Madisonville sees success in first municipal library building, a century in the making

BY KATE COIL  

TML Communications Specialist


A new library in Madisonville has become a showpiece for the community, has helped double the amount of library users and serves as great industrial recruiting tool for the city.

“We didn’t own our own building nor near the amount of facilities we needed,” Madisonville Mayor Glenn Moser said. “We wanted something larger, more up-to-date and that we had more control of. We now have facilities for community meetings and events. We have expanded the amount of books the library holds. It’s a bigger and more modern space. Any time a new company wants to come into a town, one of their priorities is what kind of library facilities do you have for the public.”

Participation in library programs has also doubled since the new facility opened. 

“The increase in use of the library has been phenomenal,” said J. Alan Johnson, a risk manager for the city of Madisonville who  currently serves as the vice-chair for the Madisonville Library Board. “We used to have to close down the library when we offered programs because there simply wasn’t room to do anything else. We want to provide services to people in the community, not just as a reference point for information but also as a place for classes to be taught and people to meet.”

Johnson said the city had been renting facilities to house its library since 1915 – 11 facilities in all.

“The library started out in a store downtown in 1915,” Johnson said. “It was started by 18 women who belonged to the Madisonville Town Club, later the Madisonville Women’s Club. When they started the library, it had 18 books. The library moved a couple of years later from the store to the basement of the courthouse. However, the courthouse basement had a dirt floor so they raised $100 to put concrete down for the floor.”

Despite putting in funds to improve the facility, the Madisonville Library wouldn’t remain in the county courthouse for long. In addition to a local store and the county courthouse, Johnson said the library has been housed in several buildings including the county health department offices, city hall, the former Southern Bell Telephone building, and a strip mall.  It was in 2015 that city and library officials decided it was time to give the library a permanent home and sought the backing of the community to make it happen. 

“The building and its appearance wasn’t conducive to people coming to it and using it,” Johnson said. “The city of Madisonville really needed some place to show off. We are very proud of our town.”

Mayor Moser said the city borrowed $1.5 million on a 25-year loan through the Tennessee Municipal Bond Fund.  Fundraising on the local level allowed the community to pay off nearly half of what they borrowed before the groundbreaking of the new library facility. 

“The building itself cost $1,127,000 plus all of the furnishings,” he said. “The friends of the library raised more than $600,000 to go toward the new building and all of the new furniture. We only ended up with a $662,000 note on a $1,127,000 cost.”

Construction on the facility began in October 2015 and was finished in July 2016. The 6,200-square-foot structure overlooks the city’s Houston Park Johnson said the new facility was able to provide Madisonville citizens with a larger children’s area that includes an outdoor facility overlooking Houston Park, a room for the summer reading program, a larger public computer lab, a separate computer lab for children, a community room, and multiple restrooms rather than the single one available at the previous location. 

The library also hosts art classes, monthly career coach visits, book discussion meetings, iPad classes, weekly book sale, local art displays, and community events for local churches, schools and organizations.