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As community hotspot, library’s bounds seem limitless

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If you stand by John P. Holt Brentwood Library for a week, the entire city will walk by — or so it seems. 

After all, the library had almost 256,800 visitors last year. And the population of Brentwood is about 43,000.  

From the time the library opens until it closes, a steady stream of people of all ages can be seen coming and going through its doors. With so much more to offer than just being a place to pick out a book or do research, the library at the intersection of Concord and Knox Valley roads has become more of a community center. 

Is it the new 18,000-piece puzzle? Is it story time in the children’s room or the opportunity to take a college course? Or is it some other activity that keeps them coming back?

Most likely, it’s all of the above and more.

It started with a vision

In the late 1960s, Brentwood was facing big changes coming from many directions and an uncertain future. In walked Kitty Grace, a visionary and a doer of a different kind. 

Grace saw the need to get books into more hands, and she was going to make that happen. She arranged for the Blue Grass Regional Library’s bookmobile in Columbia to make a stop at Brentwood Pharmacy, where she had acquired a space for books from pharmacy owner Ed Barker.

Demand was high and space was limited, so Grace found a new home, at  Brentwood Cleaners. For about 16 years, owner Ed Tanksley’s wife offered to keep a circulation file for the shelves of books they housed while the community worked toward a true library. 

Local civic clubs joined the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce in raising money to buy books and a trailer, but on July 26, 1976, a more traditional location was provided: the first floor of Maryland Farms Building Two. 

With help from the War Memorial Library in Franklin, Brentwood’s library officially opened with more than 5,000 volumes. 

In 1980, after the library had outgrown its space, the city of Brentwood stepped in and purchased the Buchanan House on Franklin Road from Claude Dunn, giving the library yet a new location. Three years later, the city assumed control of the library and installed a board of trustees. 

The library continued to grow, and in 1986 moved to a new $1 million facility in Maryland Farms. It remained there until 1998, when it moved to its 55,000-square-foot facility, where it continues to grow services, inventory and support from the community. 

During excavation work in preparation for construction of the current library, it was discovered the land had been the site of a prehistoric Woodland Indian settlement.

Although delayed, construction got underway after city officials worked closely with representatives of the Cherokee Nation to ensure that the removal of artifacts and reinterment of graves were in compliance with Native American traditions.

Future appears bright

The library, which now houses 150,155 volumes, last year circulated more than 653,000 items, including out-of-the-ordinary items such as ukuleles. 

In addition to offering access to computers, the library offers programs for all ages and interests. Included in the mix are family bingo nights, trivia competitions, food-and-beverage tastings, gardening tips, financial workshops and art and fitness classes. Two recently renovated meeting rooms with updated audio and video capabilities and other amenities are available for groups and organizations to rent. 

A recent $4.2 million contribution from the O’Delle Holt estate is expected to help transform some of the library’s possibilities into probabilities. 

Susan Earl, library director, says O’Delle and John Holt were big proponents of lifelong learning, and, “This dream has opened up a pool of ideas.”

After polling the community, the library board has developed a plan and presented it to the Brentwood Board of Commissioners for approval. High on the immediate list is installing a kiosk for serving coffee, hot chocolate and tea, improving WiFi capabilities and replacing furniture.

Drop by the library and catch up with a neighbor, check out a book, read a magazine or just take a break and enjoy all the library’s ambience.

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