More About Us

Our Mission is Satisfying the Customer’s Need to Know.


In April of 1888, Frederick Cossitt made a promise to provide the land and funding for the first public library in Memphis. In 1893, The Cossitt library was dedicated, thus beginning the tradition of excellence in Library Services for the City of Memphis.

More than 125 years later, as a City of Memphis agency, we have 18 locations, And a variety of outreach services strategically located to serve a population of nearly 650,000 people, reflecting the diversity of Memphis.

We serve lifelong learners and encourage young readers. We serve newcomers wishing to improve their English language skill and small business owners wishing to grow what they have built. Our programs bring history to life and our computers connect people with the vastness of the internet. In short, we strive daily to satisfy the customer’s need to know.

We’ve moved from the traditional card catalog to utilizing technology to access the vast collections we offer. But, our mission is still the same. We help our customers find just the right book or the right resource to move them one step closer to their dreams of prosperity and independence. We can help make those school assignments just a little easier. And, at the end of the day, we can even help them relax with a great book or movie.

Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library

The Children’s department of the Benjamin Hooks Central Library boasts a large collection designed for young readers of all levels, with a décor that brings the space to life, The expert staff create programming of all types to nurture a lifelong love of the library

Our Humanities department has a very diverse collection that spans the breadth of art and entertainment, with special collections designed for the hobbyist and enthusiast of all types. One can find great literature, information on collectibles, music in all its forms, and materials for spiritual growth.

In 1975, we created LINC/211 as the primary point of access to the library for many customers. The department is designed to answer ready reference questions in a matter of minutes using a comprehensive reference collection. More importantly, as the regional 211 provider, callers my receive a wealth of information regarding the vast network of health and human service providers in our area. This information is developed and maintained in a comprehensive database of social service providers and services in the mid-south area.

Our Business and Sciences department, in addition to the standard collection of business and science related information and materials, maintains a strong special collection focusing on personal finance. We boast a nationally recognized, award-winning health information center. We maintain an extensive collection for job seekers. And we have an extensive collection of materials designed to aid people in repairing a vast array of important items such as cars and household appliances. There is also an extensive collection of online resources for business, law and government, and small businesses.

The History department features the beautiful Memphis Room, with restored furniture form the original Cossitt Library. This area houses manuscript collections and artifacts that tell the story of the growth of Memphis and the surrounding metro area. And, as the history of the Civil Rights struggle is interwoven in the fabric our community, we have developed a special collection of African American works that is easily accessible to all Memphians. Additionally, we have created a huge reference resource for all things genealogy, with trained volunteers who will guide customers into the process of family research. We also offer various online history resources such as Gale databases, NewsBank, Dig Memphis, and more.

Branch Libraries

Memphis Public Library has 17 branches and a mobile job and career service , JobLINC, that are positioned to represent the unique nature of needs of the communities they serve. Examples:

  • Cossitt serves an ever-changing downtown.
  • Crenshaw is a hub for the young people in the surrounding neighborhood.
  • North has an intimate relationship with Northside High School and businesses in the community.
  • East Shelby is an example of a successful partnership between the City of Memphis and Shelby County Government. The library is located in unincorporated Shelby County, with a large residential population requiring Library service.
  • South is uniquely located as a store-front in a commercial center, providing easier access to services.
  • The beautifully designed Whitehaven, centrally located near schools and homes in the area, is a vital resource in a community with a huge customer base.
  • The redeveloped Cordova Branch was expanded greatly to meet the needs of a growing community.
  • And Bartlett, a successful partnership between the City of Bartlett and the City of Memphis, ensures their community receives the highest level of library service possible.

Support Services

Memphis Public Library is the only library system with a full service television and radio station. In addition to offering extensive community-oriented and government access programming, it has a long standing history of providing a reading service for the visually impaired and those who lack traditional access to the library. In keeping with the cultural richness that is Memphis, the Radio station present unique programming featuring Memphis music, in a variety of genres. Book Talk, a nationally recognized program, provides authors an opportunity to share their works with the audience or viewers and listeners.

Behind the scenes, we have a strong team of people that support and aid the public services staff of the library. This team is comprised of a variety of departments that make sure everything is in place to serve the customer. Materials are ordered, processed, cataloged, labeled, jacketed and repaired. From here, they get delivered to the right location, or shelved to be used by customers. Finally, we have a Staff Development team that works with the various departments to ensure that all staff have the training and skills necessary to be successful in meeting our mission of ”satisfying the customer’s need to know.”