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TL v58n4: History of the Elma Ross Public Library, Brownsville, TN
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Tennessee Libraries 

Volume 58 Number 4
 

 2008

 

 The Elma Ross Public Library, Brownsville, TN

by

Katherine Horn, Library Director

The first library service to Brownsville began in 1912.  Mayor John Bomer corresponded with philanthropist Andrew Carnegie’s secretary, and the city received a grant of $7,500.00.  The requirements for the grant stated that the local government provide a lot for the building and $750.00 per year to maintain the free public library.  The building was completed in 1910, but library services did not begin until 1912.    Incidentally, the town’s first public restroom was in the Carnegie library.  

The First Review Club was established to be a support group for the library.  They provided books and held fund raisers to help furnish the library.

The first librarian was Mrs. Dabney Sherrill.  The library bore the Carnegie name until 1957, when it joined the state’s Regional program as a member of the Shiloh Region.  After joining the regional library system, the Carnegie Library became known as the Brownsville-Haywood County Library.  In the late 1960s the regions were reorganized and the Brownsville-Haywood County Library became a part of the Forked Deer Region.

During World War II, the basement was used as a place where items were made for use in the war effort.  In the 1950’s the Rotary began meeting there.  The building served the community well until the late 1980’s when the 1800 square foot building was bulging at the seams.

When it was noted that the current library building was much too small, another philanthropist, this time a local gentleman, came forward.  Mr. D. W. “Dick” Ross, a Brownsville native and owner of Ross Manufacturing Company, donated $250,000.00 towards the building of a new library.  The city and county matched funds and the new library was erected.  The building was designed by the architectural firm of Grace and Associates and the building was built by Quinn Construction Co.  The new library was an 8,000 square foot structure, which was named in honor of Mrs. Elma Ross, Mr. Dick Ross’s wife.  It was dedicated on May 5, 2002.  It has served the Brownsville and Haywood County at its “new” location, 1011 East Main Street, for seventeen years.  

The building now houses a collection of about 24,000 items.  It also has a meeting room available for community use, as well as a well stocked genealogy room. There are two full time employees, several part-time employees, and a bevy of volunteers provided by the Friends of the Elma Ross Public Library.  There is a state sponsored Summer Reading program each year, which serves 150 or more children.  There are also a number of other programs which are presented for adults throughout the year.


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