1998 Barbara Kingsolver Award Winner

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1998 Barbara Kingsolver Award Winner

Friends of the Tellico Village (TN) Library

Tellico Village is located in Loudon County, Tenn., a rural area with a diverse population and high adult illiteracy rates. It ranked 88th out of the 94 Tennessee counties in state funding for libraries, and Tellico Village has no local tax base to support a library.

In 1987, some Tellico Village residents formed a book discussion group, which led to a makeshift library; a few shelves of donated books in the corner of an all-purpose room of a community building. This informal library continued to grow, with the help of the Regional Library Bookmobile, and occupied a series of donated spaces.

In 1994, the Friends of the Tellico Village Library was incorporated, their mission being to enlarge and enrich their library. Their specific goal for 1996-1997 was to establish permanent library quarters that would qualify them for membership in the Loudon County Library System.

Meeting the Goal

The Friends developed and followed a specific action plan in their efforts to establish the library. A membership drive increased their ranks by more than 50%. Currently one-sixth of the Village residents are Friends.

Fundraising was an important part of the plan, as there were no public funds available for any library materials or services. Fundraising activities were many and varied:

  • A wish list was established, and all the furniture for the library was pledged by members at an Open House. Pledges exceeded $2,000.
  • Used book sales and a silent auction brought in $3,900, and the Wal-Mart Foundation provided $2,000 in matching funds.
  • At holiday time, a Give-a-Gift Christmas tree with ornaments bearing the names of $10 donors, brought in $1,115.
  • Sales of specially designed Tellico Village resident name badges added $1,165.
  • Project “Clean Sweep”: A local insurance agent paid Friends volunteers to clean his Adopt-a-Highway commitment.
  • Book Lover’s Calendars were sold.
  • The Memorial Book Program resulted in nearly $2,000 in book purchases.
  • An audio tape rental program raised more than $1,000.

Along with materials and furniture, the library also needed staff. Volunteer recruitment was an ongoing task. A six-hour training program prepared volunteers to work in the library, and more than 80 volunteers were trained and participated.
The Friends have involved the entire community in the library project, and 63 Village and regional businesses and Village associations and committees have provided either direct financial aid or services.

Into the Future

In October 1997 the Friends learned that their hard work had paid off. The Tellico Village Library had been accepted by the Loudon County Library Board. This affiliation allowed for expansion of hours and services, and provided one staff member. The Friends are committed to continuing their volunteer staffing and to increasing services to meet the needs of the surrounding rural areas of the county.

Barbara Kingsolver’s Remarks

Barbara Kingsolver presented the award in person, saying “In handing you this check, I feel I am paying the largest overdue fine of my life.” Ms. Kingsolver paid tribute to the winners for their dedication to providing opportunities for learning. She described her childhood home in an eastern Kentucky community where the library was located in the electric company building, and said that as a child she thought that Reddy Kilowatt was the universal symbol for libraries! She praised libraries for “honoring the possibilities of people who live in quiet desperation and the heroic ways created to cope with that desperation,” and closed by saying “When you put books into the hands of children struggling to believe in their lives and adults struggling with literacy to make sense of their lives, you are changing the world. I thank you for that.”