This History of Public Library Service in Durham, 1897-1997 by Jessica Harland-Jacobs


1. Durham prospered because of the national demand for Durham's distinctive bright-leaf tobacco and increasing popularity of smoking tobacco (especially in the form of cigarettes) in the later decades of the nineteenth century. Sydney Nathans, The Quest for Progress: The Way We Lived in North Carolina, 1870-1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983,) 2.

2. Nathans, 80.

3. Dubois quoted in William K. Boyd, The Story of Durham: City of the New South (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1925), 277.

4. Jean Bradley Anderson, Durham County (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1990), 138.

5. Boyd, 166. Durham made its bid in 1888.

6. Celestia Southgate, daughter of prominent citizen and insurance salesman James Southgate, had laid the groundwork for Durham's conservatory when she established the Durham School of Music in 1886.

7. The idea for a public library was not entirely new in Durham; other organizations had considered the idea and Main Street Methodist Church had established a reading room open evenings and free to the public in 1894. See Anderson, 202.

8. After putting Bull Durham tobacco on the map through aggressive advertising, Carr diversified into some of tobacco's satellite industries, including cotton, banking, and electricity; he also started the Golden Belt Manufacturing Company.

9. Carr quoted in Mena Webb, Jule Carr: General without an Army (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987) 157-8. Carr also indicated his support to the library in a letter to the local newspaper. See Walter M. High, A History of the Durham Public Library, 1895-1940 (Master's thesis, University of North Carolina, 1976), 7.

10. Meeting of the Board of Aldermen, 20 April 1896, Town of Durham Records, Book G, 12/4/1894-3/21/1898, 216.

11. The original members of the Board of Trustees were Julian S. Carr, George W. Watts, Edward J. Parrish, Thomas B. Fuller, Robert W. Winston, L.B. Turnbull, James H. Southgate, Clinton W. Toms, Jonathan F. Wiley, Howard A. Foushee, Edwin Mims, and H. H. Markham.

12. Board of Lady Managers meeting minutes, 4 and 13 May 1896, Box 1, Durham County Library Archives (hereafter cited as DCL Archives). Original members of the Board of Lady Managers were: the wives of B. L. Duke, B. N. Duke, L. L. Morehead, A. G. Carr, L. A. Carr, J. A. Robinson, T. D. Jones, W. H. Branson, W. E. Lloyd; Bessie Leak, Lalla Ruth Carr, and Cora Tyree. See Nathans, The Lowdown on Uplift: Public Libraries and Democratic Culture, 1890-1920, paper presented at the Linder Humanities Lecture Series, Durham County Library, 16 September 1997. On the historical role of women in library organization, see Anne Firor Scott, Women and Libraries, in Donald G. Davis (ed), Libraries, Books & Culture (Austin: Graduate School of Library and Information Science, 1986).

13. An act to incorporate the Durham Public Library, 5 March 1897, Private Laws of the State of North Carolina Passed By the General Assembly at its Session of 1897 (Winston: M. I. & J. C. Stewart, 1897), 196.

14. Much to Durham's chagrin, the Baptists had selected Raleigh for their female university. Though the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce had secured the university, it could not raise sufficient funds to open a public library until 1901. Valentine, Steel, Cotton, and Tobacco: Philanthropy and Public Libraries in North Carolina, 1900-1940, Libraries & Culture 31 (Spring 1996): 274.

15. Meeting of the Board of Aldermen, 17 January 1898, Town of Durham Records, Book G, 12/4/1894-3/21/1898, 568-570.

16. Durham Daily Sun, 11 February 1898.

17. Valentine, Steel, Cotton, and Tobacco, 272; High, 6; Nathans, The Lowdown on Uplift.

18. Some sources claim that Durham's library was the first in the entire Southeast. See Mary Edna Anders, The Development of Public Library Service in the Southeastern States, 1895-1950, (Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1958).

19. Board of Lady Managers meeting minutes, 4 May 1898 - February 1909, Box 1, DCL Archives.

20. Board of Lady Managers meeting minutes, 4 May 1898 - February 1909, Box 1, DCL Archives; Annual Report, 1936.

21. Circular letter from the Board of Lady Managers, 5 March 1906, Scrapbook 1, DCL Archives. They also sought an increase from the city in its appropriation at this point as well as a raise for the librarian.

22. Field agent quoted in Valentine, The Spread of Public Libraries: The Community of the Book in North Carolina, 1900-1960, North Carolina Libraries 54 (September 1996), 113.

23. Nathans, The Lowdown on Uplift.

24. High, 24.

25. Unidentified article, 11 May 1908, Scrapbook 1, DCL Archives.

26. Nathans, The Lowdown on Uplift.

27. Memoirs of Lillian Baker Griggs (hereafter cited as Griggs Memoirs), Duke University Archives, 49. The Board at the time included several of Durham most successful businessmen--Carr, Thomas Fuller, Clinton Toms, and James Southgate--as well as the mayor, the city and county superintendents of schools, a minister, a lawyer, and a banker.

28. High, 28. By 1914, Griggs would start providing evening hours (from 7:30 to 9:30) at the main library for those who worked during the day. In 1915, she started referring to the station as the Welfare Club Branch Library, since it had a permanent collection of 100 books. See Annual Reports, 1914 and 1915.

29. Annual Report, 1913. Griggs was referring to Horatio Alger. She offered story hours at the Pearl Mill Lyceum and the Welfare Club first, and then at Lowes Grove and Edgemont.

30. In fact, she felt that people in the country had more of an appreciation for the best books of the best types. In her opinion, Their close and familiar contact with nature gives them a greater power of interpretation for the really great literature. Griggs, Rural Library Extension, North Carolina Library Bulletin 2 (March 1915): 95.

31. She started lending books to county residents without authorization from the Board of Trustees. One year she prepared a float for the parade at the State Fair.

32. See Fuller to Bertram, 16 December 1916, Board of Trustees Correspondence, Box 1, DCL Archives.

33. As Dubois explained it: I consider the greatest factor in Durham's development to have been the disposition of Durham to say 'Hands off--give them a chance--don't interfere.' Dubois quoted in Anderson, 222.

34. Lyda Merrick quoted in Emily Herring Wilson, Hope and Dignity: Older Black Women of the South (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1983), 72.

35. Circular letter from Moore, J. M. Avery, M. T. Norfleet, and Wooten, 15 December 1916, reprinted in The Stanford L. Warren Public Library (brochure, 1948), Box 31, DCL Archives.

36. See Brooks, 32.

37. Wooten moved into the second floor of the library, from where she could monitor both the library and her sick mother. Talk by Selena Warren Wheeler at the meeting of the Historic Preservation Society, 1987.

38. Circular letter from Moore, J. M. Avery, M. T. Norfleet, and Hattie B. Wooten, 18 December 1916.

39. Annual Report, 1917. Members of the first Board of Trustees were: Moore, John M. Avery, M. T. Norfleet, Charles C. Spaulding, Mrs. S. V. Norfleet, E. D. Mickle, Stanford L. Warren, William G. Pearson, and J. A. Dyer.

40. Annual Report, 1917; Young, 34.

41. Annual Report, 1917.

42. Annual Report, 1917. Emphasis in original.

43. Anderson, 320. Carr even offered $2500 to expand the existing building, in order to prevent his town from begging Carnegie for money. See Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 22 June and 11 December 1916, Box 1, DCL Archives.

44. Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 6 July 1921, Box 1, DCL Archives.

45. Nathans, The Lowdown on Uplift.

46. Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 6 July 1921, Box 1, DCL Archives.

47. Griggs to Tilton, 9 July 1921, Scrapbook 1, DCL Archives.

48. High, 39.

49. Crawford, County Service in Durham, NC, North Carolina Library Bulletin 5 (June 1924): 204.

50. Anderson, 286. After serving as director of the North Carolina Library Commission, Griggs went onto become librarian of the Woman's College at Duke University from 1930 to 1949.

51. University of North Carolina Newsletter 41 (December 1955).

52. Crawford also spent time studying library science at the University of California, Berkeley, and Oxford, England.

53. Durham Herald, 5 January 1947.

54. Crawford quoted in High, 41.

55. Durham Herald, 19 March 1926; High, 41.

56. Durham Herald, 6 March 1927.

57. Annual Report, 1926.

58. Beverly Washington Jones, Stanford L. Warren Branch Library: 77 Years of Public Service. (Durham: Durham County Library, 1990), 22.

59. Stanford L. Warren Library, Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 7 January 1925, Stanford L. Warren Branch Library Archives (hereafter cited as SLW Archives).

60. Chairman of budget committee to R. W. Rigsby, 17 May 1928, Scrapbook 1, DCL Archives; Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 26 July 1929, Box 1, DCL Archives.

61. Crawford to George Watts Hill, 30 May 1930, Scrapbook 1, DCL Archives.

62. Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 24 October 1929, 7 January 1930, 8 July 1930, Box 1, DCL Archives.

63. An insatiable gatherer of statistics, Crawford presented a profile of the library's readers--children, juveniles, people who worked with their hands, brainworkers, and homemakers--and concluded that the library was primarily an agency for recreation, though brainworkers did use it to improve their educational qualifications. Annual Reports, 1931, 1932, and 1933.

64. Annual Report, 1936.

65. Unidentified article, 16 August 1935, Scrapbook 1, DCL Archives.

66. Unidentified clipping, 24 July 1936, Scrapbook 1, DCL Archives. It reached the point that the Board decided the water problem was a positive menace to the users of the library and held urgent consultations with the City Council. Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 3 August 1936, Box 1, DCL Archives.

67. The WPA had already assisted the library by providing workers. One WPA worker, Pearl Hall, who started in 1934, remained as a library employee for fifty-one years.

68. Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 11 May 1937 and 18 November 1938, Box 1, DCL Archives.

69. Minutes from Library Committee of the Literary Clubs, 19 February 1937, Scrapbook 1, DCL Archives. As a quid pro quo Crawford agreed to help the clubs by purchasing books they requested.

70. City and county officials did agree to appropriate funds for a new bookmobile in 1937.

71. North Carolina Library Bulletin 7 (September 1929).

72. See letters from John H. Wheeler to Crawford, 1 March 1932 in Stanford L. Warren Library, Board of Trustees meeting minutes, SLW Archives and 5 December 1933, Scrapbook 1, DCL Archives.

73. The Board had applied unsuccessfully to the Duke Foundation for a grant to build the new library. See Stanford L. Warren Library, Board of Trustees meeting, minutes, 13 November 1935 and 31 January 1936, SLW Archives.

74. The collection was named the Selena Warren Wheeler Collection in 1990 to honor her contributions.

75. The library again relied on the assistance of the County Farm Agent (J. C. Hubbard) to deliver books.

76. State aid was the culmination of the Citizens Library Movement, a campaign begun in 1927 to secure state funding for libraries. In 1941, the General Assembly passed an annual appropriation of $100,000 to improve, stimulate, increase and equalize public library service to the people of the whole state. During the initial year, most of the funds were allocated for national defense projects, but both libraries did receive assistance for general operations, including personnel and bookmobiles. The African American library received one-third of Durham's share of state aid. See University of North Carolina Newsletter 41 (14 Dec 1955) and Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 19 June 1941, Box 1, DCL Library.

77. Ruth V. Everett to Crawford, 26 August 1942 and 31 August 1942, Scrapbook 2, DCL Archives.

78. Unidentified clipping, 22 April 1945, Scrapbook 2, DCL Archives.

79. Annual Reports, 1939 and 1941-1945; Durham Sun, 27 August 1945, Scrapbook 2, DCL Archives.

80. Report by the Sub-Committee on Post War Plans for the Library, Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 27 Mar 1945, Box 1, DCL Archives; Annual Report, 1941-1945.

81. Wheeler remained on the Stanford L. Warren Board of Trustees until 1966 and then served on the Durham County Library Board of Trustees from 1978 to 1985.

82. Jones, 35-36.

83. A graduate of Morehouse College and North Carolina Central University, Wheeler joined Mechanics and Farmers Bank at a young age, became president in 1952, and held the position until 1978. From the forties he was instrumental in the movement to desegregate Durham's public schools. Throughout his life he served the community in many capacities, advocated the rights of African Americans and in 1975 became chairman of the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs. Wheeler also served as vice chairman of the Durham City-County Library Board from 1966 to 1978. Durham Herald, 7 July 1978.

84. Adult Education Board of the ALA to librarians, 19 January 1939, ALA Correspondence, Box 25, DCL Archives.

85. Special Adult Series [brochure], 28 March 1955, SLW Library History, Box 31, DCL Archives. Another program of this period was the American Heritage Program.

86. Lyda Merrick and her husband provided the startup funds for the magazine and financed it for many years. Constance and Charles Watts Oral History, 28 October 1997.

87. There was a corresponding Teen Corner, which had actually begun in 1945, to stir teenagers' interest in books and offer various programs.

88. Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 13 March 1951, Box 1, DCL Archives.

89. Henry B. Lewis to Crawford, 5 October 1956, Board of Trustees Correspondence, 1951-1960, Box 1, DCL Archives.

90. M. B. Fowler and Crawford to C. R. Wood, 12 February 1955, Board of Trustees Correspondence, 1951-1960, Box 1, DCL Archives.

91. Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 9 February 1955, Box 1, DCL Archives.

92. Residents raised $2700 dollars to pay for the land. Many years later, when discussions were underway to build a branch in North Durham in 1978, the Bragtown community would again rally, this time to protest the proposed closing of the branch. They appeared before the County Commissioners and made the case that the library served as a central community center. The Commissioners agreed to keep the branch open. See Durham Sun, 4 December 1978.

93. George Linder quoted in the Durham Herald, 16 April 1967.

94. Resolution of the Board of Trustees, 1959, Scrapbook 2, DCL Archives.

95. Anderson, 398.

96. Anderson, 408.

97. Public library standards suggested a per capita library expenditure of $3.49; Stanford L. Warren spent $1.55 per capita and the Durham Public Library $1.12.

98. Emerson Greenaway, Library Service in Durham--A Look to the Future (Durham, NC, 1963).

99. A. S. Galbraith to Wense Grabarek, 4 June 1964, Scrapbook 2, DCL Archives.

100. Dale Gaddis Oral History, 20 October 1997.

101. See unidentified articles in Scrapbook 2, DCL Archives, and Durham Sun, 1 and 2 June 1964.

102. Jones, 49. The Durham Committee on Negro Affairs (later called the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People) adopted this approach--making certain a series of conditions were met before proceeding to agree to mergers--in other instances of institutional integration. See Watts Oral History, 28 October 1997.

103. Another proposal made and rejected in 1966 was to build an extensive downtown complex with a library, restaurant, theater, and parking facility. Durham Sun, 5 November 1966.

104. Friends of the Library, Box 30, DCL Archives; see also letters in Scrapbook No. 3, DCL Archives.

105. Durham Sun, 14 February 1968; Bylaws of the Durham County Library Association, DCLA, Box 24, DCL Archives.

106. Durham Sun, 19 February 1968; see also Durham Sun, 4 March 1968.

107. There were 6588 votes against, 5035 votes in favor; Durham Sun, 5 March 1968.

108. Durham Herald, 31 January 1968; Durham Sun, 6 March 1968.

109. While the Board thought the renovations would cost $2.75 million, the commissioners estimated $1.5 million. Durham Sun, 5 September 1972; memo, 27 February 1972, County of Durham Correspondence, Box 24, DCL Archives; Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 28 February, 6 March, and 11 September 1972, Box 2, DCL Archives.

110. For terms of the deal, which involved the transfer of revenues from ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) stores, see undated clipping from Durham Herald, City of Durham, Box 24, DCL Archives.

111. Durham Herald, 3 November 1974.

112. Staff of the Durham County Library, The Durham County Library and Its Community (Durham, 1979), 108.

113. As a result of the improvement in the salary situation, the unionization movement was short lived. Durham Herald, 11 May 1973; Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 30 April 1973 and 17 May 1974, Box 2, DCL Archives. See Tommie Dora Barker to Griggs, 18 January 1921, Scrapbook 1, DCL Archives. The Board of Lady Managers had tried to improve the salary situation in 1905. Board of Lady Managers meeting minutes, May 1905, Box 1, DCL Archives. Linder to the City Council, 15 July 1968, Budget, 1967-1972, Box 6, DCL Archives.

114. Linder quotes in the Durham Herald, 29 April and 1 May 1975.

115. Durham County Library and its Community, 109.

116. The library had secured a new bookmobile in 1970. The program for the elderly was originally funded through grants and eventually headquartered at the Senior Citizens Memorial Center in Oldham Towers (1973), Durham Herald, 2 September 1976.

117. According to Linder, this project was the first cooperative program between a department of library science at a university and a public library in the state. Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 30 April 1973, Box 2, DCL Archives.

118. The extension of services in one area required consolidation in others. During the early seventies, the branch at the John Avery Boys Club was downgraded to a deposit station and the Y. E. Smith Branch closed due to lack of use.

119. Jones, 72; see also Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 3 February 1969 and 25 October 1971, Box 2, DCL Archives. Members of the management board were Josephine Clement, Constance Watts, John Washington, W. E. Bennett, Lyda Merrick. In 1971 the magazine had 375 regular subscribers in ten countries. The name of the magazine was changed to the Merrick-Washington Magazine for the Blind in 1981.

120. Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 28 February and 8 May 1972, Box 2, DCL Archives.

121. Among the groups that participated were: Carolina Action, Tobaccoland Kiwanis, American Association of Retired Persons, Association of Students of Duke University, Downtown Revitalization Foundation, Pilgrim United Church of Christ, Durham Preservation Society, Chamber of Commerce, the NAACP, League of Women Voters, NCCU, Jaycettes, Durham Technical Institute, Durham Voters Alliance, and the Durham Council of Garden Clubs. See Durham Herald, 27 and 28 February 1976.

122. The land is bounded by Holloway, Roxboro, Liberty, and Dillard Streets.

123. See Linder's comments in the Durham Herald, 30 May 1976. The advocacy group was called the Coalition In Action for a New Durham Library System.

124. Durham Herald, 18 March 1980.

125. Currently, the North Carolina Collection is comprised of 15,000 volumes concerning North Carolina, including fiction and non-fiction, with an emphasis on history. The North Carolina Room also houses collections of clippings and pamphlets, Durham newspapers on microfilm, Durham photographic archives, and materials for genealogical research.

126. Dedication of the Benjamin E. Powell Memorial Room, 13 May 1982, Director's Files, DCL.

127. Stanford L. Warren Branch Library Study Report and Recommendations, April 1984.

128. Watts and Gaddis Oral Histories.

129. Stanford L. Warren Branch Library Study Report and Recommendations.

130. The report recommended more story hours, increased contact with parents and teachers, rejuvenation of summer reading clubs and the Reading Is Fundamental program, establishment of a homework center and hotline, and general improvements to the children's department as a whole.

131. Renovations included enlarging the children's area, improving the bathrooms, replacing the heating and air conditioning systems as well as the windows, and extensive improvements to the exterior, including a ramp for handicapped patrons and a new sign.

132. Projects, Box 27, DCL Archives.

133. The fundraising effort for the bookmobile in 1995 was a community-wide effort. As had been the case in the past, the Kiwanis Club and other civic organizations and individuals made contributions. But the library's supporters also raised $3300 through bake sales and $8500, through Trike-A-Thons--dozens of children rode tricycles in circles around the bookmobile and received pledges for their laps.

134. A Plan for Service, 1990-1995, 6.

135. Durham Herald-Sun, 21 November 1991 and 3 October 1992; Gaddis Oral History.