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TERRELL COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY HISTORY

Prepared by Shirley Mills Fischer
Regional Library Director

for the first meeting of the 
Steering Committee to Organize a Friends of the Library
March 13, 1990

At this time, the earliest reference I have found to library service in Terrell County is the History of Terrell County Georgia  by Ella Christie Melton and Augusta Griggs Raines.  In May 4, 1871, "The Bottle," a temperance drama was presented to raise funds for a library.  Again, that same month, the Excelsior Debating Society raised $35 dollars for the library through a debate on "Is the education of man more important than that of a woman."  

The first Library Association in Terrell County was organized May 3, 1878.  The officers were A.J. Baldwin, President, W.H.H. Allen, Vice-President, J.G. Parks, Treasurer, U.L. Weston, Secretary.  Other board members were J.D. Hoyl, C.R. Moore, and J.H. Guerry.

The "library hall" was located in one of the editorial rooms of the Dawson Journal.

It would appear that this effort was not sustained because, it is recorded that the Dawson Library Association was formed in 1906 as an outgrowth of the Wednesday Afternoon Club.  The officers were Mrs. J.D. Jordan, President, Mrs. F.M. McNulty, Treasurer, and Mrs. Lucius Lamar, Secretary.  The Club had 32 members and organizational meeting was held at the home of Minnie Bridges.  The library was located in a room over T.D. Lee's drug store.  Fanny Cheatham, known, as "Miss Pet," was the first librarian.

Miss Cheatham was paid $40 a month.  Members of the Dawson Library Association were accessed $.25 each.  I do not know if this was a one time fee or if there was an annual accessment.

After a couple of years the library moved to the city council room over the fire department.

The present Carnegie Library building was constructed 76 years ago in 1914.

The building became the responsibility of the City of Dawson in 1924.  The City Council  appointed the trustees to the Board.  Members were:  Mrs. Ed Bell, chairman, Miss Louise McNulty, Mrs. Lucius Lamar, Mrs. D.C. Pickett, and Mrs. J.M. Griggs.

The first bookmobile service began in 1938.

After Miss Cheatham's death in the late forties, Pat Turner (later married Calvin Schramm) served as librarian until 1950.  The full record includes:

1906-late forties Miss Fanny Cheatham, Librarian
Late forties - 1950 Miss Pat Turner, later Mrs. Pat Turner Schramm, Librarian
1950-1953 Mrs. Lillian Cowart, Librarian
1953-1954 Henry Shearhouse, Librarian
1954-1970 Mrs. S.J. Smith, Regional Director
September 1, 1970-August, 1970 Mrs. Dorris Wightman, Acting Regional Director
September ?, 1971 - 1987 Mrs. Dorris Wightman, Regional Director
August 1, 1987-1988 Miss Karen A. Berryman, Regional Director
January 1, 1989-to the present Mrs. Shirley Mills Fischer, Regional Director
January, 1899-to the Present Mrs. Claudia Copeland, Terrell County Library Manager

In 1953 Calhoun County and, in 1954, Lee County joined with Terrell County to create the Terrell-Calhoun-Lee Regional Library System.  The Regional Headquarters and the Terrell County Library shared the Carnegie Library building in Dawson.

Thirty-one years ago, in 1959, an annex was added to the original Carnegie Library building.

Randolph and Webster Counties joined the system in 1961; Clay County became the sixth and final county to join the system in 1966.  The Terrell-Calhoun-Lee Regional Library System became the Kinchafoonee Regional Library System.

Thirteen years ago, in 1977, the original Carnegie building and the annex were modernized with the main entrance moved from the Carnegie to the annex.

Today, through the Terrell County Public Library, residents have access, at little or no charge, to most of the printed material in the English language published in the United States.  Access to printed materials outside of the country has been made possible through State funding and the Federal funding of Library Services and Construction Act (L.S.C.A.).  One of the uses of these monies is the support of Interlibrary Loan Services (I.L.L.).

A residents first access point is the local public library.  The second access point is the Regional Library.  However, as users of the Terrell County Public Library, residents immediately access the Regional Library's materials.

To access the Regional Collection is to have access to:

  1. a book collection that annually receives more than three times the number of new books purchased for any one of the other county libraries in the Region;
  2. a reference collection that is four times the size of any reference collection in any one of the other county libraries in the Region;
  3. a periodical collection that is twice the size of any periodical collection in any one of the other county libraries in the Region;
  4. a regional video cassette collection of over 1,500 titles with approximately 800 placed in the eight member libraries leaving 700 in Dawson; approximately 400 are rotated into and out of other libraries each month;
  5. a regional microfilm collection including census tapes and the Dawson News
  6. a regional filmstrip collection (which is becoming an out of date format).

If Terrell County and Regional Library collections do not include the information a resident needs, he/she may request that the staff search for and obtain it form another library outside the Region.

Another access point for residents is the Dougherty County Public Library.  Like most public libraries in the State, the Library makes its materials available to anyone who walks into the building for use in the library.  However, for only $5 a Terrell County resident may get a library card and borrow materials.  Because Dougherty County Public Library has an agreement with Darton College, the user will find all items owned by Darton College on the automated catalog--and the Dougherty County Public Library can borrow them for the user.

Not only is Dougherty County Public Library a larger system than the Kinchafoonee Regional Library, it is more heavily supported at the local level.  This means it has the financial resources to develop a more sophisticated system with more library resources.  It is also a select U.S. Government Document Depository.

While it is normal for Terrell County residents to use the Dougherty County Public Library, it may be that access to it and resources reduces the resident's commitment to his/her local library system.

Past Library Board chairpersons included:

Dawson Library Association
    1906-?  Mrs. E.T. Jordan

Dawson Public Library (when was  it changed to the Terrell County Public Library") 

 1924-?                  Mrs. Ed Bell
1953-1966            Mrs. Augusta Griggs Raines
1971?                    Eli G. Hill
1972-1981            Olive Minter Wall
1981-1985            Charles M. Cruikshank
1985-1989            Phil Smith
1989-the present  Frank Drapalik 
(Did the Terrell County Board meet between 1953   and 1989?; I find no minutes other than the Regional Library's minutes; was there ever any actual election to elect the officers of the Terrell County Board?)

Having the Regional Library System Headquarters and the Terrell County Public Library located in the same building has had positive and negative results for Terrell County Public Library.  The positive side has been to have immediate access to staff, materials,  and other resources.  The negative side includes:

  1. loss of identity in that the library board, while required by State Code, in practice merged with the Regional Board and eliminated its State required quarterly meetings, election of officers, and reduced its membership and citizens' participation;
  2. loss of identity to its funding agencies in that there were not separate operating budgets for the two entities;
  3. loss of identity in its staffing in that Terrell County staff and System staff were merged; eventually, with no locally received monies to staff the Terrell County Library, only System staff was available.
  4. current pressure from other members of the Region and the Regional Director; the Regional Director cannot carry out the State mandated program and meet the demands of the other members of the Region if System staff and revenues continue to be disproportionally diverted for Terrell County Public Service.

It is hoped that a Terrell County Friends of the Library will be a major influence in restoring the identity of the Terrell County Public Library to its users and its financial supporters.

Date of printout, February 24, 1990

 
 

 

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                Dawson, Georgia  31742
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Last Updated:  July 25, 2004
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