For Charlotte’s lovers of books and stories, the land on the corner of 300 North Tryon Street and Sixth Street is hallowed grounds. Since 1903, a public library has stood on this site. The first, known as the Carnegie Library, opened on July 2, 1903. This stately building was replaced in 1956 with a larger library that reflected the sleek, modernist style associated with the 1950s. The 1956 building underwent a complete renovation and major expansion in the mid-1980s, resulting in the current Main Library, which opened the public in 1989. For more information about the first two libraries located on this site, I recommend David W. Erdman’s 100 Lost Architectural Treasures of Old Charlotte.
Soon the Main Library will be demolished to make room for a new $100 million, five-storied library, but first, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is holding a nine-day celebration called One for the Books to remember and honor the history of the Main Library. Scheduled for November 6 – 14, 2021, One for the Books is billed as “a one-time, free opportunity for our community to honor the history of an uptown anchor, say goodbye to the current building, and welcome the future together.” For more information about the One for the Books celebration, please click on the following link: https://foundation.cmlibrary.org/one-for-the-books/
I have many fond memories of the Main Library, so of course, I will be participating in One for the Books. When I first moved to Charlotte in 1984, the 1956 building was still in use, and I quickly became a regular patron. I remember feeling frustrated when it closed for renovation in 1987, but I enjoyed participating in the events associated with the Main Library’s grand opening in 1989.
Two years later, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library started its Novello Festival of Reading, the predecessor to the current Verse and Vino event. Many of the presentations and activities associated with Novello took place in the Main Library, and I often attended. Before long I became a community volunteer, and for many years I helped organize the children’s side of Novello. When the recession of 2009 forced the library to discontinue the Novello Festival of Reading, I co-organized a community version of this event that we called A Tribute to Novello. I remember spending many hours in the Main Library coordinating this event, and I loved every minute of it. All of the authors and community members who helped did so on a volunteer basis. We were all motivated by our love of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
Before ImaginOn opened in 2005, the Main Library included a large children’s area, and I often took our son there. When he was about six, he developed a strong interest in castles. I took him to the Main Library where a helpful librarian helped him find an arm-load of books about castles. We brought the books home, and he consulted them while drawing his own versions of castles. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but he is now a professional architect here in Charlotte although he generally designs apartment complexes rather than castles.
My most recent memories of the Main Library relate to the films that Sam Shapiro showed in the Main Library. Prior to his recent retirement, Sam ran the film side of the library for years, and he often organized film festivals around various themes. He always gave a little talk about the film that he was about to show, and I learned a lot about film history from his talks and from seeing the films. He usually showed the films in the Francis Auditorium at the Main Library, and I usually sat in the audience. It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and I miss it.
As part of the One for the Books celebration, members of the public are invited to upload short videos of themselves reading from favorite books. I selected a passage from Christopher Paul Curtis’s Bud, Not Buddy for my contribution. In this passage, Bud goes to his public library to find help with a problem that he is having. I think it is a fitting passage to read since so many of us have gone to the Main Library to find help locating a desired book or to find help with a research question or find help formulating our weekend plans.
I served as one of the members of the community who provided input to the architects of the new library, so I have seen the plans and renderings for this new library. From what I have seen, I am sure it will be a true community treasure when it opens in a few years, and I can’t wait to visit it. Still, I know that many of us miss the Main Library, for it has long played a starring role in the history of Storied Charlotte.