Lenoir City Public Library, now at 100 West Broadway, has a rich history and has grown and adapted to meet the changing needs of the Lenoir City community. The article below, written in 1972, provides an overview of the library's beginnings.

History of the Lenoir City Public Library

Lenoir City Public Library, located in the Memorial Building, is a bright, cheerful place, comfortably equipped, offering thousands of books, magazines, phonograph records and in the area of the more sophisticated services, even has available a reader for microfilmed historical documents.

It is a part of the Loudon County Library Board, which has three libraries and several Bookmobile stations in the county, and further, is part of the State’s Regional Library System which makes thousand upon thousands of books available to readers here on a rotating basis, or any particular book within a day or two on request.

But it took a long time getting to that point.

This is National Library Week, and in that connection I thought it would be interesting to inquire how Lenoir City’s Library came about and to see what it offers local readers.

(National Library Week, by the way, is featuring a dual theme this year, “Reading Makes the World Go Round” and “Everybody’s Got the Right to Read.”)

I first visited Mrs. George Mincy, the Librarian, who showed me about and then promptly sent me to Mrs. T.E. Mills who is known for her active participation in many things, and among them the promotion of the local library.

From Mrs. Mills I learned several interesting facts:

“Eighty-five percent of the libraries in the United States were founded by women’s clubs,” and that applies to Lenoir City.

The Regional Library System, which now covers the entire State of Tennessee, started right here in Lenoir City.

Mrs. Mills, instigator and supporter of Lenoir City’s Tyson Memorial Library, tells it this way:

It all started back in 1927 when Mrs. J. G. Eblen was president of the Clionian Club, the first of Lenoir City’s four Federated Women’s Clubs. Her husband, Dr. Eblen, was Mayor of Lenoir City. The club became aware that the city had a park fund, financed by a one-cent property tax, to take care of a park dedicated to the city by the Lenoir City Company. (This park, by the way, still exists. It is known as Rock Springs Park, but it has been virtually defunct for some time.) Some money had accumulated in the Park Fund and so a delegation from the Clionian Club went to the city and asked that half the money be turned over to a Board to set up a Library in Lenoir City. City Council complied with the request and named a Library Board made up of Mrs. Eblen, Mrs. W. T. Ritchey, Mrs. Mills, Mrs. T.M. Breazeal, and Mrs. A. W. Roberts.

In May, 1928, the Library opened with 611 books - $435.75 of the money received from the city had been used to buy 385 books and an additional 226 books were donated. The Library was housed, rent free, in the Lenoir City Company office building (still located on Depot Street) and Mr. Boggs, the local manager of the company, helped them to get started.

A lot of help came from Miss Mary Rothrock, librarian at Lawson-McGhee Library in Knoxville and from Miss Elizabeth Moreland, UT Extension Librarian, and Miss Helen Harris, also of the UT Library. Mrs. Mills related.

The Library was open two afternoons each week with the Clionian Club furnishing money for the salary of the librarian. (Salaries were later paid by the WPA.)

With little change, except for the regular, if slow, addition of books to the collection, this was the library in Lenoir City until 1940 when it was expanded to become a Regional Library, furnishing reading services for TVA employees.

Mrs. Mills, who was chairman of the Loudon County Library Board formed in 1940, described how the Regional Library System came about in an address to the Citizens Library Movement at Cumberland Mountain State Park on May 10, 1952:

“The Regional Library Service idea, as we know it, was born in the heart and mind of our own adopted East Tennessean, Mary U. Rothrock. In 1938, she was given the first Lippincott award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Library Service.’ The Regional Service is a development from the original idea of library service to TVA workers. It was as Library Specialist for TVA in the summer of 1939 she was called on to help work out a plan to give Rhea, Meigs, Roane, and Loudon where dams were being built. TVA provided financial backing for the project, but, since there was no local library large enough, TVA turned to the Knoxville Library Board and to Helen M. Harris, Librarian of the Lawson-McGhee Library. A third party to the agreement was the Division of Libraries of the State Department of Education.

“In the Spring of 1940, the beginning of this expanding service was made in Lenoir City. The Library Board reached an agreement with TVA. We had an existing – and I mean just existing – library and TVA had a contract…to furnish reading and educational material in our area. Books were placed in our city library to be used by workers or anyone else in the community.”

In 1941, Miss Lucile Nix of the Lawson-McGhee staff was appointed the first Regional Librarian and she came to Lenoir City to live. In her 1952 speech, Mrs. Mills recalled, “We would not have started on this long road had it not been for her push and broad vision of things to come. I remember the walks over the fields to reach County Squires as they plowed, talks to women over wash tubs and stoves (not electric either), the trip and talks with Miss Parks (Miss Martha M. Parks, then School Library Supervisor) about building with WPA help our first clumsy bookmobile. Miss Nix really made you believe.”

In 1942, the TAV contract expired and those loyal, dedicated local women, spurred again by Mrs. Mills, went to work on the state to get aid for the library. Many months of letter writing, visits to Nashville and other lobbying activities followed and in 1942, libraries were placed under the Dept. of Education by a bill signed by Gov. Prentiss Cooper.

Part of the large room in the American Legion Memorial Building which now houses the Lenoir City Library served for a time as the headquarters for the Ft. Loudon Regional Library in the early years. The Regional Library Center has now moved to Athens and from it radiate Bookmobiles which visit each of the main libraries and the Bookmobile stations in the several counties each month leaving on deposit at each point new books and picking up those which patrons have read to take to other libraries. Other Regional Libraries have been established until now the entire state is covered.

Today the Lenoir City Library is still watched over zealously by the Clionian Club and by Mrs. Mills, who continues to be a member of the Library Board. The three Loudon libraries – the other two are at Loudon and Greenback – are financed now by annual appropriates from the cities of Lenoir City, Loudon, and Greenback, from Loudon County, and from the Clionian Club here and the Community Club in Greenback.

Individuals offer assistance, too, many times donating books to the library in honor or memory of some friend or relative.

And the Suburbia Junior Woman’s Club contributed a collection of phonograph records and record rack to start a record lending library about three years ago. The Regional Library Service liked the idea so much that it was installed in other libraries – and in other Regions throughout the state.

A summer reading program has been set up. Mrs. Harvey Sproul, who is serving now as Loudon County Board Chairman, donates her time – as do other individuals – to read to children who come to the “Story Hour.” Over the years many other individuals – too numerous to name – have made invaluable contributions to the library.

Mrs. George Mincy has been Librarian since 1968 and she has learned to know the particular reading likes and dislikes of her patrons. Each month, as soon as the Bookmobile comes and she has made her selections off the several hundred new books for her shelves here, she can be heard telephoning: “Mrs. Jones, we have that book you requested.” “Mr. Brown, I have some new science fiction selections you haven’t read.” She has a part-time helper, a high school student.

The library, located in the American Legion Memorial Building, is open from 3 to 6 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Tuesdays it is open from 3 to 8 and on Saturday from 12 to 5. Sometimes there are as many as 180 check-outs in a single day.

It is a friendly, inviting place, with linoleum floor shining brightly, with flowers on the window sill, and with row upon row of colorful books on the shelves which appear to be saying (paraphrasing the television commercial) “Take me, Take me!” There are tables and chairs for the convenience of those who need to do research and a microfilm reader stands in one corner. “Who uses that?” I asked. “So far, Vernon McKinney, Editor of the Lenoir City News, is the only one who has used it,” Mrs. Mincy answered. “During the Centennial Celebration in 1970, I ordered microfilm of the past newspapers from the State Archives in Nashville so that he could get accurate information on Loudon County history.”

Why buy a microfilm reader when there is so little demand for it? The Loudon County Library Board bought three – one for each of the libraries, and the one at Loudon has been used extensively by several people doing genealogical research – family trees – and the one at Greenback has been used quite a bit, too. Microfilm records of earl census records, not only in Tennessee, but from all the states, are available, Mrs. Mincy explained. Many other historical records are available on microfilm and can be borrowed from the State Library and Archives.

As an added service to Lenoir City news readers, Mrs. Mincy will furnish periodically, a list of new books received in the library and as a special treat she has promised in the near future information about a Lenoir City personality and what he has done for the library.

The library is a useful, interesting place. If you do not know about it, or have not visited it, this week would be an excellent time to visit there. Mrs. Mincy, the Clionian Club members, the Library Board, and especially Mrs. Mills, will be expecting and will welcome you.

Remember: “Reading Makes the World Go Round” and “Everybody’s Got the Right to Read.”

McCurry, Lyda (1972, April 20). Local library has rich history. The Lenoir City News (pg unknown).