregoing recommendations.
Signed by: T. P. Henderson
CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT COMMITTEE
Mrs. Dave Alexander
SECRETARY OF THE JOINT COMMITTEE
Another Special Meeting
A special meeting was called on April 2, 1948, by John Henderson, Chairman of the Library Board. The Joint Committee that had· been appointed to Raise funds for and to select a building for the Memorial library met with the Board. Glenn Overbey was Chairman, Hugh Channell, Treasurer, and Mrs. James Buford, secretary of this joint committee. This committee reported that they had selected the German property for the library.
The American Legion Auxiliary had taken a 30-day option on the building and had paid down $500 which would be credited toward the purchase price if bought for a library. At this meeting, plans were made to personally solicit people, civic groups, and businesses in Franklin and the 9th District. People throughout the county were to be contacted by letter. It was Reported that they had almost Raised the down payment.
Charter of Incorporation
The Charter of Incorporation for the War Memorial Public Library was recorded on April 28, 1948, in the office of the Secretary of State, Joe C. Carr. The corporation was “for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a Public Library for the use of and as an aid to education for the Town of Franklin and Williamson County, Tennessee, as a Memorial to all citizens of said County who have served in the Armed Forces during War; and to do all lawful acts necessary to the accomplishment of such purpose.”
Signing for the library were -
- Glen Overbey
- Mrs. Haywood Sherrod
- Lytle Brown
- Lucy G.Buford
- Helen D. Montgomery
- Mrs. Will Lynch
- Ed B. Warren
- Howard J. Sands
- Stewart Campbell
- Lucile C. Henderson
A New Library
On April 30, 1948, the heirs of Mrs. Adalicia McEwen German, also referred to as Frances Addie German, sold to the War Memorial Public Library Association Mrs. German’s former home at the corner of Fifth Avenue North and Fair Street in Franklin. The heirs signing were her son, Dr. Richard M. German and his son, Richard, Jr.; her daughter, Mrs. Graham German Webb and her son, Sam G. Webb; and the widow and daughter of her son, Dr. Dan German, Mrs. Mary J. German and Frances German Rice. The Association paid $20,000 for the building - $5,000 in cash and - the remainder to be paid in three notes of $5,000 each due in one, two, and three years and bearing 5% interest.
This lovely old house was well built and in a most desirable location for the library. The house had been built for Adalicia McEwen German (Mrs. Dan) by her parents and was deeded to her in 1871. When John B. McEwen executed the deed, he stated that it was being given
out of the means of his wife and at her request and for the natural love he and she have for their daughter Addie.
It was further stated that it contained
near two acres of land known in the plan of said town as lots numbered 39, 40, 46 and 47, and valued when the improvements are completed at $12,000. It joined the McEwen home on Fair Street. The house was for her “sole and separate use” and then was to go to her children.
When this deed was made, it seems that the house was not completed. When the house was bought for the library, the grounds included only a portion of the two acres mentioned in the first deed. At the time the German house was built, the side yard joined the McEwen yard. Now between the two are a home, a vacant lot where the former home of Dr. Richard German stood, and a branch of the Harpeth National Bank.
By-laws were drawn for the War Memorial Library Association and a meeting was called for the purpose of organization on June 2, 1948. The by-laws which were read and approved at this meeting stipulated that the Board of Directors would be composed of the former Library Board, and two members each from the four patriotic organizations - The American Legion, The American Legion Auxiliary, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and its auxiliary - the County Judge, County Superintendent of Schools, and the Mayor of Franklin.
The last three were to be members by virtue of office while each patriotic organization would elect its own members to the Board with the other Board members being elected by the Board itself. The Board would have between twenty and thirty members. The number “15” had been written in pencil above “twenty”, presumably at a later date. All members were present at this first meeting except five.
John Henderson, chairman of the former Library Board, presided at this meeting.
He stated that a permanent building had been purchased and a War Memorial Library Association incorporated which should control the building and its uses through this Board of Directors. The members elected as their chairman John Henderson, as vice chairman Jim Campbell, and as secretary-treasurer Miss Laura Howard, the librarian.
At this meeting also Hugh Channell and Miss Howard were elected to the Board. Mr. Channell was already serving as treasurer of the Memorial Library Committee. The membership voted to transfer all books, equipment, assets, and liabilities from the Board of the Williamson County Public Library to the Board of Directors of the War Memorial Public Library.
Two important committees were appointed at this meeting. A permanent committee composed of Glenn Overbey, chairman, Mrs. James Buford, Dave Alexander, Mrs. Alex Steele, and Joe D. Trice was to determine what repairs had to be made to prepare the building for use as a library and how much these repairs would cost. The responsibility of the second committee, called the House Committee, was to take charge of the building and determine which rooms were to be used for what purpose. They were also to see about the cleaning of the rooms and to care for the grounds. Members of this committee were Mrs. B. T. Nolen, chairman, Robert H. Jennings, Tyler Berry, Jr, Mrs. Haywood Sherrod, and Miss Howard.
Getting the German House Ready
The remainder of 1948 was spent in getting the German house ready for library use. Repairs amounting to $6,816.46 were made between June 1948 and November 1949. Of this amount, $4,642.18 was for digging a basement and installing a furnace. The roof and chimney were repaired; the house was rewired and painted throughout; a water heater was installed; sun porch was repaired and underpinned; some old plumbing was repaired and some new was installed, and the plastering was patched.
The building had to be thoroughly cleaned before the library was moved in. In talking with Mrs. B. T. Nolen, who will celebrate her 90th birthday later this year, she remembered how she, Mrs. Tom Henderson, and Mrs. R. Wallace Billington and others worked to get the rooms ready. She remembers having their pictures taken on the side porch of the building during this time.
The library was moved into its first permanent home in January 1949. Of the three moves the library had made since it was established in 1937, John Henderson wrote-
When the books were moved from the Legion Hall to the room on Main Street, they were hauled in a wheelbarrow; when the move was made to the Old Bank Building, the books were carried in two private automobiles, but when the latest move was made a large truck and four men were kept busy for two days.
How the Library was Used
In the beginning, the library was using only three rooms and the front hall of the large German house. These rooms were the front one on the right of the hall and the two rooms on the left of the hall. The upstairs rooms were being prepared for renting, and Dr. F. A. Boulware rented the first space in late summer or early fall in 1949 for $60 a month.
Minutes of several Board meetings indicate that in the beginning the American Legion Auxiliary was re-doing one room for use as a club room, but that they decided instead to let it be rented as the library needed the money so badly. The librarian reported in August 1949 that the circulation of the library in May was 1,186, in June 1310, and in July 1273. It picked up considerably in the fall when the teachers began again to check out books for circulation in the schools. The county at this time was appropriating $900 a year for new books at the library and for the high school libraries of Bethesda, Hillsboro, and College Grove. In the fall the Nashville Banner gave a large number of books to the library.
Asking for Help
At the October 14, 1949 Board meeting it was decided to ask Captain Tom Henderson to go before the County Court in January and seek help in getting the library building paid for. The financial situation at this time was critical in spite of the money that had been collected by drives and money-making projects. Mr. John Henderson stated in his brief history, that will be explained later, that the amount collected was $16,000.
This included a bequest by Miss Susie Gentry who had died in 1944 and left one-fourth of her estate to the governing Board of the Williamson County Public Library. The money was to be used either in the purchase of books or equipment or in whole or in part in the purchase of a library building. The bequest amounted to $1,88473, and when placed in the building fund was $1900. The interest had been used each year.
A Financial Statement
Mr. Channell gave a full financial statement at the November 11, 1949 meeting. The library had been bought for $20,000 and $6,816.46 had been spent for repairs. He gave the following as large amounts donated by organizations - A total of $10,467.81.
- $1,485.60- original War Memorial Association
- $4,757.25 American Legion Auxiliary
- $1,164- American Legion
- $1,233.16- Court House Mural Fund Committee
- $1,287.80 - Williamson County Library Association – unincorporated
As of this date, the amount owed on the building was the two notes of $5,000 each, due April 30, 1950, and April 30, 1951, plus interest of $750. In addition, they still owed Harpeth National Bank $1,550 of the $1,600 borrowed to pay the note due in 1949.
A Printed Statement
Captain Henderson agreed to meet with the magistrates when County Court adjourned in January 1950 and asked the Board to furnish him with a printed statement, brief and to the point, of the history of the library project in Williamson County which he could use in asking for donations. John Henderson, chairman of the Library Board, wrote the history. It was printed, and a copy of it along with a letter of explanation was sent to Jerry Fly, the County Judge, and to each magistrate.
The letter stated that $15,000 would clear the library building of debt and also enable the Board to properly prepare the upstairs for rent in order to make the library self-sustaining. In addition to the letter, the Board members personally contacted each magistrate, and Captain Tom Henderson who was County Commander of the Williamson County Civil Defense Corps wrote all District Captains asking them to contact the magistrates and to urge them to vote for the library appropriation. The District Captains were W P. Bruce, A. C. Lehew, J. L. Ridley, Leonard P. Bond, E M. Covington, Sam H. Moran, John P. Holt, and Dan Reilly.
The minutes of the Williamson County Quarterly Court at its January term 1950 tell us that Captain Henderson did appear before the court and, after telling something of the library’s history and program, urged the court to adopt the Resolution that was being presented to them. The roll call vote was 43 for adopting the Resolution and none against. The Resolution as read to the Court was -
Be It Resolved by the Quarterly County Court of Williamson County, Tennessee, in regular session assembled, that the selection by the Patriotic Societies and Business Clubs of Williamson County of the War Memorial Public Library as a memorial to the Honor and Memory of Williamson Countians who served in all past wars, including the War between the States, is here approved, and as evidence of the County’s appreciation of the honor and valor of those men and women, and to assist in the maintenance of said Memorial, Fifteen Thousand ($15,000) Dollars is here appropriated to the said War Memorial Public Library out of the general funds of the County not otherwise appropriated, $5,500 of which is ordered paid to the Treasurer of said Memorial Library on or before April 1st, 1950 or as soon thereafter as funds are available, and the balance on or before April 1st, 1951, or as soon thereafter as funds are available.
The county paid $5,500 as stipulated in 1950, and the balance of $9,500 was paid the Library Board in February 1951. The last of the three notes due on the house was paid, and Harpeth National Bank released the lien February 24, 1951.
The Payment of the Building
At the Library Board meeting on April 27, 1951, Mr. Channell reported that all indebtedness on the building and repairs had been paid. He said that the rent from various parts of the building was to be held for insurance, current expenses, and the memorial tablet to be erected to the war dead of Williamson County. At this same meeting,
Frank Beasley expressed the gratitude of the Board of Directors for the untiring efforts of the women of the Legion Auxiliary and others who have in such a large measure brought this project to a successful outcome.
With the payment of the building, the big financial hurdle was behind them, but finances continued to be very limited, and from time to time the Board had to borrow money to meet the very necessary current expenses. Dr. Rosalie Carter said that several times, the Board thought they would just have to close the library as funds were so low. As I read the minutes, so often did I find that one member or other of the Board would volunteer to pay for a needed expenditure or would try to get an individual, a group, or the county or city to help.
The women in the American Legion Auxiliary continued to help the library in so many ways. Mrs. James Buford said that she would like us to particularly remember how often Glenn Overbey came to the rescue of the library after it moved to the German house. Mr. Channell, the treasurer, would report that their account would be overdrawn, and she said Mr. Overbey would say,
Hugh, I’ll take care of that. The sums were never extremely large, but what he did meant a great deal to the library. Mr. Overbey served as chairman of the building committee when the German house was bought and continued to serve after the move. He saw about all the repairs, which were many on an old house, and also made arrangements for the renting of the rooms.
Seeing the limited budget with which the early Board had to work, it would be difficult for them to foresee that the library budget for 1976 would be $55,000 with two-thirds being financed by the County and the other one-third by the cities of Franklin, Fairview, and Brentwood.
A Detailed Status Report of the Library
Among some of the early minutes was found a detailed report of the status of the library. Unfortunately, it was unsigned and undated. However, from information within the report, it has been determined to have been compiled in 1953 or early 1954 and seemingly by the librarian who at that time was Miss Howard. Portions will be used here as they give us a good picture of the library and its operation.
I. Building Fund in Harpeth Bank. Treasurer Mr. Hugh Channell. From this fund, which arises from the rental of offices in the building, is paid the insurance on building and contents; all repairs on the building; two-thirds of coal bill; etc.
II. Library Operational Fund in the Williamson County Bank. From this fund, which arises from the $600 annually donated by the City Board of Aldermen; gift of $60 per year from the Legion Auxiliary; and Rentals and Fines, books and magazines are purchased; lights, water, telephone in the library; the care of the front yard; the operation of the furnace and one third of the coal bill; the purchase of equipment for the library; etc.
Through an arrangement made by the Library Board and the County School Board, the library houses the school circulating library of children’s books. The Librarian purchases, catalogs, and circulates these books to the schools, but at all times these books are available for circulation to individual children. The School Board furnishes the funds for the purchase of these books in the main and pays the Librarian’s salary for ten months of the year.
For about eight months of the year, the county elementary schools check out the children’s books. Each teacher may check out whatever number he may wish for a period of a month.
The county school board through funds from the state allots for Library materials for children - the amount in proportion to the number of children in the schools. This past year, for example, the amount allotted was $2,000. This amount was divided $850 for five high schools and $1,150 for elementary schools. This last amount is used for the purchase of books for this library ranging from first grade through eighth.
Of the $850 for high schools, the librarian has nothing to do with the processing of the books for the Franklin High School and the Franklin Training School (Colored). These two supply their own librarians but they get their share of the amount per pupil.
As for the other three (Hillsboro, College Grove, Bethesda), the books are shipped to this library for processing and then sent out to the schools for their libraries. These schools handle their own circulation, but the purchase, sometimes most of the selection, and the processing is done by the librarian here.
A good many of the children’s books here are not purchased with school money.The Roth Memorial of three shares of stock was given to the library for children’s books. It amounts to about $12 per year. Children’s books are bought with this and put on the shelves with all others. Also many replacements are purchased with Library money.
Whatever money there is after operating expenses are paid is used as a book fund. It has developed that most of the non-fiction is given to the Library as Memorials. Therefore most of the fund for books is used for the various types of fiction.
The Superintendent of Education allows $50 for mending materials and book processing supplies. All above this amount is paid by the Library.
Many books are given to the Library as Memorials by friends or relatives of the deceased In the selection of these books any suitable book of permanent value is selected by the Librarian unless there is a request for a particular book either by the donor or the family. In selecting the books care is taken not to get duplicates. The fields from which the books are chosen are History, Biography, art, music, theater, religion, travel, and other related subjects.
As was stated earlier, when the library was moved to the German house in January 1949, it used only the front hall and three front rooms - two on the left and one on the right. In 1950 to give more space for shelves, the lower part of the stairway in the front hall was cut and turned around as it is today. Porches had to be repaired and new columns put up.
By August 1950 not only had one room downstairs been rented to Dr. Boulware, a chiropractor but a second room, this one upstairs, had been readied and rented to the Williamson County Board of Education. It was used by the elementary supervisor for two years. At the April 22, 1952 Board meeting it was reported that four offices were now rented.
The American Legion Auxiliary had bought screens for upstairs and paid for the shrubbery around the building. This group of women was responsible for supplying the funds for so much of the early work done at the library and continued to give a donation each year. In the fall of 1952, the Library Board was receiving rent from the American Red Cross, the State Highway Department, MacDonald and Johnson, and Dr. F. A. Boulware.
Dr. Boulware moved out in 1955, and the rooms were remodeled for Dr. V. L. DiRienzo. These were what is now the reading room and the hall behind it. In 1956 Mr. MacDonald left, leaving two rooms for rent, and in November 1957 mention was made of the Red Cross moving to the Harpeth Bank Building. The Highway Department continued to rent rooms in the building until 1975 when the library needed their space. Dr. DiRienzo stayed until 1961.
In talking with Mrs. William R. Deen who has worked part-time at the library since either the summer of 1955 or 1956, it was learned that when she came to work there that the library still used only the three front rooms and front hall. Dr. DiRienzo occupied a room and hall downstairs, and upstairs rooms were rented. The far back room on the right that was the German kitchen was used for storage. Mrs. Deen remembers the many times that Dr. Richard (Dick) German would walk over from next door (there was a lot full of maple trees between the two houses then) with his dog, go back to this room, stand there in front of the fireplace, and talk about all the good sausage and biscuits he ate there.
Gradually as the library grew and more room was needed, all the downstairs rooms were used and a side porch became the workroom. It was in 1959 that the little room on the left at the back now used for magazines was made into an “Easy Book” reading room. Glenn Johnson, a Board member at that time, did the painting and made the shelves, as well as gave the little chairs and hat rack. At the July 1961 Board meeting, the members discussed re-renting the rooms vacated by Dr. DiRienzo. Mrs. Tom Henderson appealed to the Board for these rooms to be used instead for the library as extra space was needed so badly.
After much discussion, the rooms were to be used to enlarge the library provided the women on the Board to manage the remodeling without any expense to the Association. Mrs. Deen says that it was through the efforts of Mrs. Claiborne Kinnard, a member of the Board, that the Whitworth family redecorated and furnished the room for a reading room. This had been the German dining room.
In 1964 the old kitchen was remodeled for a reference room to house all the books which Mrs. Edward Fryer had sorted out from those stored upstairs. In the summer of 1956 termites got in books that had been stored in the basement. At this time it was necessary to clean the basement of all books and make some kind of disposition of them. In the summer of 1960, the old well back of the building was filled in.
Use of the Entire Building
The library now uses the entire building. Just this fall, (1976) some of the juvenile books were moved into a hall and two rooms upstairs to relieve the crowded conditions downstairs. Another upstairs room at the front has been used for a number of years as the Children’s Story Room. It was decorated by the Friends of the Library who sponsored the story hour until a year or two ago when Jane Langston (Mrs. Douglas), a member of the library staff, became a storyteller. The rest of the upstairs is used for storage.
Hiring More Librarians
By the fall of 1955, the work at the library had increased to the point that the librarian needed some help. Miss Howard who had been a librarian since September 1939 had resigned as of July 1, 1954, and Mrs. Mary B. Richards worked as a librarian for one year. As of October 5, 1955, another librarian had been hired - Mrs. Corinne W Stewart.
Miss Mary Kate Shea had agreed to help Mrs. Stewart and was hired to work one full day a week and four half days at $75 an hour. The full day was to be financed from petty cash. Mayor Frank Gray was going to try to get the City Council to pay the remainder of Miss Shea’s salary for one quarter. On up into the 1960s any help for the librarian was financed by the library.
A Circulation of Books
In 1954 10,610 books were circulated; during 1962 the circulation was 10,784 adult volumes and 12,367 juvenile volumes. The library had 11,500 adult books and 14,152 children’s. The number circulated to schools that year was 5,482. Circulation during the summer of 1959 was the largest in the history of the library. It was averaging about 30 new patrons a month. As the number of residents in the county grew, so did the number of people using the library. As of April 1976, there were 30,000 books in the library with about 6,000 on indefinite loan from the Blue Grass Regional Library. The library at that was circulating about 6,100 books a month and had 10,300 registered patrons.
A New Registration System
In the early part of 1970, the library set up a new registration system and required identification cards when books were checked out. This became necessary because of the growth in the number of persons using the library. The system went into effect March 1970, and the cards for identification and registration were provided by the Friends of the Library. By December 31 of that year, 2,914 people were registered.
Friends of the Library
An organization that has been of service to the library since its organization in 1961 is the “Friends of the Library. “ The Library Board minutes of February 24, 1961, shows that the members discussed the organization of this group for the benefit of the library. Mrs. Tom Henderson and John Henderson agreed to investigate and to find out how this service organization operated and how the library might be assisted thereby.
As a result, several people met at the library on September 3, and plans were made to organize the “Friends.” At an open house at the library on December 3, the first officers of the “Friends of the Library” were elected. A brief history of this group and some of the ways in which they have benefited the library can be found in another section of this history.