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TL v58n4: History of the Mary E. Tippett Memorial Library in Townsend, TN
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Tennessee Libraries 

Volume 58 Number 4



 The Mary E. Tippitt Memorial Library, Townsend, Tn


Mary Newman, Library Director

The Mary E. Tippitt Memorial Library opened January 2, 1997 as a memorial to Mary Tippitt and a gift to the citizens of Townsend and the surrounding area.  The collection initially consisted of 5,000 new books and materials on a fully automated cataloging system.  The books were about 50% adult and 50% children and young adult. 

The library was the result of a dream that Mary had of someday helping start a library in Townsend.  After her untimely death on November 22, 1995 from cancer, her family, Charles, Meloney, Cindy, Byron, and Jon Curtis, decided to start the library as a memorial. 

In May 1996, Debra Miller was asked to be the director.  A computer system and Winnebago cataloging software were purchased, and books were donated by the Tippitt family.  Seven months later, on January 2, 1997, the library opened.  The original library was located at 7811 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway. 

During 1997, a Friends of the Library group was formed to support the library.  Virginia Borrelli, “Miss Ginny,” volunteered to do a pre-school reading program each Tuesday.  The Summer Reading Program was initiated and the book collection was increased to about 7,500 volumes. 

In 1998, Debra Miller left the library and Cherith Millar served as librarian while the search started for a new director.  Marjorie Caldwell was selected as the new director.  By then, the collection had grown to over 10,000 items, including books, videos, and audio books.  We had also issued over 1,000 patron cards.  

In the spring of 1999, the Library Board decided that a larger, permanent location was needed.  The Tuckaleechee Utility offered a long-term lease on a building that they owned which could be renovated and enlarged.  The Library Board and the Utility Board agreed on a 20-year lease.  Tommy Enos was in charge of the renovation and began work in August, 1999.  Fundraising and work was done by the Friends of the Library, the Tippitt family, and other volunteers.  The building was finished and moving in was done from November 22 to December 2, 1999.  Area businesses had donated material and money, and individuals donated money and labor.  The City of Townsend gave $15,000 to the project and the Virginia Rogers Foundation gave a $10,000 grant. 

Marjorie Caldwell retired in the summer of 2000 due to bad health.  Kathy Larson became the librarian for a short time, but then moved out of the area.  Julie Schirack became our librarian.  In the fall of 2001, Susan Pasquini joined the staff. 

Thanks to a grant from the Tennessee State Library, LCSA funds were used, along with matching funds from the Friends of the Library, to purchase three computers for public Internet access.  The Friends of the Library organized a successful golf tournament for the fundraising. 

By the summer of 2002 the collection had grown to over 13,000 volumes, with over 1,400 registered patrons.  In addition to three computers for Internet access and word processing, we also added a children’s computer, used for educational games and research.  The Townsend Collection and reference collections continued to grow, containing much information about the history and genealogy of the area. 

Another successful golf tournament was sponsored by the Friends of the Library in the spring of 2002, and they were able to donate $8,500 towards library operating expenses.  The City of Townsend contributed $12,000, so progress was made toward establishing a funding base for the library’s ongoing expenses.  A grant of $4,329 was received from the Jane L. Pettway Foundation for book purchases. The Tippitt Library Foundation was formed and granted 501(c)(3) status by the IRS.  Its purpose is to provide permanent funding for the library. 

In the fall of 2004 the library hired Mary Newman, a Townsend resident, as library director.  Mary had retired from a school district in Western New York after 31 years as a junior high/middle school librarian.  In the nearly five years she has been director, the collection has grown to over 21,900 volumes.  Patrons now number over 2200. 

Thanks to several grants, the library now boasts six desktop and three wireless laptop computers for patron use.  Local artists display their works each month, and there is a community bulletin board for posting items of local interest.  Patrons are able to make use of interlibrary loan of materials from libraries throughout Tennessee.  Library news is published regularly in local newspapers, and is also available on the library’s website.  There are summer reading, pre-school, and after-school programs for children. We continue to receive funding from the City of Townsend and the Friends of the Library, as well as donations from our loyal patrons and local businesses.  The library caters to visitors as well, since Townsend is a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is considered “the peaceful side of the Smokies.” 

The Mary E. Tippitt Memorial Library has become a center for the Townsend and Tuckaleechee Cove community.  We pride ourselves on our friendly, small-town atmosphere.  We may look small on the outside, but we’re big on the inside. 

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