Lucius E. and Elsie C. Burch, Jr. Library

History of the Library

 

Written by Deanna Britton, Director

"Collierville is finely situated among the vine clad hills and fertile valleys of West Tennessee, on what is conceded to be the highest point in Shelby County. The irregularity of the site gives it an element of picturesque beauty. To the south and east are hills covered with gigantic trees and lovely foliage. On the north side., the fertile valley of Wolf River.”
-- Excerpt from an essay written by Miss Rosebud Moss, 1882. (1)

The Town of Collierville, located thirty miles east of downtown Memphis, has had a rich history as the second oldest town in Shelby County.  Preserved Victorian homes, a tree-lined park in the center of the downtown business district, and summer concerts under the gazebo on warm summer nights remain as a gentle nod to the past.  Reverence for the value of citizen involvement in schools, institutions, and the community as a whole has always been the compass citizens used to move Collierville forward from bucolic farming town to a flourishing suburban community.  These same values have also been instrumental in shaping the development of the Town's public library.

"For many years in the rural areas of Shelby County there was little or no library service. In 1931, a great step forward was taken when the “Bookmobile” came into existence." (2) "It was a great thrill for children and adults in the rural area throughout the county when they saw the “library on wheels” coming. The Bookmobile stopped at the Collierville square and card tables were brought out to serve as counters to check books in and out." (3) "After the Bookmobile was discontinued in 1951, the Collierville community was not serviced in any way by the Shelby County Library System." (4)-See 4th Endnote   

The Contemporary Club became deeply concerned and realized that something needed to be done. "Mrs. C. H. Harrell, who was president of the Contemporary Club at the time, appointed a library committee. On March 2, 1956, after much hard work and many hours of planning, the first public library was opened in Collierville with three thousand books." (5) The Public Library was opened in a concrete block stucco building that had once been a restaurant at the corner of North Rowlett and Walnut Streets. The building was remodeled and the interior painted light green. Mr. John Little Dean, who served as a rural mail carrier at the Collierville Post Office, built most of the shelving, and the remodeling of the building was done by the Contemporary Club and other civic groups of the Town. The Library was opened two days each week: on Mondays from two until six p.m. and Fridays from two until nine p.m. This was a tremendous project undertaken by the Contemporary Club and no greater contribution could have been made to a community from which all citizens would benefit. "Mrs. James Cowan, newly appointed librarian, was in charge." (6)  

In 1964, the Shelby County Commissioners substantially increased the amount allowed in the budget for library operations. On July 15, 1964, the Library Association, composed of various organizations in the Town of Collierville, met to discuss the need for library expansion. With the rapid growth the Town has experienced, the Library was fast reaching its capacity for service. Through the leadership of the Library Association, Collierville received a new library, one of the first ones constructed in the county. During the construction of the building, library service was moved into temporary quarters directly behind the library site.

On Sunday, December 5, 1965, the dedication and open house was held for the new facility. The Town of Collierville purchased the library site and deeded only the land to Shelby County. The architect firm for the Library was Dean Hill and Associates. The new library contained 3,200 square feet with a book capacity of 20,000 volumes and a seating capacity of forty-two. Mrs. James Cowan was the only local person to serve as librarian with seventeen years of service before retiring in 1973. The Library hours of operation were increased to six days a week.

In October, 1971, the “Friends of the Library” was organized for the Collierville Library under the auspices of the Memphis-Shelby County Library System. The first library organization was composed of representatives from various civic clubs in Collierville. The Friends organization was later opened to the public with membership dues.

cville library 1965 Fig. 1

Collierville Library and Community Center 1974

It was through the Friends group that the need was seen for expansion. In the spring of 1983, grant monies were available through the State of Tennessee under the auspices of the Federal Jobs Building Fund Program. As announced in the Collierville Herald on January 19, 1984, the Collierville Library received a state grant of $376,000 for an expansion program at its present site. Unfortunately, soon after a disagreement arose concerning funding. Once again the Town fathers came to the rescue of the Collierville Library, contributing monies and purchasing the land needed for expansion.

Construction began in August, 1986, for a 3,318 square foot addition that expanded the square footage from 3,200 to 6,518 square feet. The seating capacity was increased from forty-two to fifty-four. The library exterior was remodeled, and Collierville was the first library in the county to have the new emblem sign erected. The addition was completed in January, 1987, four years after its conception. The architectural firm was Mahan and Shappley.

In the late 1990’s, both a lack of space for a growing collection and a lack of parking space for patrons prompted the discussion for a new library facility. Collierville resident and developer David Halle, who had been instrumental in the redevelopment of Overton Square in Memphis, approached the Town of Collierville with the idea of the Halle family donating the land for a new library facility.  In addition, Mr. Halle approached Ms. Elsie C. Burch, Jr. about the possibility of honoring her late husband, Lucius E. Burch, Jr. with a pledge to the library.  Lucius E. Burch, Jr. (1912-1996), was an attorney, conservationist and civil rights advocate who had lived in Collierville and practiced law in Memphis with the firm of Burch, Porter & Johnson. 

Ultimately, the David Halle family donated 5 park-like acres of land located at the northern end of Poplar View Parkway for the site of the new library. Mrs. Burch donated $575,000.  The six million dollar facility was built with the combined funding from the Burch Family estate, the Town of Collierville and the Shelby County Government.  It was designed by Michael Walker, an architect with Fleming Associates located in Memphis, TN.  The groundbreaking ceremony took place on January 6, 2000.  The new Library included not only expanded space for materials, but also a drive-up book drop, 26 multifunction public access computers, a quiet adult reading room, individual group study rooms, meeting space, a children's room for story time, and a room for potential expansion.  The Grand Opening Ceremony was held on March 3, 2001. 

After the Collierville Burch Libary opened the doors of its new facility, Southern Living magazine approached Collierville Mayor Linda Kerley to help with the "Southern Living Idea House" in Collierville.  Historically, a charitable organization is chosen to share in both the work and proceeds of the show.  Mayor Kerley approached the Collierville Burch Library Friends group for volunteers and chose the Library as the organization that would benefit by a portion of the Idea House ticket proceeds.  The Friends raised approximately $25,000.  This money was used to purchase needed Library materials. 

library blossoms opt

In 2004, the Shelby County Government took action to withdraw funding of suburban library operations. On October 11, 2004, the Town of Collierville accepted responsibility for financing and managing its Library. The Lucius E. and Elsie C. Burch, Jr. Library was fully owned and operated by the Town of Collierville. The Town subcontracted day-to-day management to Library Systems and Services (LSSI), LLC. The LSSI staff was guided by policies approved by the Collierville Public Library Board composed of seven citizens appointed by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

2015 brought major changes to the Burch Library. In an effort to maximize tax dollars invested in the Library and improve the overall customer experience, the Town of Collierville assumed the responsibility of managing the Library effective July 1, 2015. One of the goals of this transition was the expansion of the Library’s resources to include better access to books and materials that directly reflect the needs and requests of this community. Expanding the scope of the Collierville Library’s resources will help eliminate dependence on other area libraries for books and materials. July 21st, a ribbon cutting ceremony took place in front of the Library to commemorate this exciting milestone.

ribbon cutting opt

Pictured from left to right front row: Nancy Bassett, Library Staff Member Karen Cochran, Library Board Member Andre Crafford, Alderman Tom Allen, Library Board Chairman Liz Rozanski, Library Director Deanna Britton, Mayor Stan Joyner, Vice-Mayor Maureen Fraser, Friends President Carol Buffenbarger, Library Board Member Kathleen Bradley, Library Board Member Eddie Maier, Anne Smith Friends Member, Library Staff Member Sujatha Vasudevan: Back row: Alderman John Worley

Oral History of the Collierville Burch Library given by Betty Only on April 12, 2011

Endnotes

  1. Russell, Clarene Pinkston.  (1994). Collierville, Tennessee: Her People and Neighbors.  Collierville, TN:  The Town of Collierville and the Collierville Chamber of Commerce.
  2. Memphis Public Library and Information Center Library System History.  Retrieved June 9, 2009, from http://www.memphislibrary.org/about/support/history.html
  3. Janette Vaught (personal communication, 2005)
  4. Betty Only (personal communication, 2005)
  5. Russell, Clarene Pinkston.  (1994).  Collierville, Tennessee: Her People and Neighbors.  Collierville, TN:  The Town of Collierville and the Collierville Chamber of Commerce.
  6. Ibid.

Figures

  1. Russell, Clarene Pinkston. (1994).  Collierville, Tennessee: Her People and Neighbors. Collierville, TN: The Town of Collierville and the Collierville Chamber of Commerce.
Town of DemoCollierville
    • Collierville Library Location

      501 Poplar View Pkwy
      Collierville, TN 38017

      Mon – Thu: 10AM – 8PM
      Fri – Sat: 10AM – 6PM
      Sun: 1PM – 5PM
      Phone: 901-457-2600

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