Lanier Library enduring legacy from early townswomen

Published 6:51 pm Monday, March 26, 2012

In this women’s history month, Tryon’s Lanier Library points to its own history as a lasting testament to the determination of pioneering townswomen. In this case, the women were determined to ensure that the town and its environs would have access to books and to culture.
The Lanier Library has thrived for more than 100 years, changing with the times (i.e., computers, automated circulation system, website), but never losing its ambience as a place of cultural and historical significance. The Arts and Crafts building at the corner of Melrose Ave. and Chestnut St. barely hints at its beginnings as a grassroots project initiated by a group of ambitious and civic-minded women.
The Lanier Club, composed of five Tryon women, first met in 1889 to discuss the idea of forming a lending library for the town. By 1890, with a gift from Sidney Lanier’s widow, Mary, of two volumes of his poetry, these and other books became available to townspeople in a single bookcase that traveled up and down Trade Street, being housed in turn at various locations. Club members even rode on horseback into the hilly areas outside of Tryon, carrying books to those who could not easily come into town.
In 1905 construction of the original building was completed, and the library as we know it began its service. In later years several rooms would be added to the building as membership grew. Throughout its early years, besides a devotion to literary and cultural enrichment, the Lanier Library spearheaded many projects to better the community, from organizing clean-up campaigns to helping make school attendance compulsory to sponsoring adult education programs. These efforts to improve conditions spread throughout Polk County and into South Carolina.
The Lanier Library welcomes now, as then, members from all over who seek to stay informed, involved and entertained. The library continues in its role as provider of cultural programs for the community at large with its Brown Bag Lunch Programs, book discussions, children’s programs and special events. These events are open to members and nonmembers alike, usually free of charge. The library also sponsors the annual Sidney Lanier Poetry Competition open to North and South Carolina poets.
As a private library, one of only a handful left in the United States, the Lanier Library receives no public funding. It is instead supported by gifts, endowments and membership fees. These fees, because they are kept low, cover only a small portion of the library’s operating costs.
The Lanier Library is now renewing annual memberships of current members, as well as seeking new members. Membership in the library is open to everyone. Family memberships are available with all the accompanying benefits, including access to current bestselling and literary titles as well as the many cultural and literary programs offered, Sunday and summer evening hours, and, of course, the chance to participate in a relevant part of Polk County’s past.
Besides general fiction and nonfiction, the library contains children’s and young adults’ books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs and CDs. There are sections of large-print volumes, audiobooks and books by local authors. Members may also use the library’s computers. There’s even an old-fashioned and yet up-to-date card catalog.
Stop by today to renew or establish your membership. The library is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays and on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. In April Wednesday hours will be changed to provide evening hours for the duration of the summer.
The Lanier Library is located at 72 Chestnut Street in Tryon. For more information call 859-9535 or visit the website at
– article submitted
by Gina Malone

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