The Art Circle Public Library: From 1898 to the 21st Century
In 1898, a group of ladies known as the Art Circle put their heads together to begin a collection of books, which were originally assembled in members’ homes. Over a hundred years later, the diligence of a few in cultivating a love of reading and learning has paid dividends for thousands for many years to come. Step inside and see how, just as the ladies did in 1898, the vision of a few tenacious Cumberland County citizens unfolded into a state-of-the-art jewel in the heart of downtown Crossville.
The current Art Circle Public Library at 3 East Street in downtown Crossville opened its doors in May of 2010. The size of the two-story building, designed by McCarty, Holsaple, McCarty, Inc., is 34,000 square feet and inside there are meeting rooms to accommodate up to 300 people, a catering kitchen, one small study room, and a conference room. Innovative features in the library include two self-check stations and audio-visual technology in the meeting and conference rooms. An exquisite donated baby grand piano located in the Cumberland Meeting Room is used often during the library’s popular 12:00 Noon Concert Series held on most Wednesday’s from March through December.
Patrons of all ages can participate year-round in a variety of free programs such as: showings of popular movies, guitar instruction, informational health seminars, gardening workshops, live cooking demos, tai chi classes, children and teen programs, and a variety of adult craft workshops, etc., etc. The library also takes pride in presenting six art exhibits annually by local individuals and craft groups in the facility’s three art galleries. Quite often, the Art Circle Public Library hosts various Meet the Author events highlighting yet another group of talented local residents.
It was the intent of Library Board members and developers to emphasize the importance of learning and reading to children and young adults, which is exhibited by a large children’s library in a playful County Fair theme. Once inside, children delight over the hand-carved carousel animals encircling an area which is used for weekly storytelling programs. Also available are computer stations with learning software and fun games, an activity area with a wooden train set, and an updated homeschool collection that includes a wide variety of materials for parents, teachers and caregivers. Most importantly, this children’s library features a variety of books for infants/preschoolers and youngsters through age 12. New and popular children’s titles, DVD’s, books on CD’s, etc. are added nearly daily to the collection of 29,500+ items.
Complementing the facility’s physical attributes are the programs available to the children in Cumberland County. Annual Summer Reading Programs are always a huge success, bringing in hundreds of children every week for arts and crafts, live wildlife presentations, professional children’s entertainers, magicians, pirate shows and more. More importantly an average of 5,000 books are read each summer by over 250 members of the summer reading club.
Exiting the children’s library, you will enter the Carol Darling Reading Room, named after a former Board member. Widely known as the “County’s Living Room”, many take pleasure in relaxing in the plush couches, under the 40-foot expansive ceiling, high windows, and the Depression-era style murals painted on the second-story walls. These murals correspond to the descriptions in each archway upstairs, which tell of the rich Cumberland County history, from pioneer days to today. You may opt for a reading respite by selecting one of the new bestsellers on display or a current magazine/newspaper. Or perhaps you would prefer to work at one of the tables using your laptop and the library’s free WIFI, play a game of chess or work on a puzzle.
Neighboring areas include the well-stocked Large Print and Audio Book collections, an Information Desk, and Internet computers for use by patrons. The Circle of Friends Bookstore is a popular destination which sells gently-used books and materials at very reasonable costs. The proceeds help the library to purchase new books. Across the walkway, patrons have access to a generous selection of DVD’s.
Up the grand staircase or elevator, you will find a well-staffed Adult Services & Reference Desk on the second floor. There are many ranges of fiction and non-fiction books for adults, a Young Adult area, Internet computers, and a Macular Degeneration reader. Don’t forget to visit the Diane Dorton Brown Reading Room decorated with a hand-made curly cherry wood table, patriotic artwork and collectibles which were generously donated by local artists and residents of Cumberland County. Step outside onto the large balcony, catch a breath of fresh air, and relax in one of the comfortable rocking chairs that overlook our neighboring Amphitheatre and Cumberland County Courthouse.
On August 29, 2010, the Cumberland County Archives & Family Heritage Center, under the auspices of the Art Circle Public Library, opened to the public. Located at 95 East First Street in the former First Baptist Church, the Archive facility is conveniently situated adjacent to the Art Circle Library in downtown Crossville. It houses the storage and display of historical and cultural artifacts of Cumberland County and offers access to genealogical and historical research materials and services for citizens from both near and far.
Upon entering, one finds themselves in a warm, inviting and spacious Reading Room with comfortable seating. Included at Cumberland County Archives and Family Heritage Center are the Art Circle Public Library’s genealogical holdings, such as family histories, published books, genealogical periodicals, and similar resources. Also available to the public are printers and computer terminals. Patrons are guaranteed access to several online research sites, such as Heritage Quest and Ancestry.com to aid in researching one’s family tree, etc. The Archives is also a repository for inactive permanent records of Cumberland County that are no longer required by County offices for current operations. Cumberland County Archives and Family Heritage Center maintains these records and makes them available for public inspection in accordance with standards and advice set by the Tennessee State Library and Archives as well as with the rules and regulations as set by the Cumberland County Public Records Commission. The part-time Archivist on duty offers seminars and training sessions. A dedicated team of resourceful volunteers help to maintain the Archives and offers continued friendly service to the public.