The defeat of the Carnegie Library proposal in a Statesville municipal vote on May 6, 1913 was definitely a setback for local library supporters. With the vote not even close at 244 against and 164 in favor they couldn’t even ask for a recount. They must have felt shocked and a little angry, but they didn’t give up. Instead, they continued to keep a library operating in some form at some place in Statesville just as they had since 1903.
The biggest challenge was finding a suitable facility. The library was always on the move. They would find a location and fix the place up and move the collection in and announce their new location, but in a few months, they would have to close and again relocate. The Feb. 10, 1916, Statesville Sentinel reported, “The South Statesville Free Public Library was organized Monday night and opened, with over 1,500 selected volumes, in Mr. D.V. Ball’s store room on Winston Avenue. The library will be open every Tuesday evening from 7:30 to 9:30 o’clock.”
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The Civic and Book Clubs are still working to better the community. The March 31, 1916 issue of The Landmark reported that the Civic Club under chairwoman Mrs. Tom Anderson (Ina M. mother of Grace Anderson for whom Grace Anderson Park is named) had decided to rent from Mrs. Irvin Steele her vacant lot on the corner of Front and Oak Streets to be used as a playground.
Edith Louise Fawcett Ausley, wife of Daniel M. Ausley at the Commercial Bank, is still the library’s champion and is still operating a library in town. Edith is also among a group pushing for the creation of a county fair in Iredell. The March 30, 1916, issue of The Sentinel reports on a meeting of county fair supporters noting, “Mrs. D.M. Ausley aroused the greatest enthusiasm when she said it would look strange if Iredell County could not get up a fair when Statesville had raised $5,000 for baseball.”
By 1917 it’s been four years since the Carnegie Library proposal had been rejected by the voters and Mrs. Ausley is ready for another try. She again presents a petition to Statesville’s Board of Aldermen signed by 25% of the city’s qualified voters asking that the building of a library be put on the ballot for voter approval.
The election is set for May 8, 1917. The vote is to ask voters to approve a surtax to support the library. It was not until 1974 in North Carolina that libraries were allowed to receive tax money from the general property tax collections. In 1917, a new library champion appears, joining Edith Ausley in supporting a public library in Statesville.
Mary Alice Montgomery “Mamie” Robbins Long is the daughter of Major William McKendree Robbins, an Iredell Civil War veteran, attorney, and U.S. Congressman. Mary Alice’s husband is Benjamin Franklin Long also an attorney. Long is a former Statesville mayor who has also been the city’s attorney and is now a prominent judge having previously served three terms as solicitor of the Iredell County court.
“Mamie” joins with Edith Ausley, Mamie S. Nooe, Ina M. Anderson and Sarah A. Sharpe, who is still offering free land for the building, in campaigning for the library proposals approval. The ladies take out a large ad with photos in the May 3, 1917 issue of The Sentinel challenging the citizens of Statesville with the headline, “Even Mocksville Has Library."
They proclaim, “If Mocksville can maintain and have a library like this why should not Statesville at least prove herself worthy of the name she has justly won, “Statesville, The Best Town In North Carolina.”
In 1903 Mrs. Ausley had held Statesville’s first “Everybody’s Day” as a fundraiser for the library. Helping supervise the celebration was Captain Thomas Rowland conductor of the June Bug Railroad of the A.T. & O Railroad. Statesville takes its first slogan from Rowland who would always call out as the train reached town, “Statesville the Best Town in North Carolina.”
The ad also shows a picture of the shabby looking building currently being used in Statesville as a library and reminds people that Hickory will soon have a Carnegie Library. Hickory, they point out, only has 1,200 mostly worn books to go in their library while “Statesville already has 3,000 for immediate use.” They go on adding, “The library is not an institution for the classes, but is the educational center and seat of all research for the entire town. Don’t allow it to be said that Statesville has voted against its own educational advancement.”
Statesville responds to their challenge and overwhelmingly passes the library proposal 302 in favor to 97 opposed. The resolution requires arrangements for a library to be completed in four years or by 1921. Edith Ausley and her supporters opened library rooms in Statesville in 1903 and now 14 years later they have approval of $5,000 from the Carnegie Foundation to build a library, they have the land, they have the books, and now they have the city’s financial support.
So where is Statesville’s Carnegie Library?