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Putnam County Library Honors the Book Lovers Club

           Sometimes we have to look at where we’ve been to appreciate where we are. We readers know the Putnam County Library well and that there are four branches.  Cookeville is my home branch and one of my ‘happy places.’ The calm and quiet.  The welcome by those who stand behind the check-out counter.  The chairs that invite me to sit and stay.  The many books that I can bring home.

            I remind myself that the library’s books, audio recordings, videos, and outreach programs began with a small home library and a few women who were brought together by their passions for reading.  In 1922, twelve women formed The Book Lovers Club, a literary club, and they met monthly in each other’s homes to talk about the books they had read. 

In 1923, Clara Cox Epperson, club president, suggested that each member contribute $1.15 to purchase books to begin a circulating library and place them in Miss Laura Copeland’s home, known as the Rose Cottage.  Adults who borrowed books paid one dollar a year.

            To buy books for the library, Book Lovers Club members raised money by sponsoring talent shows, lectures, and movies.  They hosted fund-raising teas and bridge parties and asked for donations.  Club members volunteered weekly at the Rose Cottage to check out books, and the Book Lovers Club paid Miss Copeland’s light and water bill to use her home.

 By 1929, the library had a thousand books.  In 1938 when the collection reached more than 3,000 volumes, James Cox provided a room in the Herald building on the courthouse square, and the Book Lovers Club named the library the Clara Cox Epperson Library. In 1939, the club library consolidated with the Putnam County Board of Education’s library to create the first public financed library in our county. Currently, the library is financially supported by county and city governments.

Through the years the Clara Cox Epperson Library, the Cookeville branch, has moved to several locations and branches in Algood, Baxter, and Monterey have opened.  The Putnam County Library annual fiscal report ending June, 2022, shows the circulation of 240,109 print and digital materials, and there are 54,581 books on the library shelves.  

All because 12 women saw the need for a lending library and worked to make books available for others.  The Book Lovers Club expanded to thirty members, a number that members’ homes could accommodate, and continues to donate to the Putnam County Library.

On Saturday, August 27th, at 6:30 p.m., the Cookeville library will present a Reader’s Theatre event to honor the 100th anniversary of Book Lovers Club. Refreshments will be served and local community members will read aloud to bring books to life.  Registration is required: email events@PCLibrary.org

The object of Book Lovers Club remains as written in 1922:  mutual improvement, culture, and helpfulness.  I appreciate the twelve women who came together to share books and carried their love of books to everyone in our community. 

And I’m thankful for our public library.