Raleigh History


LIBRARY HISTORY COLLECTION

Explore the history behind your local branch.

Raleigh Library

Raleigh has an illustrious past; of it her citizens can be proud. But the future appears even brighter…

Raleigh Dedication Brochure, 1966


rALEIGH SPRINGS ETERNAL

The idea for a library in Raleigh was initiated by the local Weeders and Seeders Garden Club, as early as 1952. In early 1954, a group of about 40 women met to discuss the possibility of a library for the community, and from that meeting a committee was formed to proceed with planning. On June 15, 1954, the Raleigh-Bartlett Community Library opened in the Weaver Building on James Road. The library started with 800 donated books that were arranged on shelves made of apple boxes and scrap lumber.


“We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?”

Doris Whitaker to then 92-year old Mertie Buckman, reminiscing on the beginnings of Raleigh Branch Library, from Library’s Story a Tribute to Volunteers, November 7, 1996.
261250 Interior of the Raleigh Branch library at 3157 Powers Road. Library History Collection, DIG MEMPHIS, Digital ID Library1959.

The first Raleigh library was only open eight hours per week, but by December of 1954 the library had grown to 2200 volumes, and in the library’s first six months of operation, the branch checked out 2500 books and registered 500 library users.

By 1955, the library had over 100 volunteers that had assisted in the library’s operation. In July the library moved to a white frame house at 4225 James Road. The house was said to have been the Shelby County Courthouse at some time in the 1830’s when the brick courthouse was being constructed. Paint, repairs and labor for the new community library were contributed by the Lions Club of Bartlett and the Kiwanis Club of Raleigh. Weeders and Seeders Club maintained the landscaping. 

A Raleigh-Bartlett Community Library Board was established, led by Mertie Buckman. Community support continued to grow through local efforts and fundraising including various book, white elephant, and bake sales as well as an antebellum tea at the historic Raleigh home, Goodwinslow. By 1964, the library had 14,215 volumes and was so crowded the sink had to be removed from the kitchen so additional shelving could be added there. 

Between November 1965 and November 1966 construction of a new 10,000 square foot library for the Raleigh community was completed and the new library held a grand opening at its new location on Powers Road on November 6, 1966. The Raleigh Branch library on Powers was a popular attraction to the residents of Raleigh and served the community for over 50 years. ​

Today, we launch a new chapter in Raleigh history with the Raleigh Library at the City of Memphis Raleigh Springs Civic Center.​

Learn more about the history of Raleigh below.

ITEMS FROM THE RALEIGH archival COLLECTION