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TL v59n4: History of the Morristown-Hamblen Library
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Tennessee Libraries

Volume 59 Number 4
 

2009

 

History of the Morristown-Hamblen Library

by

Shelly Shropshire

 

On August 20, 2009 the Morristown-Hamblen Library and the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting for the newly renovated library building.  This major renovation project gave a whole new look to the exterior and interior of the building since the time of the first grand opening just over 40 years ago.

The open house event was well attended with many of the dignitaries of the City of Morristown and Hamblen County present as well as the Hamblen County Library Board members, the Library Director and library staff and patrons. Bill Brittain, Chairman of the Hamblen County Library Board spoke with appreciation of all the people who supported this library and how their generosity had made the renovations possible.  This public event brought about much excitement and sparked some memories of the first Grand Opening of the Morristown-Hamblen Library.

On Sunday afternoon, January 26, 1969, the Chairman of the Hamblen County Library Board George S. Hale, Jr. was on hand to do the official honors of cutting the ribbon and opening the first modern public library building to the citizens of Hamblen County (see figs.1 and 2).  The support of the community for this library project was outstanding and there was a huge attendance for this long awaited day.  

Figure 1. Ribbon cutting ceremony for the new library in 1969.

Figure 2. Exterior of the library, 1969.

Mr. Hale along with many other board members, community leaders and city and county officials of the day worked very hard to plan and build an up-to-date library of which the whole community would be proud.  One of the families to whom the library owes much gratitude is the Goodson family, owners of the JFG Company.  The family member who was the most active in library affairs was Miss Meta Goodson.  She was an advocate for a public library in the community and also a major contributor toward the purchase of the library’s current location and toward the building project that took place in the 1960’s.  She gave $350,000 toward this building and the property.

Sadly Miss Meta Turley Goodson had passed away on July 30, 1968, before the grand opening of the library.  She had worked for many years along with all the women’s clubs, city and county officials, the community, and the library board to provide the citizens with a public library.  She served as Chairman to the Library Board from 1947 – 1950.  She had expressed that she did not want the new library to be named after her.  In keeping with her wishes, she was honored instead by a plaque in the library in her memory.

Another plaque was placed in memory of the Goodson family as well.  The plaque reads: “In memory of J. F. Goodson who often said ‘Let us Make Morristown a better place to live in’ and in memory of his grandson F. P. Goodson, Jr. and in honor of F. P. Goodson, Sr. all of whom made this library building possible.” In 1987 Mrs. Kent (Martha Ann Rogers) Withers and Mrs. McAfee (Cissy Rogers) Lee commissioned the local artist Pat Freels to paint a portrait of their aunt, Miss Meta Goodson and presented it in her memory to the Library.  It was placed in the main library room where it remains to this day.

Besides the very generous donation of the Goodson family, many library Board members, staff of the library, and members of the community, the Women’s clubs of Morristown also deserve recognition. In 1902 it was recorded in their minutes that each member in one of the first clubs purchase a book and these were loaned to club members.  Other books were held in the home of a club member for use by the public.  During 1911-1912 the clubwomen held a meeting for those that were interested in the establishment of a library; their determination was to work for a Carnegie Library.  During 1920-1921 the Carnegie Library project for Morristown was investigated by the appointed club member, Meta Goodson. In 1925 they purchased and established the Morristown club house.  This is where they started the first library for the community.  There was a membership fee of $1.00 per patron per year and the City provided $100 to the new public library. An article in the women’s club scrapbook names the Ladies Reading Circle, Somo Sala Circle, Sam Davis U.D.C. and Samuel Doak D.A.R. as founders of the library.

In the Women’s clubs scrapbook was also mentioned the new book editions received from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Some titles were: Allah Dethroned by Lilo Linke; India Reveals Herself by Basil Mathews; Circling the Caribbean by Tom Marvel; and Madame Curie, By Eve Curie.  The scrapbook has an interesting article from the Knoxville News Sentinel mentioning the new children’s corner of the Morristown Library.  The article mentions that the library participates in the Regional Library System (started in October 1941) and that the children’s summer reading club membership jumped from 14 last year to 71 this season.  (For 2009 the Children’s Summer Reading Program of the Morristown-Hamblen Library had 595 registered participants.) In 1940 book deposits were placed in 20 communities in 1941, there was a book circulation of 18,394 and 917 regular borrowers and 4,544 total volumes, as of June 30, 2009 there was a total of 122,203 materials circulated and a total of over 100,000 volumes of material and one branch library.

In the 1959 the Morristown Library location was moved from the Women’s Clubhouse to the old Bell South Telephone and Telegraph Company building.  It remained at this location until the first official library building was completed.  

As the plans were being completed for the building, a campaign began to “furnish your new library,” headed by former U.S. Senator Herbert S. Walters as chairman.  Their goal was $65,000.00.  Miss Meta Goodson placed a statement in the Daily Gazette-Mail urging every citizen to back financially the drive to furnish and equip the new building:

HELP OF EVERY CITIZEN NEEDED FOR NEW LIBRARY

To the Citizens of Morristown and Hamblen County:

More than thirty years ago, one of my projects in the library school was to plan library service for Hamblen County.  Lavish federal government subsidy was unheard of.  The plan was to be community-supported and this is my present idea.

In 1925, four women’s clubs started a tiny, rent-free library effort in their club house.  It grew slowly until Regional Library Service came to Tennessee.  This service cooperated with these women’s clubs, using their facilities, until a few years ago.

Club house quarters being too small, the library was moved to rent-free rooms in the telephone building on West Second North Street.  The telephone company has far exceeded its agreement to provide rooms, heat, light for five years.  The space is now needed.  So, it falls to the community to provide a building, furniture and equipment for the library service which city, county, state and federal governments are giving.

Recently, Beta Sigma Phi asked for pennies for the library fund.  As I dropped nickels, pennies and quarters in their box by a cash register, I wondered.  But, as a result, they gave the Library Board a check for more than four hundred dollars.  They clearly demonstrated “every penny counts”.  The Pilot Club, casting around for a worthy community service, gave the Library Board $7,000 for furniture and books for a young people’s area.  In addition to these gifts, there has already been a most generous response.  Thirty years ago money was a small item, vision and work dominated, but today the reverse is true.  In order to reach our goal, it is now necessary to appeal to the individual citizen.

To the Library Board has been delegated the responsibility for the public library.  For almost three years to the present expansion, they have given most generously of their time, talents and funds.  It is their work to raise the money for furniture and equipment.  They have been dedicated and tireless.  Our library consultants, our architects, our contractor and those who are doing the actual building have a genuine interest and are giving their best efforts.  In fact, every one connected with the project is trying hard.

Won’t you join us in our effort to give the best possible library service to Morristown and Hamblen County?  It is long over-due.

Sincerely,
Meta Goodson

 

On the Editorial page of the Daily Gazette Mail the article read:

LIBRARY FUND REALIZED

The public’s response has been startling to the campaign for funds to equip and furnish the new Morristown-Hamblen Library. In the announced span of two weeks the $65,000 goal has been reached in cash and pledges, concluding perhaps the most successful drive ever held here.  Not an individual or firm contacted failed to contribute – surely something of a record. The reasons are obvious:  a splendid new library, provided through the generosity of a single donor, Miss Meta Goodson, and with the help of City Council and County Court certainly deserves the support of the entire community.

When the new structure on West Main is completed, its interior will be outfitted on a scale appropriate to the impressive exterior. We are going to have a library in which everyone can take real pride.

The construction of the library building in 1969 was estimated to be a half million dollar project.  The architects were Price-Denton Associates and Hubert Bebb of Gatlinburg.  For the building renovation project of 2008 – 2009 it was estimated to be 1.2 million dollars.  The City and County Officials once again dedicated funds for this project and a campaign to the public for furnishings once more became a success with over $100,000 raised.  The Architects were Community Tectonics, Inc. and the Contractor was Andrews Construction, Inc.

Today the Children’s Room is located in the lower level of the library to provide a larger space and it was redecorated to be more kid-friendly in 2003. Miss Meta Goodson would be happy to see children coming for story time and the many weekly programs and the very successful summer reading programs available today.  Patrons have a great library and they not only have the community leaders and citizens to thank but they also can be thankful for good neighbors  People from other counties and states have given toward the recent renovation project for the Morristown-Hamblen Library. The facility also has made a community room on this level and has dedicated in memory of and named the room for George S. Hale, Jr., who was the Chairman of the Hamblen County Library Board in 1969.  

Figure 3. The Morristown-Hamblen Library after renovations completed in 2008-2009.

Figure 4. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the renovated library.

This library serves not only Hamblen County but the surrounding counties as well. There are 32,711 registered patrons at the Morristown-Hamblen Library.  There is one branch library, Davis Homes Library, located at 1149 Kennedy Circle in Morristown, which mainly serves a small housing community.  The Morristown-Hamblen library’s website is http://www.morristownhamblenlibrary.org. The mission statement for the Morristown-Hamblen Library is as follows:  As a vital part of an educated community the Morristown-Hamblen Library’s mission is to improve the lives of all citizens by providing free, unlimited access to information.


Works Consulted

Citizen Tribune – Column by Lillie Moore – Portrait dedication Meta Goodson

Citizen Tribune – Howard Hill Papers

Files of Morristown-Hamblen Library –Annual reports of statistics

Morristown-Hamblen Library Handbook 2009

Women’s Club History – author unknown.

Gazette Mail – Articles – Library Construction 1967 – Miss Meta Goodson and Editor

Hamblen County Library Board Minutes 1956 – 2009

Hamblen County Library Board Scrapbook – Library Campaign Fund 1967


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