Belmont Needed A Public Library

In this era of the Internet, finding the information you need is usually just a few keystrokes away on your search engine of choice. If you want to read the latest Gastonia Gazette or Charlotte Observer without a subscription to the physical paper, all you have to do is open your browser and go to the website of those papers, and you have instant access to the latest news. But, there was a time when the information for your school project, books, and other information was only available at your local library, college libraries, or the ultimate United States Library, the Library of Congress. If you have lived in Belmont, you have probably passed the Belmont Branch of the Gaston County Public Library System on Central Avenue, but that was not the original location nor has Belmont, in its 122-year existence, always had a library. In 2017, it would seem preposterous for a city to not have a public library for the community to use for research and school projects, but for Belmont, that was the case until 1937.

In 1937, a committee of Belmont citizens formed to charter a new public library. Members of the committee believed the burgeoning city and its residents needed access to books, periodicals, and local newspapers.  Subscriptions to publications were expensive and during the heart of the Great Depression most local businessman could not afford subscriptions to magazines like the “Wall Street Journal” or “Forbes” Magazine. The committee chairman was the long-serving pastor of the First Baptist Church, Reverend R. A. Kelly and the rest of the panel included Dr. J. M. Pressly, Miss Melibel Crawford, W. M. Hall, and representatives from various civic organization worked to open the library. The library was provided a monthly stipend of forty dollars by Belmont’s city government. Of that forty dollars, twenty-five was allocated to compensate the librarian, and the remaining fifteen dollars was expected to handle the library’s incidental expenses.

Belmont Women's Club Building

The Women’s Club building became Belmont’s first public library building.
Photo Credit: Allen Millican of the Millican Pictorial History Museum

On November 10, 1937, the Belmont Banner, a fledgling newspaper, announced the opening of the public library on Monday, November 8, 1937, with the following article:

Belmont Public Library opened its doors to the public Monday morning at 8:30 at the Woman’s Club building with Miss Inez Perkins as librarian.

For some time the committee on the site and librarian have been working to get a suitable place in order to serve the most people here. The Woman’s Club has given the building, exclusively, for the use of the library with the exception of Thursday at which time the Kiwanis Club uses the building.

Miss Perkins, the librarian in charge, stated that the library would be open to the people for the other five days a week from 8:30 until five in the afternoon.

The bookmobile scheduled to come to Belmont on Thursday of each week will probably come on Wednesday or Friday as the Library will not open on Thursday, according to Miss Perkins. Arrangements have been made for the book truck to make the first trip here Friday at 2 p. m.

The people here are invited to be present and see the new book truck and get books.

Request has been made by the library officials for all people who have good books in the home that are not being used to be given the library, so that the other people of town may read them.

Anyone desiring good reading material may find it at the library after the first visit of the bookmobile.

On November 17, 1937, the Belmont Banner contained an article written Reverend Kelly announced the needs and goals that the library committee had set forth to open Belmont’s public library.

On Monday morning Nov. 8, at 8:30 the Belmont Public Library was opened, with the new librarian, Miss Inez Perkins, in charge. The generosity and graciousness of the Belmont Woman’s Club makes it possible for our town to have a splendid place in which to operate this latest asset added to the life of the Belmont public. Their club house was offered by these ladies, rent-free every day except Thursday, to the Library Board; this offer has been accepted by the Board, and, as chairman of this board I desire to publicly thank the Woman’s Club for making this splendid and well-located building available to us free of charge.

Two members of the Library Board, Dr. J. M. Pressley, and Miss Melibel Crawford have been appointed to act with the chairman as a steering committee to conduct the affairs of the library.

On Friday afternoon of this week the new Bookmobile of Gaston county will be at our library at 2 o’clock, and all who are interested in seeing it and securing books are invited to be present.

I would like to call the attention of the reading public to the fact that those who expect to make use of our public library should at the earliest possible opportunity stop by and secure a card from the librarian. There is no charge for this card, but it will be necessary before a book may be secured from the library. Those asking for membership cards should be prepared to give one reference of some good citizen who will vouch for them.

Our new Public Library is being financed by the town, $25 a month being allowed with which to compensate the librarian, and $15 a month for incidental expenses such as fuel, janitor, library supplies, etc. We are grateful that our town council has cooperated so promptly and splendidly with us and we thank them for it. We are hoping that this new community project will have the whole-hearted encouragement and support of every individual and organization in our city.

To begin with, we will have a very limited number of books that belong to our own library, but, through the facilities of the Bookmobile we will have access to all of the excellent books in the county library. We do not plan to encourage book-showers, but request that those who desire to help with donations will do so by giving cash. We have no censorship committee, and will buy books as money becomes available that are recommended by the American Library Association. The Woman’s Club has had a library in operation for some time, and it is generously donating what books and magazines it has accumulated to our new Public Library.

The Library Board of Belmont is composed of representatives of the following organizations: Kiwanis  Club, Town Council, Legion Auxiliary, Woman’s Club, American Legion, Book Club, Rotary Club, and the Parent-Teacher Association. Other organizations in our community that desire to participate in the support and encouragement of our library are entitled to representation on this board.

We are deeply grateful for the fine cooperation already manifested and we earnestly urge that every person in Belmont will help to make the Belmont Public Library a vital and helpful institution in our city.

R. A. Kelly, Chairman
Belmont Public Library Board

Through its early months, the Belmont Public Library quickly became an institution that every citizen supported with donations of books, subscriptions, and other reading materials not easily procured during the dark days of the Great Depression. The library would continue to grow and thrive during its first year, and when the anniversary approached, the Belmont Banner was there to tout its success. From November 2, 1932, the following article announces the first anniversary and also lists some of the books available from the library at the time.

The Belmont Public Library will celebrate its first anniversary some time this month. Much has been accomplished in such a short time. At a meeting of the directors of the Library on Tuesday afternoon of this week it was reported by the Librarian, Miss Inez Perkins, that the month of October had been the best of the entire year. The attendance for the month of October was: Juvenile, 540; adult, 934; total 1,474. This ia quite an improvement over September with an attendance of 946, which was considered one of the best months up to that time. The number of books circulated during October were: Juvenile, 446; adult, 794; total, 1,240 as compared to 854 for September. Two hundred and ninety new members were added to the Library during the month, making a total of 991.During the month there was a total of 75 books added to the Library making a total of 367. A list of the new books and their donors will be given below.The table books have become a great favorite with the children . There were 83 read during the month. This table for children is changed every two weeks.

The following books were given by Mrs. J. C. Mason:

  • The Wild Cat — Wiley.
  • The Watcher By the Threshold — Buchan.
  • What’s the World Coming To — Hughes.
  • The Way Out — Hughes.
  • Judith of the Golden Valley — Willsie.
  • The Duke of Chimney Butts — Ogden.
  • Their Yesterdays — Wright.
  • Foul Play, Reade.
  • A Simpiete, Reade.
  • Love Me Little, Love Me Long, Reade.
  • A Terrible Temptation, Reade.
  • The Cloister and the Hearth, Parts I and II, Reade.
  • Griffith Grunt, Reade.
  • Peg Woffington, Reade.
  • Never Too Late to Mend, Parts I and II, Reade.
  • Put Yourself in His Place, Parts I and II, Reade.
  • Hard Cash, Parts I and II, Reade.
  • Course of True Love, Reade.

Tahara, Boy Mystic of India, by Sherman was donated by Jack Cobb and Rover Boys on the River, by Winfield was donated by Steve Bledsoe.

There were 29 books repaired and made ready for circulation. These are:

  • St. Elmo — Evans.
  • Gloria, A Girl and Her Dad — Garis.
  • Soul of Ann Rutledge — Babcock.
  • Our Dancing Daughters — Van Duzezr.
  • Then I’ll Come Back to You — Evans.
  • Just Patty — Webster.
  • Treasure Island – Stevenson.
  • Leader of the Great War — Rowell.
  • When Patty Went to College — Webster.
  • Betty Zane — Grey.
  • Janice Merideth — Ford.
  • Daddy Long Legs — Webster.
  • Dear Enemy — Webster.
  • Beverly of Graustark — McCutchean.
  • Little Prudy’s Sister Susy — May.
  • Mayflower — Stowe.
  • Alimony — Baldwin.
  • Children of the Abbey — Roche.
  • Miss Tinerton Goes Out — Babbs.
  • Little Colonel at Boarding School — Johnston.
  • Advancing South — Mims.
  • King Arthur and His Knights — MacLeod.
  • The Understanding Heart — Kyne.
  • Bobbsey Twins on Biueberry Island and Bobbsey Twins at the Seashore — Hope.
  • Heidi — Spyri.
  • The Old Countess — Sedgewick.
  • Gideon — Irvin.

Since the library opened, it has provided generations of Belmont citizens the ability to procure the reading and research material they needed to improve their lives. Again, Belmont’s leading citizens saw a need and instead of letting someone else do it, they worked to provide this service to everyone in the community. Remember as you are clicking your favorite search engine that doing research and procuring reading material used to require a trip to your local library. Even today, libraries contain research material that is not available from any other source and as a historian, I use them on a regular basis to find the information I need to fill research gaps and verify my premises on certain periods or incidents. Finally, “The Voyagers” television program featured time travelers repairing errors in history finished their 1980’s episodes with the tag, “If you would like to learn more about [famous episodic topics], take a voyage down to your public library.” and I would encourage you to visit our local library which will turn eighty this year.

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