There were several attempts to establish a county library back in the late 1890’s.
In January of 1904 The Gainesville News published an article stating, “Postmaster
Farrow is in correspondence with a wealthy northern gentleman about a Free Public
Library for our city. With our present population of nearly ten thousand people, with
three large cotton factories and their thousands of employees, and electric street car line
of about seven miles of track in operation, our Brenau College with its three hundred
young ladies, and the rapid growth of our city in every point of view, there could be no
young city in our broad land offering a prettier field for such a gift from a Christian
philanthropist.” Unfortunately none of these attempts of providing a public library were
Prior to 1933, the ladies of Grace Episcopal Church started a small community
library in the basement of their church. Mrs. J. H. Downey enlisted the women of the
church to volunteer in the afternoons so that the church would be open on a regular basis.
It was not unusual for a person returning a library book to make a donation of an
additional book to the library collection.
The tornado of 1936 destroyed the Grace Episcopal Church along with library.
Many books were left exposed to the elements, but some were salvaged by the ladies of
the church. Because of this loss to the community, Hall County residents started the
groundwork for a public library in Hall County, Georgia.
The first meeting of the Hall County Library Board was held in 1937. Interested
citizens named May 21, 1937 as Library Day and planned a book and money shower. In
March of 1938, the Hall County Library System officially moved into the basement of
the courthouse. Ethel Roark of Clermont was the first librarian.
During the early 1940’s, under the care of Mary Pursell, the first professionally
trained librarian for the system, several depository libraries were established throughout
the county. One of these libraries was in Murrayville at a combination grocery store and
post office; another was in the town hall of Lula; another was in Clermont; and another
was in a beauty shop in Flowery Branch. In the late 1940’s a branch library was
established in one of the classrooms of Northwestern School, a private school in
Gainesville for black students. The library in Northwestern School soon moved into a
building across the street from Fair Street School.
The first Hall County bookmobile was delivered in early February of 1950. The
bookmobile was originally stocked with some 1,000 to 1,200 books. The bookmobile
proved popular. In the first year of its operation the library circulation increased by more
than 20,000 books, 14,505 of which were loaned from the bookmobile.
The quest for better facilities and a larger budget began in 1956 with a bond issue
for the construction of a new library building. The vote ended in a tie, and the
judge ruled against the bond. In April of 1958, another bond issue was voted down. This
particular bond would have added a library wing to the existing courthouse. According
to an article in The Daily Times, the patrons of Hall County did not take the defeat well,
displaying a proclamation and a funeral wreath on the library doors. The
proclamation said, “… We declare a period of mourning for, 1. Lack of support, and 2.
Lack of public interest.”
Hall and Lumpkin counties combined their efforts in 1953 to form the Chestatee
Regional Library. The library was named after the Chestatee River that connects the
counties. Chestatee is a Cherokee word meaning “fire light place.”
It was not until 1967 that Hall County decided to build the current library at the
corner of Maple, Academy, and Main streets. The building site was the original resting
place for the family of Minor Winn Brown. The Brown Cemetery was moved to the Alta
Vista Cemetery on April 24, 1929. The Wheeler Hotel was built over the spot and later
demolished for the construction of the Chestatee Regional Library Building.
The Chestatee Regional Library Headquarters was dedicated on February 8, 1970.
In 1975, the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped was added to the library
system. Over the years the library branches have replaced library depositories.
In 1981 a branch was opened in Clermont; in 1991 the Blackshear Place Library was
constructed in Oakwood, and in 1994, new library branches were constructed in
Murrayville and the Rabbittown community.
In 1993, the Dawson County Library Board voted to withdraw from the Lake
Lanier Regional Library System and join the Chestatee Regional Library System.
In the summer of 1997, with the large population growth, the Hall County Library Board
voted to withdraw from the Chestattee Regional Library System. Now serving a
population over 120,000, the Hall County Library System in 2008 built the Spout
Springs Branch Library in Flowery Branch.