The Elkin Public Library is 44 years old this year.
In celebration of the people who helped fund and support the library in its creation, a plaque was placed in the library’s lobby followed by a celebration Sunday with notable figures who helped give the library shape and stability.
Melissa Smith, the chair of the Elkin Public Library Board of Trustees, began the ceremony by identifying several of the original community leaders who made the building possible. Jim Harrell, Sr., Julia Richards, Molly Smith, and Bonnie Stewart were in attendance, in addition to many other citizens who volunteered time and money to get the library started.
Julia Holthouser spoke about the early days of the fundraising and construction efforts. She was the chair of the original Library Board of Trustees and helped campaign for the library’s creation to the board of commissioners. According to Holthouser, the town’s library was originally housed in the local YMCA and was a one-room space open for only three hours a week. Holthouser said she was told by town officials “a library was not in the town’s future” because of budget limitations.
After raising funds and the generous donation of an anonymous sponsor, the group raised the minimal amount needed to receive grants from the state and federal government. Jim Harrell, Sr. said the campaign needed $84,000 to start the building, but donations totaled $89,000. With grant money, the amount grew to $190,000. Projections put the total cost at $300,000, but the final price tag reached to $450,007. The Chatham Foundation offered the library a lot along the Elkin Creek and the building became a reality.
Jim Harrell, Sr. said a cab driver once told his mother that if a plane had flown over and you had dropped a brick out of it, you could not have picked a worse spot for the library. He told his mother that was simply untrue, and today the library offers visitors what Branch Librarian Martha Smith calls a “million dollar view” of the Elkin Creek waterfall.
Holthouser said the library could receive its shelving cheaper than expected if the library installed the shelves itself. Townspeople came in shifts of several hours for six weeks to install the shelves. Many in the audience had helped raise the shelving.
Harrell told the audience that the sense of volunteerism in Elkin made the library a success.
Elkin “was a place where people cared about making it a good town and were willing to be generous with money and time and effort,” said Holthouser. She said she believed it still was.
Following a brief intermission and refreshments Dr. Michele Gillespie spoke about her new book titled “Katharine and R.J. Reynolds: Partners of Fortune in the Making of the New South.” Gillespie is the Kahle Family Professor of History at Wake Forest University. “Gillespie offers a masterful life-and-times biography of these important North Carolinians,” said Barnes and Noble’s website.
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