Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

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Charlotte Mecklenburg Library[1]
Country USA
Type Public
Established 1903
Location Mecklenburg County, North Carolina
Coordinates 35°13′43.32″N 80°50′25.98″W / 35.2287000°N 80.8405500°W / 35.2287000; -80.8405500
Branches 20
Items collected Books
Access and use
Access requirements Residence in Mecklenburg County or annual fee
Population served approximately one million citizens
Other information
Director David Singleton
Staff 486 staff members (355 full time and 131 part-time)[2]

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is the public library system of the city of Charlotte and County of Mecklenburg in North Carolina


Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is one of America’s many urban public libraries, serving a community of approximately one million citizens in the city of Charlotte and the towns of Matthews, Pineville, Mint Hill, Davidson, Cornelius and Huntersville – all located in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

Early History[edit]

The roots of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library can be traced to 1891 when, during a period of Charlotte history characterized by boom and civic pride, a group of prominent citizens organized the Charlotte Literary and Library Association. This subscription library operated in rooms above a bookstore on South Tryon Street for nine years, under the direction of Librarian Bessie Lacy Dewey.[3] In 1901, directors of the Association transferred control of the Library to the City School Commissioners, so that the general public and students would have access to the collection. The Library was now the Charlotte Public School Library, located in two rooms in City Hall at the corner of North Tryon and East Fifth Street. The arrangement lasted two years, with Librarian Sallie H. Adams in charge.

In 1901, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie agreed to donate $25,000 for a library building, if the city would furnish a site and taxes to support operations. The tax was approved by vote of citizens on May 6, 1901. The building was dedicated and opened to the public on July 2, 1903 in the 300 block of North Tryon Street. The new building had the typical Carnegie look. Outside was an imposing classic facade with four Ionic columns. Inside, dark oak furniture and paneling set a somber mood. The interior was divided into a reading room, a book room, a children's room and an office. There was also a room containing historical materials and memorabilia and a basement.[4]

In early 1904, the city aldermen bought a lot at the corner of Brevard and East 2nd streets for a separate library for African Americans, the first of its kind in North Carolina.[5] Although only six blocks from the Carnegie Library, it was in the heart of the Brooklyn neighborhood, the black city within the city of Charlotte where all the black churches and most black-owned businesses and professional offices were located. It operated independently at first and after 1929 as a branch of the public library system before closing in 1961.[6]

Growth of the Library System[edit]

The first push for county-wide service came in 1918, under Head Librarian Anne Pierce. In 1919, the Library Board and the City and County Boards of Education established school libraries as public library branches. In 1929, a grant from the Julius Rosenwald Fund established town branches in Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews and Pineville. However, the Great Depression halted progress after 1931.

Hoyt R. Galvin became director of the Library in November, 1940, and was to remain for thirty years. The library system and the region grew tremendously in this period. In response to increased use by the public, and a critical need for additional space at the Main Library and the town branches, Charlotte and Mecklenburg County voters in 1952 approved a bond issue in the amount of $1,600,000 for a new Main Library and nine branches.

Under the leadership of, among others, Robert E. Cannon (1986-2003), the library added more branches, inaugurated a literary festival, remodeled the 1956 Main Library building, and brought its catalog online. It continued to grow into the 21st century, constructing the ImaginOn branch as a joint venture with the Children's Theatre of Charlotte.[7]

The Modern Library[edit]

The economic recession of 2009-2011 brought significant budget reductions, resulting in employee layoffs, the closure of four library branches, reduced hours and services at all remaining locations, and the consolidation of several support functions with Mecklenburg County. But it was from this challenging time that the Library, County and community leaders found new ways to collaborate to meet the mutual goal of providing Mecklenburg County residents with the resources they needed to be successful. Today the Library’s 20 locations include a Main Library, an innovative library for children and teens called ImaginOn, and a network of branch libraries throughout Mecklenburg County. Throughout the system, the Library provides free and open access to its physical and electronic collections and information, as well as to its services for people of all ages, from toddlers to teens to adults.[7]


There are twenty locations in the system.


  1. ^ "History". Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Retrieved October 30, 2012. 
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  5. ^ Cristina Bolling, "Our living history: spreading the joy of books," Charlotte Observer, Feb. 15, 2005, p.1B
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  7. ^ a b