A 50 year celebration was observed Sunday for Justin Potter Library.
Members of the community stopped by during the two hour event to visit and enjoy refreshments. State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver presented a proclamation signed by herself, State Representative Mark Pody, and Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives Beth Harwell marking the occasion and Chamber Director Suzanne Williams honored the library with a Milestone Award.
Current and past Library Board members, Directors, and employees joined in the celebration including Jenelle Pugh, the only surviving 1967 library board member.
Justin Potter Library opened in June 1967 followed by an official dedication and open house on September 17, 1967. It was named for the late Justin Potter, a DeKalb County native and successful Nashville businessman, whose family provided funds to help build the library through the Justin and Valere Potter Foundation.
Potter’s grandson, Justin Wilson was among those in attendance for the celebration.
“This was done by Congressman Joe L. Evins from Smithville in 1967. I remember going up to see him in Washington to talk about how to get this funded. I am really pleased to see how wonderfully the library is doing today for the community,” said Wilson, who also is the current Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury.
For eleven years prior to 1967, the library was located in a room on the main floor of the Veterans Memorial building downtown.
DeKalb County Historian Thomas G. Webb, also in attendance at the observance, said Justin Potter Library is a great asset to the community. “When I was growing up DeKalb County had no library at all. You don’t know what a change it is to have this from no library. We’re proud of our library,” he said.
“The library is important to DeKalb County and it is run by a great board and staff. They are very professional. We can all be proud of them,” said County Mayor Tim Stribling.
The state proclamation honoring Justin Potter Library follows:
“Whereas, the members of this legislative body take great pleasure in recognizing those venerable institutions that are devoted to serving their communities; and
Whereas, one such institution is the Justin Potter Library, which is this year celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, a hallmark occasion for this community gathering place that supports and informs its patrons and serves as the heart of the DeKalb County community; and
Whereas, on September 24, 2017, the DeKalb County Library Board and staff will host a fiftieth anniversary celebration, joining with members of the community to reflect on the library’s history and success; and
Whereas, organizational efforts for the Justin Potter Library were spearheaded by Emma Burton; in 1966, when available federal money for library construction required a matching donation, Mrs. Burton found a willing benefactor in the Justin and Valere Potter Foundation; and
Whereas, a 3,764 square foot edifice was built in 1967 to house the Justin Potter Library; the library opened its doors to the public in June of that same year, hosting a formal opening celebration on September 17, 1967; and
Whereas, in 2003, the building underwent a 2,000 square foot expansion funded by the DeKalb County Court, with donations from members of the community providing shelving and furniture; while the original structure was built to hold 10,000 volumes, the expanded building now contains over 25,000 items; and
Whereas, featured in the library’s more than 25,000 items is an extensive collection of county genealogy and Historical materials, thanks to the combined efforts of Jorene Parsley, Earl France, County Historian Thomas G. Webb, and many others; and
Whereas, the library’s mission has always been to provide all DeKalb County residents with opportunities to improve the quality of their lives by offering quality materials and services that fulfill the educational, informational, cultural, and recreational needs of the entire community in an atmosphere that is welcoming and respectful; and
Whereas, the Justin Potter Library has been successful in fulfilling its mission; throughout the last five decades, it has been home to many educational and cultural programs, including summer reading, author book signings, holiday events, Older American’s Day celebrations, art and computer classes, homeschooling events, discussion groups, school field trips, and volunteer opportunities for Tennessee Promise students and others; and
Whereas, in addition to making available thousands of volumes in print and online, the Justin Potter Library has worked to get books in the hands of as many individuals as possible; it facilitates sign-up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and engages in book outreach to area schools; and
Whereas, the library also provides other services to the community, including interlibrary loans, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency boating exams, and tax and voter registration forms; and
Whereas, from 2016 to 2017, there were nearly 40,000 visits to DeKalb County libraries, with 8,000 registered borrowers, 64,000 materials checked out, 112 programs offered that saw 2,000 in attendance, and approximately 15,000 computer users; and
Whereas, the members of the DeKalb County Library Board of Trustees at the time of the opening of the Justin Potter Library were W.R. Lassiter, chair; Emma Burton, chair building committee; Otha Dell Conger, building committee; Nell McBride, building committee; Bessie May White; Rosa John Twilla; and Jenelle Pugh; and
Whereas, current library board members are Genrose Davis, Annette Greek, Jane Hobson, Brenda Hooper, Betty Pankey, Jane Ramsey, Pam Redmon, Board Chair Jan Thomas, and Bobby White; and
Whereas, the Justin Potter Library has enjoyed the superb leadership of four directors since 1967: June Vaughn (1967-68, 1991-2004), Idell Spann (1968-91), Kathy Winchester Vardy (2004-07), and Kathy Hendrixson (2007-present); and
Whereas, the success of the library is wholly attributable to the dedication and hard work of the library board members, staff, and volunteers and the support of the Justin and Valere Potter Foundation, Smithville Study Club,, DeKalb County, City of Smithville, State and federal government, and the community throughout the last fifty years; and
Whereas, the Justin Potter Library has served the citizens of DeKalb County for five decades now, and it is fitting that the organization be honored; now, therefore,
I, Beth Harwell, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the One Hundred Tenth General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, at the request of and in conjunction with Representative Mark Pody and Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, do hereby proclaim that we congratulate the Justin Potter Library upon fifty years of devoted service to the DeKalb County community, extending our sincere best wishes for much continued success in the future.
Proclaimed in Nashville, Tennessee, on this the 31st day of August, 2017.”