History of the Library

The Story

The finding of her old family scrapbook by Mrs. E.E. McAdams, in her home at 1009 West Seventh Street, has added valuable and highly interesting material to the history of the Taylor Public Library as compiled by Mrs. Wilson Fox and Mrs. Henry Fox in 1955. This earlier history, pieced together from newspaper clippings in the scrapbook, antedates the story of the library as generally known to Taylor citizens and reaches back to the years 1899-1900. At that time Taylor’s first literary club, Sesame Circle, stated in its constitution: “The object of this Circle shall be for the purpose of studying such subjects as the Circle shall deem proper, and the founding of a public library in Taylor.” At that time the officers of the club were Mrs. Vernon Doak, president; Mrs. James A. Thompson, vice-president; Miss Mattie Shaw, secretary; and Miss Bertha Dalton, treasurer. In addition to these officers, the following made up the membership: Miss Minnie Bibb, Miss Mattie Bishop, Mrs. J.R. Boswell, Mrs. R.C. Briggs, Mrs. J.W. Council, Miss Priscilla Draper, Mrs. R.H. Eanes, Miss Edna Foster, Miss Maud Dickson, Mrs. H. T. Kimbro, Mrs. H.C. Mantor, Miss Sallie Mason, Mrs. Robert L. Penn, Miss Mabel Pumphrey, Miss Johnnie Willson, Miss Ora Root, Mrs. R.L. Shoaf, Miss Lillian Wester, Mrs. H. E. Wilson, Mrs. P. M. Woodall and Mrs. D. K. Woodward. This membership list and the constitution were found in the yearbook of the Circle for 1899-1900 belonging to Mrs. Mantor. If earlier yearbooks were available, it would be possible to determine exactly when the Taylor Public Library was founded, but so far no earlier one has been found which contained all the original pages.

An undated newspaper clipping in Mrs. McAdams’ scrapbook stated: “Library plans were well underway, books had been donated, funds had been lined up, and book-lending of a semi-public nature had already begun, when the United States entered the First World War. The Library was situated in the southwest corner of old City Hall. A substantial variety of books was on hand; the members of the Sesame Club served as librarians, each member being allotted certain afternoons to stay on duty. Librarian services were volunteered, but a small charge had to be made for the books loaned in order to keep the stacks growing. Plans for securing a Carnegie donation were considered, but the women of the Club believed that Taylor could afford its own library and had indeed secured assurances of enough pledges to make the library entirely public without book charges, when all activity was suddenly consumed by war enthusiasm, and the Sesame Club joined its forces with the entire country in winning the war. The Club suspended activity, including the library. After the war the Sesame Club was never reorganized.”

In November 1934, the Auxiliary to the Taylor Chamber of Commerce was organized, with Mrs. McAdams serving as temporary chairman. The first permanent officers elected in January 1935, included Mrs. M. B. Conoley, President; Mrs. McAdams, Vice-president; and Mrs. D. L. Thomson, Secretary–Treasurer. But even before these permanent officers were elected and the constitution adopted, stated: “Major E. H. Roach, a Chamber of Commerce director, welcomed the new organization as an adjunct to the men’s Chamber of Commerce and suggested varied activities, such as the buy-at-home campaign and a public library. The suggestion that space for the library might be included in the proposed new city hall was warmly endorsed.” At a meeting in January 1935, Miss Edwin Sue Goree, field worker for the Texas State Library, led the discussion of public libraries and their organization. (Note: At the annual convention of District VIII of Texas Library Association in Kerrville during October 1959, Mrs. Pearson and Mrs. Johns attended a Luncheon at which Miss Goree was honored for her long and distinguished service to libraries of Texas. Miss Goree died June 11, 1961, in Fort Worth.)

For the year 1935 the Auxiliary to the Chamber of Commerce adopted as its project a house-to-house survey of the city for the Federal Housing Administration, of which Mr. George P. Frewitt was local chairman. The ladies were to canvass the entire town to determine the need for improvement in homes; they were instructed that while making this housing survey, they were also to ask for information in regard to mosquito control, secure donations of books for the public library, and solicit memberships in the Auxiliary. It was announced at about this same time that the books in Traveling Library Set No. 80 had been received from the State Library and were ready to be loaned to the public; a complete list of the books was published in the local newspaper. Soon afterward the Ladies Auxiliary to the Chamber of Commerce sponsored a matinee at the Howard Theatre to which the price of admission was one good book. This matinee netted 425 books for the Taylor Public Library.

For many years following, the Library remained housed in City Hall, with the secretary of the Chamber of Commerce acting as librarian along with her other duties.

In 1937 the Woman’s Study Club organized a circulating library within its own membership. At the same time Mr. H. G. Richards, City Manager, was doing everything within its power to keep the Public Library alive and growing, with all the limitations of the economic depression then existing. In 1939, when Rebecca Richards secured permission from the Board of City Commissioners to use a small sum, whose original purpose had become obsolete, to purchase Mrs. Robertson’s books; and these were added to the original collection in City Hall. At about this time the Woman’s Study Club adopted support of the Taylor Public Library as its chief project, and this group represented the Library’s only continuous support for many years. Still there was no steady library progress because of inadequate finances, no permanent home for the books, and no regular librarian. During World War II the books had to be moved to a vacant business house on West Fourth Street to make room for the Rationing Board, and Mrs. T. H. Johnson was the librarian. Others serving from time to time included Irma Brown Cardiff, Annette Runnell Evans, Rosabelle Johnson, Marguerite Taegel Holcomb, and Mary Hicks Olsen.

In the autumn of 1948 a group of interested citizens met to discuss ways and means of reactivating the Library which at that time lay dormant. Mayor R. E. Kollman and the Board of City Commissioners agreed to set aside $100 per month ( in later years raised to $150 ) for library purposes, and they also appointed a seven-member Taylor Public Library Board to administer the affairs of the Library. This original Board included Mrs. Ralph Johns, chairman; T. H. Johnson, vice-chairman; Mrs. A. D. Evans, secretary; and Mrs. A. E. Ake, treasurer; along with Rev. Stuart Currie, F. E. Wilks, and L.D. Hammack. It was decided that a new location was needed, and through the interest and generosity of Supt. Johnson and the Board of Trustees of Taylor Public Schools, space was from war surplus materials and located on West Eighth Street at the corner of Vance. There the reactivated Library opened in November 1948, with Mrs. Elmore Torn as the new librarian. Maintenance was provided by the school system, and to augment the income from the City of Taylor, donations were made during that first year of reorganization by many civic clubs, including the Kiwanis Club, Rotary Club, League of Women Voters, American Veterans of World War II, Lions Club, Wednesday Music Club, American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, and Woman’s Study Club. Many valuable private donations also added materially to the growth and progress, including the Memorial Shelf instituted by Mr. And Mrs. Elmore Torn when they contributed In Our Image by Harte and Rowe in memory of Mr. Howard (Son) Bland, Jr. in January 1952. Mrs. Wiley Pearson Jr. was appointed librarian February 11, 1951.

In the summer of 1956 the Library was again crowded out of its location by the building of the New Junior High School; the schools again came to the rescue by offering another surplus barracks building on the campus, on Hackberry Street at Ninth. On July 2 the move was made, but it became evident again that the time and money lost in each move must in some way be ended once and for all, and that a permanent home for the library must be provided. In October, 1956, a serious movement for a Library building began to take shape, sparked chiefly by the Woman’s Study Club and Mrs. Hazel Hopkins, then serving as club president, who appointed Mrs. C. H. Booth to serve as chairman of a planning committee consisting of representatives from all key civic organizations. This group met in the home of Mrs. Booth on January 8, 1957, elected officers and formally set up the group to be known as the Taylor Public Library Planning Board of the Taylor Public Library Building Fund. The members were as follows: Mrs. Booth, chairman; S. G. Gernert, treasurer; Mary Agnes Roddy, secretary; along with Mrs. Ralph Johns, Mr. & Mrs. Wilson H. Fox, Jack R. Barkley, J. E. Moore, Jack N. Titsworth, Mrs. Raymond Schroeder, M. A. Stiles, Delmer H. Nichols, Mrs. Welton House, and Lee Goodman. Committees appointed consisted of Finance: S. G. Gernert, H. A. Stiles, and J. N. Titsworth; Site: Wilson Fox; Public Relations and Public Information: Jack R. Barkley and Mary Agnes Roddy; and Building: Mrs. Johns and J. E. Moore from the Planning Board with the addition of Mrs. Wiley Pearson, librarian, and Mrs. L. D. Hammack and Charles Hamilton. At a later meeting Mr. Barkley was appointed Contributions Chairman, and after the death of Mr. Gernert, Miss Maude Campbell served as treasurer. A ruling was secured from the Department of Internal Revenue making all contributions to the Building Fund tax deductible for income tax purposes.

On October 1, 1957, Mr. Fox obtained the property on the corner of Eighth and Vance Streets from Mr. R. Wehby; measuring seventy-five by one hundred and thirty feet, it was secured for $2400 and was considered by everyone to be the choice location and general accessibility to everyone. Its attractiveness was further enhanced by a flowing artesian well located in a convenient place on the building site.

On November 11, 1957, the Planning Board met with Mr. Cameron Fairchild of Houston to discuss building plans; he was chosen because of his high standing in the profession of architecture and because Taylor had been the childhood home of both Mr. Fairchild and of his wife, the former Helen Tarkington. On November 20th he submitted the first rough sketch, and his description of the proposed building contained the following information: “The building to be constructed in the vicinity of $25,000 would be built of Austin limestone and glass, with the entire north wall of the reading room to be made of fixed plate glass windows to bring in as much north light as possible, since north light is fairly constant, and is a well diffused light. The exterior walls are laid as a hollow core wall, so that the limestone is exposed on the interior of the building as well as on the exterior. The roof structure is wood with exposed beams and with acoustical plaster between the beams. The roof is of built up tar and gravel.” Mr. Fairchild had been asked to plan a building that could be managed by one librarian who would at all times be able to seethe entire area, a building that would require the minimum of repair and upkeep, one that would be entirely functional without a foot of wasted space, and one that would be as a showcase from the outside so that the inviting interior could be clearly seen in its entirety by those passing by. It was also decided to eliminate all but the essential interior dividing walls and that instead, the partitions would be formed by movable double-case bookshelves so that the interior arrangement would be changed at will. After examination of the preliminary sketch, the Building Committee enlarged the floor area to 2,150 square feet, to include a mechanical equipment room to house the year-round air conditioning system, a men’s washroom, a ladies lounge, a librarian’s workroom, office and the main book and reading room.

For the use of the Public Relations and Public Information Committee and the Contributions Chairman, a very effective brochure was prepared by Mrs. Kennedy Jones and Mrs. Gillis Conoley, with art work by Mrs. S. V. Robertson and Gene Royer.

The Planning Board announced that on the outside wall of the Library, at the entrance, there would be two Indiana limestone plaques, measuring three feet by two feet; one would be entitled “In Memoriam,” and on it would be incised names of all relatives or friends in whose memory a minimum of $500 was contributed toward the Building fund. The other, entitled “Patrons,” would bear the names of all living persons donating at least $500. Later, after these two plaques were filled, in the fall of 1959, the planning board included a third stone plaque for additional names. Without any door-to-door solicitations and without the use of a single cent of tax money, more than sufficient money was mailed or brought to the office of the Contributions Chairman to pay for the building by the time it was completed.

Bids were opened on July 15, 1959, and lowest bidder was Coffield Construction Company of Rockdale; the contract was let for the sum of $30,112.50. Ground-breaking ceremonies were held in the late afternoon of July 29th, and construction began on the following morning with one hundred and fifty calendar days allowed for its completion. Plans were made for a dedication early in 1960.

Chronological Events
1948     Library moved from City hall Building to east half of Girl Scout Building on school grounds at 8th and Fowzer.
1948     Library Board appointed.
1956     Library moved to building at 9th and Hackberry on school grounds.
1957     7th and Vance Street approved for library site.
1960     Library building at 7th and Vance Street opens on March 7th.
1962     Last payment made on library building.
1970     New addition to library building.
1972     City replaces roof on original structure.
1980     Historical Collection room at library completed. Donated by John Thompson.
1981     Roof leaks repaired.
1990     2nd addition to library dedicated.
1992     Lot west of library constructed.
1992     Repairs on leaks and seaps under windows by city and board.
1994     Library walls sandblasted and silicone spray applied.
1996     East porch enclosed.
1998     Warranty money limit on roof is spent; City takes over repairs for ongoing leaks.
2002     July 3rd, library building closed due to water damage, mold, and structural damage.
2002     Library services provided at the Old Middle School August through November.
2002     Move to City Hall and Old Middle School completed in December.
2003     Bond issue passed for new library – 3.4 million dollars.
2005     Vangard Contractors Inc. wins bid to build new library.
2006     Groundbreaking for new library February 16.
2007     New Library at 801 Vance Street opened on March 31st.