How is a library born into the heart of a small community? At Middleton, the seed was planted when Marie Hudson, a member of the Middleton Woman’s Club, suggested that the club undertake a public library as its current project. Usually, it is hard to get women to agree on anything, but at its October 1974 meeting, these club members recognized a specific need and decided to take the challenge.
With Pauline Craft as president and Marie Hudson as chairman of the library committee, work began to make this dream a reality. In the fall of 1973, the Middleton Elementary School had moved from its old location at the high school campus in a brand new facility. This move left one hall at the high school vacant. G.C. Bartlett, high school principal, and the school board gave the club permission to use one of the vacant rooms for the library. Club members, with the help of Peggy Henry’s cosmetology students, cleaned and painted the room. Ronnie Cornelius donated lumber for shelves and Burton Vickers donated lumber for tables. Morman McAnulty, general building trades instructor, and his students built the shelves. Books were contributed by club members, friends of the library, and the very welcome Shiloh Book Mobile.
In the spring of 1975, an open house was held and the library opened for business. Club members donated their time for several months to keep the library open. Then the library hired Evie Pulliam, a former teacher, to be the librarian. In the beginning, she received $4.00 per day to keep the library open.
When construction on the new wing of the high school began, the club began its search for a new location. Warren Sasser agreed to rent the club the house next door to him. Tons of work had to be done before the library was moved. Again, club members cleaned, painted, and repaired. Rugs and curtains were given by club members. Mrs. Pulliam remained as the librarian. She was later succeeded by Helen Brint.
Once again, the library had to move, and once more the search was on to locate a central spot. Our local pharmacist, Willie Thigpen, gave rent-free the use of two rooms in the Middleton Drugstore Facility. The library remained in the drug store until the city of Middleton offered the use of the old city hall building in 1979. By this time, the library was receiving funds from Hardeman County and the city of Middleton. The Middleton Woman’s Club was responsible for a certain percent of the operating expenses.
Like all the preceding moves, work had to be done. Under the careful eye of Jack Dodds, volunteers began. Among these people were Jimmy Jones, David Jones, Alex Pulse, Ed Donnelly, and many, many more. Library hours were extended. Helen Brint still served as the librarian with help from the high school DECA class and the Middleton Woman’s Club. The club continued financial support until March of 1996 when the board of alderman voted to take over the contribution the club had previously supplied.
The club has continued to play an active part in the completion of this project even though the city took over the major expenses in 1996. There have been many bake sales, yard sales, book sales, donations, and memorials along with much time and effort contributed to this project.
In the years to come, the dream for a newer, larger library facility became true for the citizens of Middleton. Kathy Carter served as librarian from 2001 until 2004 and, along with the library board, directed the building project. Numerous fundraisers and hours of brainstorming spanned the many years dedicated to this dream. With the help of public donations, other community organizations, and tremendous help from the City of Middleton, these plans became reality. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new building were held on March 25, 2003, with an open house on August 24, 2003. Mrs. Wanza Taylor became director in 2004 and served until 2005. She, with help from the Shiloh Regional Library staff, converted the library circulation onto an automated system. Cynthia Scott became director in 2005 and continues presently.
Over the years, our library has had many homes; a room in the old elementary school building, a rental house that required many hours of restoration, the west wing of the drug store, a building which is now the police department, and now a building of our own. With each step that was made, the Middleton Community Library is a living history of what a community can accomplish when the citizens pull together and dare to dream.
Information provided by: Laverne Kraft, Barbara Kennedy, Dorothy Cagle