The Nantahala Regional Library, with its headquarters located in Murphy, is the oldest Regional Library in North Carolina and one of the first fourteen regional libraries formed in the United States.
The Nantahala Regional Library organized on May 1, 1937, when the Tennessee Valley Authority signed a contract with the Murphy Library Board to provide service at the construction site of the Hiwassee Dam in Cherokee County. The first Board Members were: L.B. Nichols, Chairman; Fannie Mitt Case; Claude King; W.A. Adams; Mrs. John Shields; and E.A. Wood. The Library Board agreed to organize and conduct a camp library and hire a camp librarian and a regional librarian. Miss Ellen Axley was appointed camp librarian and Mrs. Ida Belle Entrekin was appointed the first regional librarian. When the Hiwassee Dam construction neared completion and the Tennessee Valley Authority contract with the Murphy Library Board expired, it was necessary to seek other methods of support for the Library. Library leaders in Cherokee County promoted a campaign for tax support, and on November 5, 1940, 3,437 citizens voted for the library tax and 1,643 voted against it. The week following the vote, the Nantahala Regional Library was established on November 14, 1940, when contracts were entered into between the Counties of Cherokee, Clay, and Graham and the Towns of Murphy and Andrews for regional service.
The Nantahala Regional Library was first located on the same floor as the Murphy Library in the Carnegie Library building. Due to crowded conditions, the Nantahala Regional Library looked for space elsewhere. When the Murphy School had a vacant building, the Regional Library was allowed to occupy that building rent-free. Later, when the school building burned, it was necessary to move again, this time back to the Carnegie building on the ground floor in a space which had previously been used for the Teenage Club. When the Town of Murphy had excavation done in the basement of the Carnegie building to house a fire truck, the back of the building collapsed. Another move was made to an old building on the school campus, this time using the school halls for book and office space. When school started, the library building was still under repair and the Regional Library did not move back to the repaired building until November of 1963. The Regional Library made four moves over a five-year period.
Obviously, the Nantahala Regional Library needed permanent quarters. In July of 1971, the first application for federal aid for a library building was made to house both the Nantahala Regional Library and the Murphy Public Library. In 1972, the fundraising campaign began. Word came that there were no construction funds in the President's budget for the new year. Many of our local citizens wrote to our Congressman asking for help. In 1973, architect Eric Townson prepared all the building plans and drawings for approval by the State Library. In 1974, funds which had been frozen were released. Roy Taylor, Congressman, announced approval of the Appalachian Grant to supplement the Library Services and Construction Act funds. The project was completed and on May 16, 1976, open house was held for the new library building.
On July 1, 2001, this building was renovated to allow for more space for the Murphy Public Library. The Nantahala Regional Library moved its offices upstairs in this renovated building. Construction was completed in September of 2001.
Regional libraries are organized to provide more adequate service than can be provided by public libraries in small, rural counties that are operated separately. A multi-county system can provide improved in-service training opportunities for non-professional staff members. The State Library, which is a division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, promotes the formation of regional libraries in adherence to state and national library standards. These standards point out that only libraries working together and sharing their services and materials, can meet the full needs of their patrons.