Phoenix Club nurtures Searcy’s library

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 14, 2002

The only free lending library the city of Searcy has ever known was originally established by the Searcy Phoenix Club more than 105 years ago. With the help of the Searcy Phoenix Club, the library has continually met the need for changes and has remained a vital and active cultural and educational resource for Searcy as well as White County. The Phoenix Club also has remained just as active and vital throughout the years to contribute to the necessary growth of its major focus.

The first library effort consisted of the contribution of individual Phoenix Club members’ books to a small lending library which was housed in the home of one club member. Fewer than 50 books were in the original collection, but this effort was a start to “improve the literary and social life” of Searcians. Approximately 20 years later,t he demand for more books had continued to grow so that the Phoenix Club found it necessary to relocate its library to a larger location.

The lending library was placed in the offices of a medical doctor whose practice was located in the building occupied by the Caldwell Broadcasting organization. Dr. S.T. Tapscott provided library space for the next 10 years. His daughter, Winnie Tapscott, a Phoenix Club member and schoolteacher, served as librarian on a volunteer basis. In 1928, more space again was required. Tapscott and the library collection moved to the basement of the White County Courthouse and remained in that location until 1928.

Dr. Tapscott's House

In 1928, the Phoenix Club petitioned the Searcy City Council for permission to construct a public library building in Searcy Spring Park. With permission granted, a fund-raising effort was undertaken to secure the money to build the small library that served the community until the current building was constructed in 1966.

In 1939, the White County Quorum Court and County Judge established a countywide library system and designated the Searcy Library as the headquarters library. As a result of this move, funding became more secure and the library became less dependent on the donations of the Phoenix Club and other individuals. State and county monies now made it possible to purchase a lager number of books and to provide salaries for library staff. Throughout these years, however, the Phoenix Club has continued to make valuable contributions to the library. Air conditioning may be cunted as one of the most appreciated gifts, by both staff and patrons.

Difficult times are once again calling for the special attention of the Phoenix Club. Due to financial cutbacks on the state level and the current economic slump, the library has taken a 24 percent budget cut. The library materials budget has been trimmed to the minimum to accommodate this shortfall.

In response, the Phoenix Club at its last meeting voted to become more of a driving force in the life of the library. Recognizing the impact of technology on today’s social and learning needs, the Phoenix Club has chosen to concentrate its efforts on providing a large and varied source of recorded books and videos. In their effort to provide the public with more materials in these formats, the Phoenix Club will commit both current and future funding to this project, as well as request assistance from the public in the form of monetary donations and audio and videocassettes.