The Giles County Public Library’s 80th anniversary celebration kicked off this April in conjunction with National Library Month.
The library, as it is today, was founded in 1941 as a gift from Cornelius Abernathy Craig and his wife Maggie, as a way to show appreciation to the community where Mr. Craig was born and raised.
Craig spent his first 28 years in Pulaski, where he ran the Craig Drug Store on the public Square. He met his wife, who was a student at Martin at the time, before moving to Nashville. There, Craig found great success as the head of National Life and Accident Insurance Company, at which point he began considering how to give back to Giles County. After much consideration, he decided on founding a free and public library.
However, the origins of the library predate its existence at the present location.
In response to women loitering on the steps of the Giles County Courthouse, a Women’s Rest Room was established in the Courthouse basement around the turn of the 20th century. In 1924, The Homemakers Club of Giles County established a public library in the space. The organization raised the initial funds of $500 to purchase books by selling tickets to Chautauqua assemblies, which were cultural and entertainment shows popular at the time.
In an era when a library was considered a luxury, the Homemakers Club reported in a 1936 edition of the Citizen, that they were proud to have “contributed to the mental growth and culture in our county.”
The books from the original library were donated to the new building when it opened.
The Giles County Public Library at 122 S. Second St. in Pulaski opened its doors for the first time Jan. 18, 1941. Craig had searched a long while for a suitable location to be home to his new venture. The property on Second Street became available after its owner Mrs. Field Arrowsmith died, and her heir chose to put it up for sale in 1940.
The library was designed by Nashville architects Warfield & Keeble, and built by Nashville contractor Ward Dewitt. The original floorplan was 104 by 40 feet, built in whitewashed brick in a modified colonial design. Iron grillwork from the previous building outlined a terrace.
The Craig family provided the furnishings, and books and periodicals were selected by Dr. Shores, head of the Library School at Nashville’s Peabody College.
Craig named the first Board of Trustees for the new library and deeded it over to them. He established the board so that it would be self-perpetuating and that the terms for board members were for life or until retirement.
“He purchased the land, built the building and furnished it,” Giles County Public Library Director Cindy Nesbitt said. “Then he handed it over to the Board of Trustees.”
The intent was for the city and county to pay for the operating expenses of the then-small library, which at the time was nominal.
“We are still funded by the city and county, which is an unusual thing,” Nesbitt added.
At the time of its founding, the Giles County Public library employed just one librarian. Now, 80 years later, a full staff of employees works to serve the literary needs of the county.
The library’s collection now includes 32,000 books, magazines, DVDs and audio recordings, as well as access to a quarter-million e-books.