On March 5, 1878, the city fathers of Nashville, Illinois petitioned and were certified by George H. Harlow, the Secretary of State, to form a corporation. The name of the corporation was designated as the Nashville Library Association. The purpose for which it was formed was “to establish reading rooms and to establish and furnish a public library for its members and the citizens of Nashville.” The management of the association was to consist of six directors elected annually. The following persons were selected as the directors to control and manage the association for the first year: James W. Roundtree, W.H. Carner, Jas. H. Means, Thomas H. Shepherd, James J. Anderson, and George S. Anderson.
Since the early years of this century, the people of Nashville have had a central location where they could borrow books. “Let” Allen’s Reading Room was started on September 1, 1917, Sundays only, but in 1923, the Women’s Club officially opened a library for leisure reading in what is now the City Hall.
During President Roosevelt’s New Deal, the library was taken over and run by the W.P.A. with Permelia Murphy as the librarian and Ralph Schleifer as her assistant. Together with Ferrol Hileman, the County Supervisor, they set up libraries at Beaucoup, DuBois, Ashley, Okawville, and Irvington.
In 1943, under Mayor Wallace Huegely, Nashville’s taxpayers passed a referendum to support the library with taxes. It was then that the library was moved to the building which had been the city jail. It opened its doors as the Nashville Public Library on August 1, 1943, with Ralph Schleifer as the librarian. Ralph Schleifer continued his duties as librarian until his retirement in December 1970. He devoted thirty-five years to library work in Nashville.
Over the years the library board set aside money for an improved library site, and in 1962 it purchased the J.P. Carter residence at 203 South Kaskaskia Street for $8,500. Another $36,000 was spent remodeling the building. The books were moved to the new location in July of 1962. The building is a vintage brick home with a distinctive glassed “Indian Watch” on the roof. It was built in the Italianate style at the end of the Civil War by Dr. William D. Carter, who served as a surgeon in that conflict. The building sits on a large lawn flanked by a very old ash tree, which must have seen the pioneers cross the Illinois plains in covered wagons. In its first years as a library, the upstairs was rented as an apartment, but in 1973 this was remodeled to house the children’s department, the non-fiction collection, a reading room, and a boardroom.
In 1967, the Nashville Public Library became one of the original members of the Kaskaskia Library System. The library system was one of eighteen statewide networks of regional libraries, and membership in this system greatly expanded the service available to Nashville residents. In 1992, however, budgets were slashed at the state level for library systems, and as a result many smaller systems were forced to merge with larger neighbors. Kaskaskia Library System dissolved on June 30, 1993, and the Nashville Public Library joined Shawnee Library System along with 35 other former KLS members. Shawnee Library System, one of twelve statewide networks, is headquartered in Carterville, Illinois and covers an area of approximately 13,000 square miles.
In 1992, the City of Nashville purchased the building at 120 East Elm Street formerly occupied by the Veterans of Foreign Wars for $62,500. It was remodeled at a cost of $138,000 plus $46,000 for new furnishings. The move was made to the new location on October 24, 1992, with the help of Boy Scout Troop 127 and many public-spirited volunteers from the community.
Succeeding Ralph Schleifer as librarian was Mrs. Mildred Schuetz Snider, who served for eight years. She was followed by Mr. Brian Hassler, who served for eight months, Mrs. Kathleen (Katie) Briles, who served for over eight years from 1979-1987, and Mrs. Connie Bennett, who served for a year and a half from 1987-1988. Mrs. Judith (Judy) Jones served as librarian for eleven years, from 1988-1999, before retiring. Mrs. Orvella Huge was a member of the library staff for 17 years before her death in 1999. Mrs. Linda Summers is the current library director.
By Doris Dueker
NPL Board President, 1992-1998
The following addendum was written in 2008 by Markita Burcham, NPL Board President. This addendum augments the original history by Doris Dueker. The following is a time line for Nashville librarians from the 1930s to the present date.
1930s-1943 Permelia Murphy 1979-1987 Kathleen (Katie) Briles
1943-1970 Ralph Schleifer 1987-1988 Connie Bennett
1970-1978 Mildred Snider 1988-1999 Judith (Judy) Jones
1978-1979 Brian Hassler 1999-present Linda Summers
In 2002, the Nashville Public Library developed a strategic plan that included vision, mission and values statements. This plan also included four core areas of library services: Administration, Personnel and Building; Communication; Services and Programs; and Finance. Among many goals that have been accomplished has been the expansion of the library building and new technology services.
In 2006, the NPL Board of Trustees, with the help of the Nashville City Council, began the preliminary plans to expand the library building. Library Director, Linda Summers, wrote and received a $125,000 grant from the Illinois State Library Live & Learn Construction Grant program. This grant was matched and expanded by the Nashville City Council. Image Architects of Carbondale designed the facility and Johannes Construction of Centralia was hired to build at a cost of $326,100. Official groundbreaking was March 2007 with construction starting in May and completion in January 2008.
A fund-raising campaign of $20,000 enabled the library to purchase additional shelving, computers, art work, tables and chairs. A Dedication and Open House was held March 30, 2008. Many library patrons, citizens of Nashville, and the Friends of the Library organization are to be commended in their financial support toward the construction effort.
The Nashville Public Library has expanded technology services and is online with SILNET (Southern Illinois Network), enabling library patrons to access the library catalog from home. We also have an up-to-date library website. The site includes a calendar of events, Friends of the Library information, children and youth activities and Board of Trustees listing, plus many resources and research sites that make the library a vital hub for Nashville and surrounding areas.
By Markita Burcham
NPL Board President, 1998-2009
Due to state budgetary constraints, the nine library systems in Illinois (not including Chicago) underwent two mergers in July 2011. The four southern library systems, including Shawnee Library System, became the Illinois Heartland Library System (IHLS). The five northern systems merged to become the Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS). The Nashville Public Library is a member of the Illinois Heartland Library System.
The Nashville Public Library strives to remain current with the many technology services it offers for public use. By 2008, the Nashville Public Library had expanded its public access computers to 10 computers and began offering wireless connectivity. In September 2011, the Nashville Public Library joined a consortium of other libraries, Southern Illinois Libraries on the Go, in a subscription to OverDrive, a digital downloading service for eBooks, audio books, music, and videos. In January 2014, the library subscribed to a second digital downloading service, 3M Cloud Library. Access to this service is provided through the new online card catalog called SHARE.
The Nashville Public Library revised its Long Range Strategic Plan to cover a five-year period, 2012-2017. Many goals and objectives were reached and implemented in 2012 and 2013. The library seeks to update its long range strategic plan to cover the remaining time period, 2014-2017.
Revised and passed by the Board of Trustees of Nashville Public Library this day of May 6, 2008.
Revised and passed by the Board of Trustees of Nashville Public Library this day of January 3, 2012.
Revised and passed by the Board of Trustees of Nashville Public Library this day of January 6, 2015.