In the winter of 1889, five Tryon, North Carolina ladies met over tea and discussed the community’s need for a library. After receiving encouraging support, a club was formed to develop and support a library. The founders envisioned an organization that would be the source of intellectual and cultural stimulation for the community.
Named for poet Sidney Lanier whose last months were spent in Tryon, the library’s first books were two volumes of his poems, a gift from his widow, Mary. The club’s first meeting was held on January 9, 1889. Membership in the club was set at sixty cents per year and on April 27, 1890, the first books were available to members. The library bookcase had many homes over the next fifteen years. Starting in a church basement, it moved to the post office and a number of stores on Trade Street. Several challenges, including a fire, difficulty in finding a permanent home for the library, and financial instability did not deter the ladies of the Lanier Club and they pressed forward with vigor and determination. In 1900 the club established a traveling library bringing books to outlying communities by horse and buggy. In April 1905 the Lanier Club was incorporated (the name was changed to The Lanier Library Association, Inc. in 1956). In December 1905 a lot on Melrose Ave. was purchased and construction began on a permanent home for the Library. The original building still exists and as other additions were added over the years the original structure became the main entrance to the Library.
While continuing to provide intellectual stimulation to the community, the Club became involved in civic activities. However, as the community grew and other civic groups were formed, the Lanier Club was relieved of some of its civic responsibilities and its main purpose was to continue with library services while providing cultural programs for the community. Members of the Club agreed that, whenever possible, monetary gifts would be credited to an endowment fund and in 1930 the Club voted to establish the fund. In addition to the establishment of an endowment fund, another important event occurred in 1930--men were admitted to membership.
As membership and acquisitions grew, more space and bookshelves were needed. Members of the community gave generously. In 1927, money for a reading room was donated; in 1967, money was donated for another addition to house the non-fiction collection; in 1987, a generous benefactor donated money for a new wing which now contains the fiction collection. The Lanier Library is a subscription/membership library receiving no public monies and supported entirely by members’ dues, gifts, donations, and by endowments. Just as in the early days, the community continues to provide outstanding support for the library.