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Library History

The Germantown Community Library is fully owned and operated by the City of Germantown. The City subcontracts day-to-day management to Library Systems and Services, Inc. The LSSI staff is guided by policies developed by the Germantown Library Board, composed of seven citizens appointed by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Friends of the Germantown Community Library operates a used book store that is housed in the library.

In 1997, the 31,000 square foot public library opened at 1925 Exeter Road. Prior to 2004, the Memphis Shelby County Public Library and Information Center system operated the library, with the City contributing more than $1 million to improve and enhance the collection, as well as provide maintenance for the facility. On July 12, 2004, after Shelby County government took action to withdraw funding of suburban library operations, the City of Germantown accepted responsibility for financing and managing its library.

The Library - Steeped in a Rich History

For fifty years, a public library has helped bring the world and universe to the people of Germantown. Access to books—to educate, entertain, inspire and expand the minds of young and old—is an integral part of the city's history.

As a small farming community at a fair distance from the eastern city limits of Memphis, Germantown residents in the 1930s and 1940s received library services from a bookmobile operated by the Memphis and Shelby County library board. In the summer, the books were displayed and checked out from a table under the trees....

In 1953, the system discontinued bookmobile visits to outlying communities. The Germantown Woman’s Club, meeting in January 1954, laid plans for a library to serve the 600 citizens of the town, along with residents of the rural area around it. The club sponsored fundraisers, including a book review and tea at town hall. The library opened that summer—fifty years ago—in the old St. George’s Episcopal Chapel, then located on a narrow east-west street south of Germantown Presbyterian Church.

By October, the Germantown Library Association, Inc., was established by charter, signed by 25 members of the Woman’s Club. The Association purchased the chapel in August 1955 for $8,000 with the Woman’s Club taking responsibility for the payments. The collection numbered nearly 3,500 books. Mrs. Pickering and Mrs. McGehee were employed as librarian and librarian assistant, respectively.

The suburban growth movement reached Germantown in the early 1960s. County government advised Germantown officials in 1965 that it was prepared to spend $125,000 to construct a library in Germantown, if the City provided the site. City leaders took the Germantown Civic Club up on its offer in 1966 to sell frontage on Old Poplar Pike for both a library and community center for $9,000.

The first building designed expressly for library services was constructed in 1968 and opened with 13,000 books. The library furnishings in St. George’s Chapel gave way to staging and seating to accommodate the fledgling Germantown Community Theatre. With expansion of the Presbyterian Church in later years, the chapel was moved to the St. George’s Episcopal Church campus on Poplar Avenue.

The town’s population in 1970 exceeded 3,700. Throughout the 1970s, new subdivisions, shopping centers, schools and churches quickly and dramatically changed Germantown’s pastoral landscape of cotton fields, pastures and farms. As the population exploded to more than 20,000 by 1980, so did the demand for municipal services—including a bigger and better library.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen in 1978 committed to inclusion of a 1.25 acre site in the new Municipal Center Park, north of the new city hall site. County government agreed to pay for construction of a 10,000 square foot building, estimated at $550,000 to $590,000. As the county proceeded toward construction, it suggested that the size be increased to 24,000 square feet to accommodate Germantown population growth to 40,000 and that the City cover the additional $150,000 to $200,000 expense for the extra space. Noting that the library was a county project intended to serve not only the city but also the surrounding unincorporated area, the Board declined.

Germantown’s second "new" library opened in 1982 at 1920 Germantown Road South with a collection of 28,500 books filling the shelves. The City of Germantown paid Shelby County the book value for the Poplar Pike library property, to use in conjunction with the Pickering Community Center. Once occupied by Morgan Woods Theatre, the building is the new home for the Regional History and Genealogy Center.

Families continued to flow to Germantown, attracted by the public schools, the controls and restrictions placed on development, the access to quality public services such as parks and playing fields…and the library, which was operated as a branch by the Memphis Shelby County Public Library and Information Center system. In a three-year period toward the end of the 1980s, the facility saw a 41% increase in patrons and a 40% hike in circulation. Recognizing that the collection was inadequate, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in 1991 approved a $10,000 grant for books; two years later, the Board supplemented the system’s purchases with a $100,000 grant.

Germantown’s population reached 34,500 by 1990. Through surveys and other assessments, the City Education Commission identified the inadequacy of the library. In the spring of 1993, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen put a replacement library on its list of priorities. A Library Commission was formed in 1995 to promote and support the project. After extensive negotiation with Shelby County government, a joint funding agreement elicited up to 25% of the cost from the county, with the balance from the City of Germantown.

A gala opening in 1997, introduced today’s 31,000 square foot public library at 1925 Exeter to an eager and appreciative community. The City purchased the old library building north of the Municipal Center and converted it to offices for the Community Development Division.

The Memphis Shelby County Public Library and Information Center system continued to operate the Germantown Community Library. Through direct grants and fundraising, the City contributed more than $1 million to improve and enhance the collection, as well as provide maintenance for the facility. As Shelby County government took action in 2004 to withdraw funding of suburban library operations, the City of Germantown on July 12 accepted responsibility for financing and managing its library.


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