The Clyde W. Roddy Public Library in Dayton, Tennessee began in 1932 with a group of book-loving ladies known as the Readers’ Club. The group consisted of Mrs. Charles Norton (chairperson), Janet (Nettie) Rogers, Josephine Jones, Nell Robinson, Mary Glass, Katie Morgan, Cleo Taylor, Josephine Benkovitz, and Gladys Porter. This group of ladies decided to use the sixty volumes of books they jointly owned as the nucleus of a library.The 1st day of April 1932 was set as the opening day, the American Legion donated two rooms in the Gillespie Building for the Readers’ Club. When news of the library reached the citizens of Dayton, donations began to flow in. The original sixty volumes grew to 300 by the time the doors opened. The ladies had forty-one patrons on the first day of business.In 1935, the library briefly occupied space in the courthouse, due to the relocation of the American Legion.
The City of Dayton constructed a new city hall building in June of 1937 in which the Readers Club was offered the use of three rooms. The ladies voted and agreed to relocate the library to the new facility. The library continued to prosper under the leadership of the Readers’ Club, even though it was only open on Saturdays at the time. In 1941, the first full-time librarian was hired, Miss Mildred Morgan. She kept the library open five days a week. On April 24, 1941, the City of Dayton adopted the library, hence the title the Dayton Public Library. The library owned 2,311 volumes and had 532 patrons borrowing an average of 1,000 books a month. In 1942, the Fort Loudon Regional Library adopted it as part of the regionally recognized facilities.
The Dayton Public Library and the City of Dayton continued to grow. They realized once again it was time to expand the facilities that contained the Library and City Hall. In January 1965, the City of Dayton moved into the current municipal building. The library was moved with City Hall and occupied the space that is now the conference room. The library experienced an additional charge in August 1962, when Vivian Coxey was hired as the full-time librarian. Mrs. Coxey held this position for twenty-one years.
While Dayton continued to grow so did the library. In April 1977, it was given the first building designated solely as the Dayton Public Library. The library was located on Market Street beside the Fire Station and offered 2,500 square feet including office space for the librarian. Another milestone was the creation of a board of directors. The first board meeting was held in this building with Mary Purser, Mary Bell, and Tennga Conner in attendance.
The Dayton Public Library was renamed the Clyde W. Roddy Public Library in 1997. Mr. Roddy was a past city manager, businessman, and a local historian who had a significant collection on Dayton’s history; Mrs. Evelyn Roddy donated the collection to the City of Dayton after Mr. Roddy’s death in 1998.
As the Clyde W. Roddy Public Library continued to grow in holdings, technology, and staff, the City of Dayton once again realized the need for a larger facility. The City of Dayton, the Library Board, and the staff worked together to plan a larger, more efficient library. The City of Dayton was eager to start the project, but was aware that funding was going to be and issue. They began to budget financing for a new building, knowing it was going to take time. A major boost came when the library received a bequest of $100,000 from Mr. Charles Patrick Kelley to establish a genealogy room in memory of his last wife, Virginia Godsey Kelley.
The new Clyde W. Roddy Public Library was opened for business on February 22, 1999. The new library had an official dedication ceremony on March 19, 1999. The new structure offers 10,000 square feet, internet access, public catalog terminals, an extensive genealogy and reference selection, and a formal conference room.
Beginning with three hundred volumes in 1932, the current volume count is 36,000 and growing. The current budget is $284,789 annually, with significant dollars allotted for continued growth.
Today the Clyde W. Roddy Library continues to expand and develop. It now offers a Daycare Courier Service, Senior Courier Service, Tutoring (America Reads & Counts: Bryan College Affiliation), story hours, interlibrary loan, book talk series, summer reading program, and a Smart Board for audiovisual use.
The library pictured is made a brick and mortar. This brief history shows how the building and its contents have grown and changed over time. But it is much more than this. At heart the library has been a housing for people, ideas, giving, and community service. This is captured well in the words of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
“For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.”
The Herald Newspaper, April 3, 1941
The Builder by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Composed by Brittany M. West Assistant Librarian