The first public library in Unicoi County was founded in October 1921 by the General Federation of Women’s Club of Erwin—then known as the Women’s Y Club. They were dedicated to public service and emphasizing arts, education, beautification, and conservation for the town of Erwin. At that time, the library consisted of one bookcase and twenty-two donated books, many of which came from the club president, Mrs. W. L. Cook. Members set up the bookcase in the Club Room on the second floor of Ewalds Store on Main Street and took turns acting as Librarian and bringing to life our community’s first library.
Popularity and growth of collections created a need to relocate. Mrs. Cook and the Women’s Club spearheaded the library’s move to the YMCA, where it stayed until 1929, when further expansion once again necessitated relocation. The Women’s Club joined forces with Kiwanis and the Business & Professional Club to establish an official library in Erwin. The Town granted them a room in the Municipal Building, where local-club members operated the library.
Colonel J. F. Toney
The library continued to serve the people of the Town and County through the 1930s and 1940s. In 1959, the Library Service Act disbursed federal funding for the library. A Board was appointed by the County Court, and it became the Unicoi County Public Library – a component of the Watauga Regional Library System under the Tennessee State Library and Archives.
In 1997, the library moved into a renovated Clinchfield Railroad Depot. Constructed in 1925, the Depot was a gift from the Colonel J.F. Toney family. This beautiful, historic depot has since been the home of Unicoi County Public Library.
In January of 1962, the library’s service base registered over 2,500 people and its collection totaled 8,086 books. As of 2021, UCPL has nearly 9,000 cardholders, houses over 25,000 books, and our materials reach millions thanks to the Northeast Tennessee Public Library network. This network enables sharing of library collections between neighboring counties in the Watauga region. Additionally, the library participates in Firefly – a statewide borrowing system – and OCLC – a nationwide borrowing system.