The first day of April is an important day in the history of Rutherford County because, in 1948, it was the day the doors were opened to Murfreesboro’s first public library—Linebaugh Public Library. Named after Mattie V. Linebaugh, the mother of the initial benefactor, our library is celebrating seventy-five years of serving everyone in our community. Having grown from that initial building to include six branch libraries and a bookmobile, the Rutherford County Library System (RCLS) has been an invaluable institution to all who know and understand the importance of libraries.
My colleague, Lisa R. Ramsay, has written a wonderful history of the library system, entitled Books and Our Town, which can be bought online or through any of the RCLS Friends groups. As I enjoy her book, celebrate our anniversary, and look toward the future of libraries in our nation, I cannot help but think about the important role of librarians over the years.
Librarians are Innovators
Myla Parsons, the first librarian for Linebaugh Public Library, had challenges starting from scratch in then-small-town Murfreesboro. Though she received several thousand books through the Rutherford County School collection, the Regional Library, and donations, it was a challenge to continue to provide new reading material to her growing patron base. Parsons came up with an idea to begin a memorial book program, allowing the community to give money toward new books in honor or memory of a loved one.
The success of the memorial book program caught the attention of other libraries around the nation, and Parsons received requests from many on how she organized and maintained the program. The memorial book program has continued throughout the decades, adding quality materials to the RCLS collection.
Librarians are Forward-Thinkers
Briley Adcock served as the next librarian for Linebaugh Public Library and what would become an expanded library system. Beginning in 1962, at the new location of the library on College Street, Adcock would move the services of the library further into the county, first by working with Regional Librarian, Janet Smith, to provide a bookmobile service to Eagleville. This would be the first of many “outposts” for the bookmobile service, and after later taking over the service from the Regional Library, Linebaugh staff members continue to reach the unreached through daily bookmobile stops.
During Adcock’s tenure, the library system would continue to grow, as Smyrna Public Library was built after ten years of operating out of two rooms of a local home. In the meantime, Linebaugh was out of space, and plans were launched to build a new main library on Vine Street. Yet, Briley Adcock would not be satisfied with the library system not keeping up with the times, and knew the only way forward was with a digitalized catalog and operating system. By the time of her retirement in 1994, patrons would be able to look up books from their home computers.
Librarians Put Others First
Laurel Best would be the Director of the Linebaugh Public Library System by the time of the fiftieth-anniversary celebration. Coming in as an outsider, Best spent several months watching, listening, and gathering data on what was working and what was needed for the library system and community. She noticed that patrons were waiting a long time to get books by their favorite authors, so she insured that popular fiction titles were expedited. In the growing age of computers, she added a collection of CD-ROM databases.
Knowing the importance of library services to patrons, Best expanded the library’s hours and established a genealogy program. To help keep quality staff members in the libraries, Best enhanced the longevity program by awarding anniversary pins to those who had served five years or more. She also sought and received approval from the board to give staff the day after Thanksgiving off in lieu of Veterans Day. Best showed through her efforts the importance of responding to both the community and staff.
Librarians are Dedicated
Having begun her career at Linebaugh as a library clerk in 1975, Rita Shacklett has now served as Director of Libraries since 2008. As the library system continued to grow, the lesson we learn from the tenure and service of Rita Shacklett is dedication. Through her constant years of advocating for public libraries, whether on a local or national level, Shacklett has exemplified the impact of librarians on communities.
Now with almost fifty years of her life in service to Linebaugh and RCLS, Shacklett has been relentless in keeping the needs of the library system before the community and funding bodies and for keeping the needs of the community before the eyes of her staff and board. When an idea is presented to her by either a board or staff member, Shacklett evaluates the value based on what good it will bring to our libraries and community.
Communities Need Librarians
Whether a library is large or small, the impact is immeasurable due to the innovation, forward-thinking, selflessness, and dedication of the librarians who lead them. I’m thankful for those who have led the Rutherford County Library System and all who have and continue to work in our libraries and administrative offices system-wide.
Carol B. Ghattas, Linebaugh Branch Manager, is a writer, speaker, and active blogger. Subscribe to her blog, lifeinexile.net, or follow her on Facebook or Instagram. Connect with her at lifeinexile.net.