In 1974 a group predating our present FOL was formed in support of the relocation of the original A.K. Harper Memorial Library, built in 1931, that had outgrown its facility. The Blount County Friends of the Library (BCFOL) was organized in the 1970’s to support fund-raising efforts for building the McGhee Street Library and relocating the Library’s collections.
The Friends of the Library then became a support group for the library staff.
In 1981, the Blount County Library moved to its newly constructed McGhee Street location. At that time, the library was expected to take 30 years (until 2011) to outgrow its facility. But the rapid growth of Blount County seriously impacted library usage and in 1999, just 18 years after the McGhee Street location, the county acquired the old Sky City property and began construction of today’s grand facility.
Our award-winning Library building was completed in May 2002, and continues to delight and inspire visitors. The Blount County Friends organization has grown to include 1164 members (as of June 2012). It continues to focus public attention on the library, cooperate with the library staff in developing services for the community, supply volunteers to assist staff, and raise funds for special needs.
The Friends have one annual meeting in June, but the Friends board meets monthly. Friends programs that have been highly successful include the lecture series and the ongoing collection of books for quarterly book sales.
BCFOL also belongs to United for Libraries, the national organization for Friends groups, formerly called Friends of Libraries U.S.A.
State and local Friends of Libraries and similar support groups share their best ideas. The tremendous volume of work and support offered to libraries is impressive. This is particularly important here in Tennessee, as the state ranked 42nd in operating revenue per capita for libraries in FY 2011 (up from 48th in FY 2010). For charts, see Public Library Survey FY 2012. It appears that without Friends groups, none of us would enjoy the extensive well-equipped libraries we currently have.