Four books and a groundswell of public support have grown the Soddy-Daisy Community Library into an 18,000-work collection as the nonprofit organization marks its first year.
"About 5 percent of our books we have bought, and 95 percent have been donated," said Curtis Cecil, a partner in video design company KelCurt Media, which operates the library through its KelCurt Foundation. "Some of them are brand new, and some are gently used. Sometimes people will go out and buy a new book and bring it to us."
Soddy-Daisy Community Library
› Address: 9619 Dayton Pike (inside KelCurt Media).
› Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday.
› Phone: 423-800-2367.
› Online: www.kelcurtmedia.com and Facebook.
The library now occupies about three-quarters of the 4,000-square-foot KelCurt Media office on Dayton Pike, he says, and threatens to expand even further.
"My company keeps getting pushed back and pushed back. There's a running joke with the librarians that eventually I'll be editing [video] out of the bathroom," Cecil said, laughing. "I can foresee that happening."
Northwest Hamilton County residents have been without free access to a local library since 2011 when the city of Chattanooga allowed a 45-year-old sales tax agreement with Hamilton County to expire. The agreement spelled out how the city and county broke down their financial responsibilities for agencies they jointly funded. Without sales tax revenue, county officials decided they no longer could afford to fund what was then known as the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library.
Chattanooga fully took over funding the library, limiting its board to only city representatives and changing the name to The Public Library. Non-city residents must pay a $50 annual fee to receive a library card, though in-house use of the library is free to any patron.
The termination of funding also affected what is now the Collegedale Public Library. At the time, it was a branch of the Bicentennial Library, the only location outside Chattanooga city limits.
Rather than allow the library to close, Collegedale city commissioners "voted to raise property taxes to keep us open," said Regina Mullins, a library supervisor. "There were a couple of commissioners who were not happy with raising property taxes, but they felt like it would be detrimental to the city to close this library altogether."
Fees for nonresidents at the Collegedale Public Library are $60 per year.
Cecil said the foundation's four-member board has not sought government funding for the Soddy-Daisy library, nor does it plan to.
"We want to be able to make our own decisions," he said.
Community grants totaling $1,500 from the Soddy-Daisy and Hixson Walmarts and a $500 Pay It Forward gift from NewsChannel 9 and the McMahan law firm have helped with funding, though Cecil said most expenses are paid through the foundation.
Much of the expense is for shelves, which now demarcate titles ranging from beach reads to westerns. There are DVDs and CDs with music and movies. Children's books occupy a corner outfitted with rugs, sofas and toys. A small lounge offers free coffee and drinks.
Storage areas in the back of the KelCurt building are filled with boxes of donated books waiting to be processed. The library has reached a capacity that's about to spur growing pains, Cecil said, but he's excited by how the community has embraced the project.
"We get patrons from all over," he said. "Not just Soddy-Daisy. We don't limit our library resources to those just in our area. It's open and available to everyone."
The library card is free, but there is one catch. "All we ask is for people to donate one book to share with others," Cecil said.
Contact Lisa Denton at email@example.com or 423-757-6281.