Chapters of History: Johnson City Public Library kicks off year long celebration of its 125th anniversary

Sue Guinn Legg • Jan 5, 2020 at 8:46 PM

The Johnson City Public Library will kick off a yearlong celebration of its 125th anniversary on Friday, Jan 17, with an open house and self-guided tour through the many chapters of the library’s history.

From 6:30-8 p.m. guests will be greeted by library staff members and volunteers costumed in period dress and stationed in rooms of the library where artifacts, displays and discussions will be correlated to time periods significant to the growth of the library.

Fittingly, the tour will begin in the library’s Tennessee Room, a section of the library dedicated to local history, where a small group of women dressed in the fashions of 1895 will recreate one of the club’s first orders of business, the establishment of a public reading room for the educational enhancement of the their community.

Continuing through the decades, the tour will also touch significant dates including:

• 1923: Construction of the original Mayne Williams Public Library building.

• 1948: The library’s welcoming of African American students from Langston High School, making it the city’s first racially integrated institution.

• 1970s: Creation of library’s reference department.

• 1976: Establishment of the Friends of Johnson City Public Library group.

• 1990s: The library’s leap into the age of the internet.

• 1999: Opening of today’s state-of-the-art Johnson City Public Library at 100 W. Millard St.

The tour will conclude in the libary’s Jones Meeting Room with refreshments and a forward-looking discussion of how continuing advances in technology will likely change the library’s resources and functions in the coming decades.

JCPL Marketing Coordinator Hannah Kriger said the library staff, friends and volunteers spent months planning the event and are excited to present a fun and comprehensive look at its history in kickoff to a series of anniversary events to take place over the coming year.

A fun evening with historical significance, Library Director Julia Turpin said the library’s 125th Anniversary Kickoff will also be “an opportunity to tell people who we are and where we came from.”

“It’s unique thing for a library to exist for 125 years. And it has a backstory,” Turpin said. “It was founded by the community, a small group of women, who wanted these resources for themselves and their community. What they accomplished speaks not only to their ability and strength to impact change back in 1895, but to the ability of people today to work together and impact their community.

“We’re excited. It’s going to be a big year,” Turpin said.