In 1958 the American Library Association designated April as the month to honor libraries all across the United States, and since then, a week is set aside each April to celebrate all things library and the myriad contributions librarians have made to our nation’s history. This week (Sunday, April 19, 2020 – Saturday, April 25, 2020) marks the 62nd annual event, and gives us a chance commemorate one of Georgia’s most historic library systems.
By all accounts, Augusta, Georgia has one of the oldest, if not the oldest libraries in the state, but its eighteenth century origin is a bit convoluted. What we do know though, is that sometime between the two recorded dates of 1732 and 1750, Augusta, Georgia saw the formation of its first public library. In the early 1830s a number of wealthy benefactors from Britain donated books for a public library in the colony, many of which arrived on the ship, Charming Nancy. In Augusta, public sentiment was high for the formation of a library, and by 1750, Augusta had ten titles listed in the Catalogue of Augusta’s First Library, for public use.
Several groups and societies were involved in the early establishment of the public library, and among them were, The Augusta Library Society (1730), and The Thespian Society and Library Company of Augusta (1808), but finally in 1848, with the formation of the Young Men’s Library Association, Augusta’s first official public library was opened. The Young Men’s Library Association and Reading Room was opened on March 13, 1848. By 1855, the library housed 2,000 volumes, which grew to 12,000 by 1908. Until 1926, when the library was moved into the Old Richmond Academy Building, several locations were home to the growing collection, and sadly the library was temporarily closed in 1906 due to a lack of funding.
The library remained in the Richmond Academy Building until 1960 when all 103,542 volumes were moved to the newly constructed mid-century modern facility designed by architects, Eve and Stulb, on the corner of 9th and Greene Streets. Finally, the Augusta Public Library had a permanent home, until June 25, 2010 when it was moved to its present location at 823 Telfair Street.
A Catalogue of Augusta’s First Library
199 Years of Augusta’s Library by Berry Fleming
Common Prayer Books, 22 copies
Companion of the Sick, 12 copies
Duty of Man, 13 copies
Faith and Practice of a Church of England Man, 12 copies
Help and Guide to Christian Families, 20 copies
How to Walk with God, 50 copies
Spelling Books, 12 copies
The Great Importance of a Religious Life Considered, 6 copies
The Young Christian Instructed, 12 copies