On Sunday, March 3, the Scottsboro Public Library held an open house for the public to celebrate 90 years of service to the community. It was more than 90 years ago that a group of eight young women got together to organize a club, known as the Young Women’s Study Club, to study English literature and to help new teachers meet people and become a part of the community. Those young women, Misses Dorothy Gold, Eliza Hackworth, Ida Moody, Edith Money, Beatrice Jarnagin, Kate Chandler, Lucille Chandler, Stella Devers Word and later Sue Mae Freeman, quickly realized the need to broaden their activities.
Membership was increased and limited to 20 members due to meeting in member’s homes and the name was changed from Young Women’s Study Club to Young Women’s Book Club. In the spring of that first year the idea of starting a public library was conceived. From that point on there was no stopping this amazing group of young women.
They quickly collected a total of 90 books, had Judge J. M. Money make a portion of the jury room available for a library, got busy with fund raising events and opened the first library on Saturday, Feb. 28, 1929 in the northwest corner of the jury room with a table-desk and a borrowed bookshelf.
Refreshments were served and memberships were sold and the members of the Young Women’s Book Club proudly served as hostesses.
It didn’t take long for the membership to have other grand plans of moving into a permanent location. With the building of a new city hall building, the women focused on use of the unfinished second floor.
It took two years of attending each council meeting and pleading for their cause, approaching the mayor and council members individually each time they met them in public until they finally wore Mayor J. D. Snodgrass down and he gave them the second floor on the condition that they had to finish it out. And finish it they did! There was no floor, ceilings or walls and it is not clear if there was even a staircase to the second floor.
The group negotiated a deal with the city where they would come up with $125 and the city would match it. They were on their way! The library was in this location from May 1932 until the early 1960’s.
It was during the 1950-51 club year that the group changed their name from the Young Women’s Book Club to the Fortnightly Book Club. Several members from this group served through the years as members of the library board.
In the early 1960’s, the library board began searching for a new location to establish a larger library. Again, a new city hall was being built on South Broad Street and the board determined that the ideal location would be to build near the center of local government. In minutes from the Nov. 12, 1962 city council meeting, mention is made of building a new library and entering into an agreement for architectural services for a building to be constructed.
A commendation to the Caldwell Family – King Caldwell, Elbert Caldwell, Hamlin Caldwell, Daisy Caldwell, Irene Caldwell, Lala Caldwell Palmer and Dorothy Caldwell Huffman is mentioned.
Also commendation to Congressman Bob Jones for obtaining grants for over quarter million dollars for his home town is mentioned. Information from the council minutes shows a construction bid for the library in the amount of $74, 400. Work began on the library in 1963.
On May 26, 1964 the new cream brick building opened its doors for the first time. The library is still housed in this building today. Changes and additions have been made to the building over the years.
The original building contained 5561 square feet. The Daisy Caldwell addition in 1970 added another 1525 square feet. In the early 1980’s a federal Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA) grant to add the King Caldwell Foundation matched 800 square feet on the northwest corner.
This addition was completed in 1984. In early 2002 the city council made available $500,000 to the library to be used for the purpose of renovation and the addition of a new room large enough for meetings. The new addition included at 1600 square foot meeting room, complete with storage room, a new break area/workroom with limited kitchen facilities, storage room and mechanical room – for a total of 2320 square feet.
This brought the total area of the library to 10,200 square feet as it stands today. This was the first complete renovation since the building was built in 1964.
In 2012 a new raised metal roof was added at an approximate cost of $35,000. This is quite a change from the northwest corner of the jury room where the library first began!
Were it not for the determination, dedication, perseverance, hard work and belief by this amazing group of women that citizens and children should have access to free books, the library may not be as important a part of the community as it is today.
As Marilyn Morris-Reed wrote in the closing of her book “Story of the Young Women’s Book Club and the Birth of the Scottsboro Public Library” (2009), I feel this truly is a wonderful summation of this group of young women who were tenacious, determined and committed to their town and its citizens.
From Mrs. Morris-Reed’s book: “90 years ago, a group of young women who had only been eligible to vote in one election, were asserting and improving themselves as well as their community. During the worst years of the Depression they stood firm in their devotion to their cause, managing to accumulate funds at a time when funds were most scarce. As Miss Ida said they never “shirked” and no matter how hard times were they still found a way around every obstacle. They decided their town needed a library and a library they gave them. They faced down the city fathers (as Miss sue Mae referred to them) and refused to take no for an answer. They were feminine feminists. In their own ladylike way they were bulldozers in disguise. They didn’t burn their bras or march on Washington, but they taught this entire town a lesson about commitment and devotion to a cause greater than themselves. And they did it graciously and gracefully. Actually, the city fathers never had a chance against them! They were formidable in pursuit of their dream, and we are the lucky beneficiaries. They were the city mothers. We will never see their like again. But we can honor them by treasuring their gifts.”
In addition, there are others that we would like to recognize and thank for their many contributions to the Scottsboro Public Library. Without the support and assistance from these groups, the library would not be the anchor of the community that it is.
The support of the Friends of the Scottsboro Public Library from the early 1950’s until today has been unwavering. They have assisted with book sales for many years, have volunteered many hours for untold library programs and other occasions of need, and have raised funds through book sales and other projects to help fund needs and activities of the library.
Without their support we could not do some of the things patrons take for granted. Support from the mayors and councils in providing allocations to fund the library are greatly appreciated. Without this support we could not begin to offer the services, programs and facilities necessary to meet the needs of the community.
Support and donations from patrons and organizations for programs such our Summer Reading Program allows us to continue this program and to expand it to reach young patrons for longer periods during the summer.
What used to be a week or two-week program has expanded to include almost the entire summer break. The City Street Department and the City Police Department provide many services to the library from helping maintain the area around the library to helping move items within the library. They are quick to be of service when we have a need and they are great to work with. We appreciate all they do for us all during the year.
The Scottsboro Garden Club maintained the garden areas around the library for many, many years. They took pride in making the outside appearance of the library very pleasing, neat and clean. We truly appreciate all that they did for us.
We also would like to thank Woods Cove Florist – Robin and Vicki Shelton and their staff- for all of their assistance throughout the year with floral arrangements for special functions and especially for their help for our 90th Celebration.
Thanks to Tennessee Valley Signs for the beautiful work they did on our story boards for our Celebration. Special thanks to those families and individuals who have made memorial contributions, established endowments and other charitable contributions that help provide books and other media for the library and its patrons. To the clubs, organizations and individuals who help us with programs all during the year a big thank you.
To those I may have not mentioned, please know that we also appreciate all that you do to help us provide programs and services – your help and support is very important to us and greatly appreciated.
And to the library staff, Laura, Pat, Martha, and Molly - thank you for the job you do each day. You are the heart of the library and the hard work and dedication each of you contributes to the library make us the great library that we are! And I especially want to thank Laura, Pat and Martha for all that you did in making our 90th celebration a HUGE success!
The library looks forward to more celebratory activities throughout this year. Please check the library webpage, library calendar and social media to keep track of all the activities planned and we hope to see you celebrating with us!
Scottsboro Public Library Board of Trustees