History of the Hart County Library
The Hart County Library had its beginnings in 1938. Mrs. A. C. Skelton, president of the Hartwell Woman's Club, appointed a library committee, which requested that each member donate a book or two as a nucleus for a small lending library. These books were placed on open shelves at the Community Club House and Mrs. Maria Maret, a Woman's Club member, agreed to circulate books two afternoons a week. The collection ran heavily to Zane Grey, Kathleen Norris, and Grace Livingston Hill. This collection was augmented by books purchased for twenty-five cents each from small lending libraries in Atlanta.Under Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Public Works Administration, a paid librarian, Mrs. Belle Adams, was hired in 1939. A room was rented over Homer Herndon's Drug Store for $15.00 a month. The Woman's Club enlisted financial support from the D.A.R., U.D.C., and the Legion Auxiliary, three organizations which shared ownership of the Club House. Each group, along with the Woman's Club, contributed a small amount of money each month to the library and each organization appointed a member to serve on the library committee. The Woman's Club gave their book collection. These were the only volumes for a while.
The library was moved to the County Court House about 1941. Miss Lizzie Blackwell replaced Mrs. Adams as librarian. Mr. W. A. Ross, who was County School Superintendent, provided state funds to purchase books. Mrs. Henry Ethridge, Woman's Club member, helped to start proper cataloging of the books. By the time the Court House Annex was built, the library was moved into two large, bright rooms vacated by the Ordinary and the Clerk of Court. The book collection had grown to approximately 600 volumes, including a number of reference books used daily by school children. Mrs. A. S. ['Bill'] Johnson, Jr. was assisting Miss Blackwell on a regular basis by this time. She gradually assumed the place of librarian and Miss Blackwell that of assistant.A tragic fire in 1968 destroyed the Court House and many of the books. When bonds were voted to rebuild the Court House, the library facility was not included. The library was given a small space in the County School Board building across from the high school. While Mr. Jerry Cleveland was County School Superintendent and Chairman of the Library Board, Hart County joined Elberton to form a region [Note: The region was officially designated as War Woman Regional Library System]. Mrs. J. I. Jenkins, who had been talking to state consultants for a long time, and all the members of the board were pleased with the affiliation and expected great things. Mr. George Rooks and Mrs. Katherine Hailey were appointed to the regional library board. However, the service was not satisfactory and Hart County withdrew from the arrangement.
In 1973, Mr. Cleveland and other members of the library board filed an application with the Georgia Division of Public Library Services for a new Hart County Library. Local public funds of $150,000 were raised to match State Department of Education funds of $150,000. Mrs. Katherine Hailey was also able to obtain $10,000 from Governor Jimmy Carter's discretionary funds, when the project had a shortfall. The County paved the parking lot and the United Garden Council assumed responsibility for the landscaping. The City of Hartwell has given the library steady interest and financial support ever since fund raising began in order to buy the site. The library of 10,000 square feet opened in 1975.The library addition is built on a lot bought by Mr. and Mrs. Joe Griggs and deeded to the County for library purposes. This addition required more fund raising, which again was successful, but took lots of effort on the part of many sustainers. [Note: The 5,000 square foot addition was completed in 1987, providing new floor space for book stacks, as well as a lower floor for meeting rooms and storage.]
[Adapted from "Hart County Library" by Katherine Hailey in The Hart of Georgia: A History of Hart County. Shirley Kaufhold, Editor. WH Wolfe Associates: Alpharetta, GA, 1992.]