“It is a sad commentary that a city of schools such as Murfreesboro, a city supposedly of education, knowledge, culture and breeding, should have no public library” began Rutherford Courier Editor, Robert Lasseter’s column on January 27, 1942. His efforts were instrumental in the creation of the library system that we know today. Henry T. Linebaugh, a Florida resident and Murfreesboro native, read the column and was inspired to make a $5000 donation toward the creation of a public library in his hometown. His only stipulation was that it be named for his mother, Mattie V. Linebaugh. The Linebaugh Public Library was established in the winter of 1947 and formally opened on April 1, 1948 in the old Hale Home at Central Memorial Park with Myla Parsons as librarian.
Figure 1. The library at Central Memorial Park in 1948.
The library collection began with slightly over 6,000 volumes of materials from Rutherford County schools, some purchased items, books on loan from the regional library, a few donations, and a $50 per month budget for books. The circulation for 1948 was over 40,000 books, including circulation to the schools, deposit stations in outlying areas, and over 1,200 borrowers.
In May of 1950, the library received a bequest of approximately $30,000 from another Murfreesboro native, Emma Weitzel. This gift enabled the library to purchase the old Elk’s Club building on Spring Street, opening at this new location on September 9, 1953 (see fig. 2). By 1960, Linebaugh Library expanded to include a branch in Smyrna that was housed in two rooms of a local residence. It opened on October 17 with Jimmie Webster as the first librarian.
Figure 2. The library in the old Elk’s Club building on Spring Street, 1953.
In less than 10 years, Linebaugh had once more outgrown its existing location. A new site was provided by the City of Murfreesboro, leasing the old Post Office Building to the library for $1.00 (see fig. 3). In August 1962, the library opened onWest College Street with a new librarian, Briley Adcock. It was here that the library card system with an individual card for each patron was established.
Figure3. The library in the old Post Office on WestCollege, 1962.
Over the next few years both the Murfreesboro and Smyrna locations required larger facilities. A new structure was erected for Smyrna on Walnut Street adjacent to the local primary and middle schools opening on April 19, 1970. For Murfreesboro an $81,000.00 addition to the Old Post Office building was constructed, and the new expansion was dedicated in April, 1971. The new addition allowed the library to remain in the Old Post Office facility for an additional 15 years before the available space became insufficient. In 1987, plans began for a new building with the Christy-Houston Foundation giving the library a grant for 1.5 million dollars. The new location of Linebaugh Library at 105 West Vine Street in the Civic Plaza, a 34,000 sq. ft. facility, was opened on June 15, 1992.
Figure 4. The library at its current location onWest Vine Street.
After more than 30 years of service, Mrs. Adcock retired in the winter of 1993 and Rita Shacklett stepped in as acting director. In the spring of 1995, the library hired a new director, Laurel Best. Also in 1995, the library implemented its first automated catalog system, E.L.L.I.S. (Electronic Linebaugh Library Information System).
The Smyrna branch opened in a new facility of 22,500 sq. ft. on November 8, 1999. On November 23, 1999, the library system introduced its new computer catalog WebCat, a Sirsi Unicorn product, and several months later received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation providing public-use computers for Linebaugh and the Smyrna branch.
Figure 5. The Smyna branch.
In July of 2003, the Friends of Linebaugh Library purchased a used Bookmobile from the State of Tennessee after the Highland Rim Regional Library lost funding for their program. Having had great success with the program, the Linebaugh Library Foundation bought a new Bookmobile in November of 2005 and commissioned the exterior graphics to be done by local artist Norris Hall, celebrating regional landmarks.
Figure 6. The Linebaugh bookmobile with art by Norris Hall.
The library has experienced tremendous growth simultaneously with Rutherford County over the years and the budget, staff, and resources have multiplied many times over endeavoring to keep pace with the needs of the community. In ensuing years, new locations were added in Murfreesboro and Eagleville. The Myrtle Glanton Lord Library (MGL), named for the longtime educator, was opened on December 1, 2004 in the community center at Patterson Park and on January 1, 2006, the operation of the Eagleville Bicentennial Public Library was assumed by LPLS. In late 2005, library master facilities planners Dubberly Garcia Associates, Inc. implemented a planning study for the Linebaugh Public Library System . The result of this study, along with population growth projections, input from City and County government and community focus groups, helped determined that the library system needs to increase in size and locations to handle current demographic trends.
Linebaugh was named the public library recipient of the School Library Journal/Thomson Gale 2006 Giant Step Award for the most improved library in the nation and was given a $5,000 award.
Laurel Best left in June of 2008 to take a director’s position in Huntsville, Alabama. While the library board pursued a nationwide search for a replacement, Rita Shacklett filled in as the interim director. Ms. Shacklett was chosen in December 2008 to be the new director. She has served the library system since 1975 and had been the assistant director since 1985.
Having provided more than 60 years of service, the library has surely exceeded the dreams of Robert Lasseter. His belief that “books are the route to knowledge” helped ignite the community interest in a public library, and the Linebaugh Public Library System will continue striving to meet the challenge of providing ever evolving free resources for the citizens of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County.