One of the first projects of the Stanford Woman’s Club after its organization in 1914 was the Lincoln County Free Public Library. With a bit of financial aid from the Fiscal Court, this small group of civic-minded women established this library on the third floor of the courthouse and managed to keep it open each Saturday afternoon with volunteer club librarians.
From 1938-41, Lincoln County received a WPA grant for libraries that were already established but had no funds for operation. Under this grant, the library was provided with a paid library assistant under trained supervision and materials for repairing books.
In 1954, the State Department of Libraries provided welcome aid in the form of a well-stocked bookmobile. At this time, the Fiscal Court made room for the library in the courthouse basement to facilitate the loading and unloading of books.
For years, it was touch and go to keep the library operating. Through the tireless efforts of Mrs. Dunn, library board chairman, the public was made aware of the library’s problems, and groups and individuals responded sufficiently to maintain the service. In addition to the Woman’s Club’s continued support, four more of its members have shown unusual interest in the form of memorials or bequests.
By far the most substantial of these came from Mrs. Harvey Helm, who willed her home on Main St. to the people of Lincoln County for a library. Two provisions of the will were (1) that a tax be voted by Lincoln Co. taxpayers to maintain this library and (2) that the front part of the building (including a log structure that housed Stanford’s First Presbyterian Church) be left intact in case remodeling of the facility became necessary. The books were moved to this location in January 1966.
Again aid came from the State Department of Libraries, this time in the form of an agreement to make our library a two-year demonstration facility. With this came a larger bookmobile, 10,000 added books, a television, bookshelves, films, a projector, records, and a copy machine. The agreement stipulated, however, that within two years the library board should make provisions for more room, or the state would terminate this demonstration and their equipment returned to them.
Accordingly, the library question asking for a tax was placed on the November 1966 ballot. This issue was defeated. In November 1967, the question was again proposed to the voters and subsequently passed with a substantial majority.
To fulfill our agreement, plans were formulated to build a modern two-story brick structure onto the front part of the Helm building. Added encouragement came in the form of a grant made possible by Governor Louis B. Nunn from the State Department of Libraries, the grant to be paid to the library board in annual installments of $9,778 for 20 years.
At this point, it was found that building money could not be secured to remodel and add to the Helm house. To ensure the continuation of the library and take advantage of the state grant, a new site was selected, and the Harvey Helm Memorial Library was erected at Third and Church Streets in 1971.
After more than 30 years, the public library outgrew its location. On October 17, 2008, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the Lincoln County Public Library. The new library at 201 Lancaster Street, Stanford opened to the public in the Spring of 2010.