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One hundred years ago, the Bluefield Civic League of Women earmarked $50 to found a library. This decision became a local institution used by many people today, the Craft Memorial Library.
The library started a year of celebrations Tuesday with kick-off reception featuring food and entertainment, said Director Eva McGuire.
“We’ve had a public library in Bluefield since May 5 of 1913,” McGuire said. “The Bluefield Civic League for Women actually opened it up. We’re not sure of the exact location.”
The 1913 library was most likely on Federal Street. To furnish it, the women of the league had fundraising and book drives. They had 600 books on the library’s shelves by the time it opened. Six books were loaned on the first day.
Miss Blanche Shirey was appointed as the first librarian, according to a historical account compiled by the present day library’s staff. She received a salary of $25 a month. Her assistants were Mrs. Knibb, Miss Sadler, and Mrs. Edwin Mann.
“They wanted to have an area where people could just relax, talk and have a small library,” McGuire said.
By October 1913, the library had outgrown its first quarters and a larger space was secured in the, then, new Law & Commerce Building on Federal Street for $50 a month, according to the library’s history. The money received from the city was only enough to take care of the monthly rent.
Under the leadership of Mrs. Edwin Mann more funds were secured. Tearooms were run for two months at a time. The first one was held in the Merchant’s Rest Room under the name “At the Sign of the Tea Cup.” Dances, moving picture benefits, teas, and other functions were used for raising money.
Eventually, the new library could offer the Bluefield Daily Telegraph as well as some reference books, children’s books, and some magazines, McGuire said.
Events happening all over the world impacted the library’s operations. A pandemic of a deadly disease dubbed the Spanish Flu closed Bluefield’s library for two weeks in October 1918.
“This plague was not just confined to Bluefield; this deadly virus killed one-fifth of the world’s population,” according to the history.
Eventually, the public library moved to its present location on 600 Commerce Street. The facility, the scene of Tuesday’s celebration, opened on March 1, 1974.
“This evening is our kick-off reception,” she said of Tuesday’s festivities. “We’re going to have food that will be provided by The Perfect Bite, a local catering company, and we’re going to have music. It’s going to be Doc Greenberg and the Patient Jazz Band.”
The library will host a special program every month for the 100th anniversary, McGuire said.
“This time next year we’re going to conclude our activities with what we call a craft festival. We’ll have crafts, food, games and entertainment to conclude our year with a special event,” she stated.