Our mission is to provide to our community free and equal access to information, materials, services, and programs for personal enrichment, enjoyment, and lifelong learning.
The Calloway County Public Library consists of the Main Library and Mobile Outreach Library Services. The library’s total collection is made up of 70,000+ books and other items.
[The following is a brief history of Calloway County Public Library.]
In July of 1969 land was purchased, at 710 Main Street, for the site of the new library. Peck and Associates of Paducah designed the architectural plans for the building and Quality Construction of Benton got the bid to build the building. The work began and the library was completed in 1970. Renovations of the library was started in 1975 to add office space, a 150 seat meeting room, a foyer, and a larger parking lot. The work was completed in July of 1976.
Provided by Ms. Mary Jane Littleton
We are looking backward to tell the story of how the women and men of Murray started what we know today as the Calloway County Public Library. There were many attempts and books were stored in different places, also during the time, a group of Murray women formed a Magazine Club for the purpose of sharing magazines and books with their members.
When TVA moved into the area around about 1940 to begin the construction of the Kentucky Dam near Calvert City, they brought families who would live in our community and attend our schools. TVA bought a bookmobile for our town, and Mary Hamlin was employed as the driver. You might call this the beginning of what we know today as the Calloway County Public Library.
The first public library in Murray was housed in the basement of the Pogue Library on the campus at Murray State College in 1943. The second try was to a building on North 4th Street. The third move was to 107 North 4th Street in a building owned by Mable Siress. She was a beautician, but there was ample room to store books for patrons who came in to borrow, return books, or have their hair fixed—we believe this occurred around 1945. The fourth move was to Douglas Hardware in an upstairs room on the corner of 4<th and Main Street. Number five was to the second floor of the Court House. In 1956 due to lack of community support, the books were stored in a vacant room somewhere in Coldwater. In 1958 the Murray Woman’s Club went to Judge Waylon Raburn for help with the problem, and they agreed to appoint another Library Board. The board wanted to get the books back in circulation and tried a sixth move from Coldwater to Dr. Doug Wallace’s Dental Office on South 6th Street.
In 1959, a Regional Library Act was put into place, and Murray was chosen as the Headquarters of five counties—Calloway, Graves, Lyon, Marshall, and Clinton. With state money, Edna Darnell was hired as Librarian and Evon Kelly as assistant librarian. The books stored at Dr. Wallace’s office were moved to North 6th Street in what was formerly the office of South Central Bell and owned by Ruth and Jack Kennedy—they offered the building rent-free. A local librarian was provided by donations from the Fiscal Court, the City Council, Murray Women’s Club, Rotary Club, Lion’s Club, other civic groups, and pennies and nickels collected by school children. It was hoped that a small tax would be voted for library support since the funds so far had been provided by state money.
Many new books for all of the five counties were sent by the state, but, as the central headquarter, Calloway County received the lions share. They were shipped to Murray, where two clerks were hired to divide them among the counties, cataloging each of them and delivering them to each location. Jean Blankenship and Lynn Chastain fulfilled these duties. Virginia Swan was the bookmobile librarian for Calloway County. The bookmobile made stops at country stores throughout the county where eager readers would meet the driver or pick up the books in the stores. Stores in Backsuburg, Faxon, and Coldwater were just a few of the stores that supported the bookmobile.
The Department of Libraries in Frankfort kept the region fully supplied with fiction, non-fiction, and reference books and also provided library training. It was the county’s job to supply helpers for the library facility. Margaret Terhune was our first librarian.
It was hoped that the community would see the benefit of a library and vote a small tax to support it. Attempts failed in 1961 and also in 1964, so the Fiscal Cout rescinded its small donation. The board consisting of Ruth Kennedy Chair, Reziner Senter, James Blalock, Lochie Hart, and Deseree Hosick had other obligations or were involved in other duties. They saw no way to continue, but the books continued to pour in.
Margaret Willis, head of the Kentucky Department of Libraries, came to the rescue. A pilot program was put into action in Calloway County. This was a three-year program designed to demonstrate to the public what a first-class library could do. The Department of Libraries would furnish staff salaries and provide books and materials. The charge for the community was to locate a suitable building and furnish it with proper shelving and equipment. Willis thought that because Calloway County had never had a good library and did not know how to appreciate the value of one, she offered the gift of a great library to the people of Murray and Calloway to be financed by the state of Kentucky. Our board jumped at the chance, and many citizens were happy to respond and assist. A board consisting of Max Hurt, Dr. A. H. Kopperud, Lochie Hart, Jack Belote, and Jean Blankenship was appointed, and Margaret Trevathan was hired as driver for the bookmobile.
The Kroger Store at 608 Main was moving to a new location. Since it was on Main Street, easily visible, and in good condition, it was selected to be the site of the library. Improvements began, and it is almost impossible to list those individuals and groups such as fraternities from Murray State, Murray Woman’s Club, Tappan, Calloway Co. Homemakers, Farm Bureau, MWC Magazine Club, youth groups, and church groups that scrubbed, painted, hammered, and otherwise improved the building. When all those shelves had been constructed, inmates from the local jail were called upon to do some heavy lifting. Anyone who said the county did not need or want a library should have been there. Moving the books required many happy people. Margaret Trevathan was appointed librarian, and Diane Johnson, Carolyn Adams, and many volunteers served the growing number of patrons. This new Library move was number eight.
Another important event happened and is responsible for the excellent library we have today. Lochie Hart, Murray Calloway Library Board member and Norma Johnson, Graves County Library Board member went to the American Library Association meeting in Los Angeles, California. While there, they heard of a method of library financing called Library District Taxation. After returning home, Norma and Jean went to Judge Robert O. Miller to discuss the goal for a new plan of taxation. Judge Miller understood and immediately wrote what became known as KRS 173.490 and, at this writing, is responsible for the maintenance and support of over 100 libraries in Kentucky. The Legislature passed the bill on its first reading, indicating the inters in and support of libraries in the growth of our state.
One more time, the library board and supporters decided to go to the voters using the KRS 173.490 as written by Judge Miller and passed by the State Legislature to fund our library. They planned, printed the petitions, and contacted the interested supporters to meet at the Woman’s Club to plan a strategic method of obtaining the necessary signatures to pass the petition. People came to participate as Jean Blankenship presided over the standing room only crowd on Vine Sreet. She preached her support for a new library. The people heard and went to the community for signature. The required number of signatures necessary was 51% of the registered voters in the preceding election.
In 1967, a tax to support the library was passed by the Petition Law. The rest is history. In 1970 a new library was built and dedicated as move number nine, with an addition added in 1975.
Lochie Hart and Norma Johnson were searching for a way to fund and nurture libraries when they went to that Americana Library meeting in Los Angeles, so let us not forget—Persistence is the key to our struggle with the Library in this community.
It is almost impossible to list those individuals and organizations who helped in this endeavor. Certainly, Margaret Willis played a leading role, and Judge Miller was essential with his help, but the good people of Murray who collected signatures to fulfill the requirements of KRS 173.490 of the Library District Taxation cannot be ignored. They continue as Friends of the Library and offer assistance every day.
The library boards have wisely used the small tax available to them for activities enjoyed by children, and adults, for computer training, books, games, audio-books, interlibrary loans, and now, digital lending. Head librarian Mignon Pittman organizes the staff efficiently to manage the daily requires of the patrons, and Sandy Linn is always at her side to assist.
Anyone passing the library building on Main Street today can surely see that the Calloway County Library is one of the busiest, and most necessary buildings available to our residents.