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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.


Be A Library Friend

Are you a friend of the library?  Not just someone who likes the library, but a member of the Putnam County Library Friends organization?

            Library Friends is a large group of people, some who generously give their time and money and many whose only support is through membership dues.  Its purposes include connecting people who are interested in libraries and raising public awareness of libraries.  It works with the library staff to provide programs and services.

            October 18-24 is National Friends of Library Week, a time for public libraries to show appreciation to Library Friends, a time to make more people aware of this organization, and to encourage membership.  When I received the recent bi-annual copy of Book reMarks, published by Putnam County Library Friends, I put it aside until I could sit a bit, with a cup of hot tea, and read this eight-page newsletter. 

            This edition tells about the current library services, some are limited due to COVID-19.  It includes pictures and articles about recent library renovations and the success of the summer reading program for children, teens, and adults.  The article that most interested me told about Open Books, Open Doors, a partnership between Putnam County Schools and the library. Librarians are visiting 7th grade Language Arts classes in all four Putnam County Schools to enrich the students’ experiences in oral storytelling, comic arts, and virtual book borrowing.  Last year through this program, many students received their first library cards.

            I reread that sentence.  These 7th graders, who are 12 years old, got their first library cards.  I thought of my young Grands and how proud they were when they were 5 years old and showed me their cards.  “Look, I can get my own books!” Micah said last year.  Having their own library cards, children are likely to choose more books and want to hear and read those books.  I’m glad our community’s school system and public library work together to encourage middle-school students to use the library.  

            Perhaps Library Friends is best known for its monthly used book sale, and unfortunately, it has not been open during recent months.  I have a stack of books to donate when the sale re-opens, and every time I have gone to the sale I leave with an armload of books for just a few dollars. 

            By being a member of Library Friends, I put my money where my mouth is.  Children, and adults, learn by reading.  It’s true that children learn to read, and then they read to learn, as well as for enjoyment.  I want public libraries to be around forever.  The library offers more than printed books, such as public computer use, online printed and audio books, and meeting rooms.  Check out the Putnam County Library website and Face Book page.

            The Friends’ mission is to promote literacy in all its forms, to facilitate equitable access to information, and to encourage lifelong learning and a love for reading. Membership is available to any person, corporation, or organization that shares this mission. You can join online at https://pclibrary.org/membership%20form%202016.pdf.

Sign Up Now!

Almost every week, he went to the Putnam County Library.  As an infant in a sling across his mother’s body, then as a toddler he rode in a stroller, and later he walked and held hands.  His older brother and sisters showed their library cards and carried home armloads of books.  His mother helped him choose a few books. 

            And then Micah turned 5.  It was finally his turn to his sign his name and promise to take care of the books checked out on his very own card.  What a celebration!  His name on a plastic card meant he took home 20 books for two weeks.  When he returned them, he could get 20 different books. 

            September is Library Card Sign-Up Month, and the American Library Association and the Putnam County Library remind parents that the most important school supply is a library card.  Because a public library has always been part of my life, I can’t imagine not having access to the many books and resources that fill library shelves.     

            Any child age 5 or older can apply for a card at the Putnam County Library.  The child must be accompanied by a parent or guardian who signs the application and who can show a valid photo ID and proof of residency. There is no charge for library cards to Putnam County residents.  An out-of-county adult pays a $10 fee, but a child who lives out of county can have a free card.

            I’m reminded of a conversation with a retired librarian.  She and I stood opposite each other holding a metal bar, both doing leg lifts as part of physical therapy for knee replacements.  Her whisper voice, her kind eyes, and her short statue helped me immediately place her behind the counter of the Putnam County Library.  She wouldn’t know me, I thought.

            “I remember you from the library when I took my children, many years ago.  Thank you for helping us find books,” I said.

            “I remember you,” she said.  “You had a girl and a boy and they brought their books back on time and they were quiet.”  Oh, I was thankful that’s the way she remembered my children.  We reminisced about the days when a visit to the library was to only check out books.  “There’s much more at the library now.  Computers, magazines, movies, music,” she said.

We talked about the many clubs and special programs available at the library.  “There’s a summer reading program for kids that my grandchildren like.” I said. “And young kids don’t need a library card to go to weekly story time and preschool craft time.”

            “You’ve got to get kids to the library young so it becomes a habit,” she said.  “I wish everybody would take their children to the library.  Then read books to them at home, too.”  I agreed.

            And I wish every child felt the excitement my young Grand did when he held his library card for the first time and his feeling of pride every time he carries home his stack of books.