History of the Library
Clarksville-Montgomery County Public Library has a long and storied history.
After several attempts to start a library, the permanent library opened its
doors in the basement of the courthouse offices of Judge C. W. Tyler on
September 12, 1894. The first librarian was Miss Sina Harvey.
library remained in that location until 1900, when it moved to the home of J.
C. Atkinson on the corner of 3rd & Franklin Street. In 1901, the Federation
of Women’s Clubs, with Mrs. H. C. Merritt as its president, decided to take the
library under its wing. It wasn’t until 1912 that the Women’s Club bought the
McDaniel home for its headquarters and moved the library into its downstairs
rooms. One of the earliest librarians at this location was Mrs. B. A. Woodard,
a position that she held from 1923-1940.
library board decided in 1923 that the city needed a free public library.
Before that time, each patron paid a yearly fee to become users of facilities.
By 1927, there were 1098 patrons enrolled at the library. The library did not
start using the Dewey Decimal System until 1943.
library’s popularity grew and it joined the Regional Library System in 1948.
this continued growth, it was decided that the library needed to expand beyond
the Women’s Club umbrella and become its own entity. It moved out of the
Women’s Club building in 1958 and into the American Snuff Company Building.
1959, the library became the Clarksville-Montgomery County Public Library.
the building of a new Health Department building near the Memorial Hospital,
the county put the library in the old health department building at 329 Main
Street in 1962, where it remained until its move to its present location in
The “Friends of the Library”
organization was established in 1974. The Friends have raised a great deal over the years in the way of
much needed financial support outside the library’s budget. The group became
tax exempt in 1984. The Friends of the Library fundraising book sales continue
their popularity each spring and fall.
1990s was an amazing decade of growth for the library. The MARC system of
cataloging material was added to services at the library in 1990. In 1991, Mrs.
Finley Elder Gracey left a sizable bequest to the library.
1993, the library became automated, library employees went on the county pay
plan, and long-time librarian, Mamie Jean Harper, retired after 24 years of
service. In 1994, a new location
for the library was found and purchased. County Executive Robert Thompson was
honored for his work in the expansion of the library and its relocation as the
anchor in the plaza that eventually became the county government center known
as Veteran’s Plaza.
the library moved into the present 74,000 square-foot facility, Internet access
for patrons was added. Free computer classes were very popular with our patrons
and are still in full swing today. Useful research databases have been added
and are available not only inside the library, but from home as well. The Tennessee
Electronic Library also came into being, bringing even more titles to the
ever-growing full-text periodicals available through the library.
true heart of the library is the Children’s Department, which became a state
leader in children’s services after the move. The children’s room was first
dedicated to Mrs. W. M. Daniel back in 1953, when story time began. Special
events include the Summer Reading Program, featuring storytellers, magicians
and puppeteers, just to name a few performers. Thousands of children are served
each summer through these exciting events. Regular programming is offered the
rest of the year, as well, for newborns all the way up to teenagers about to
graduate. Popular special programs include the “4 Paws for Reading” program,
where children read stories to dogs and a Lego program for the whole family. In
2005, the teen program was born and is going strong with the creation of a Teen
Advisory Board which helps plan teen programming. Teen Anime is a very popular monthly
program that continues.
Children’s Department reaches out to the community in many ways, through programming
for schools, headstarts and daycares, as well as presentations at state library
association conferences. In 2010, Jean Nichols, the current head of the
children’s and young adult department at the library, was recognized by the
Tennessee Library Association with the awarding of the Dan Brown Memorial Award
for her dedicated work in enhancing programming for children and youth.
is also very popular at the library. The collection was begun by former county
historian Ursula Beach, growing from a broom closet to the present-day Brown
Harvey, Sr. Genealogy Room.
The genealogy collection not only
features many books, microfilm, and vertical files for folks interested in
finding their ancestors, but also databases that allow searchers to go beyond
the borders of Tennessee to the rest of the US and even other countries.
Genealogy classes and seminars remain popular. The Reference / Genealogy
department has placed several finding aids on its departmental web presence and
answers questions now from all over the US via emails, letters, and telephone
2005, Governor Phil Bredeson made several appearances in the library’s
Children’s Department, to introduce the “Imagination Library” program, which
was started by Dolly Parton. This program gives free books to each child in the
county that signs up for the program. The child receives one book a month until
the age of 5.
in 2005, the library received a generous bequest from the estates of Howell C.
Smith, Sr. and Howell C. Smith, Jr. which resulted in the reorganization of the
Clarksville-Montgomery County Library Foundation to what it is today.
the years, the library has been the recipient of generous donations, both large
and small, by various individuals and groups. In a special note, in September
2003, the library learned that it would receive $500 from the estate of Linda
K. Gronlund, who was killed on flight #93 on 9/11/2001.
February 2006, the library’s book collection grew in a brand new way with the
advent of the eBook. A new statewide program called R.E.A.D.S. was implemented,
which allows patrons to “check out” downloadable eBooks through the library’s
2009, through a special project funded by the Library Foundation, the library constructed
a new circulation desk and made the leap to a self-checkout system of library
materials using RFID technology. This change has been embraced by library
customers as they find convenience in self-service, including self-payment of
fees with the use of optional credit card payment, and the elimination of
previous waiting periods in lines to check out. The library looks forward to
continuing to become a leader in providing essential services to the citizens
of Montgomery County in coming years.