Garland County Public Library

The Garland County Public Library, located in Hot Springs (Garland County), has the stated goal of connecting the community with materials, information, and services that promote learning and enjoyment for all ages. Located in a spacious facility on Malvern Avenue, one of the main thoroughfares in Hot Springs, it earned a long history of civic support toward maintaining an outstanding library for the community.

The earliest known reference to establishing a library in Hot Springs was in an 1833 letter written by pioneering local resident Hiram Whittington to his brother in Boston, Massachusetts. Whittington described his plan to create the settlement’s first circulating library in his log cabin home at the junction of today’s Whittington and Park avenues in Hot Springs. Hiram Whittington asked his brother to send a number of books with which to start the library. He specified works including those by James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, and Sir Walter Scott, as well as any current popular novels of the era that might be of interest.

From that beginning, as the library grew, it relocated to various sites around Hot Springs, including facilities on Central Avenue and Court Street. In 1951, the library found a home in a one-story building on the grounds of the Garland County Courthouse at Woodbine and Hawthorne streets. This was primarily due to the efforts of Hot Springs citizens and local civic clubs in supporting a one-mill library tax, which the voters approved in 1948.

After moving into its new home at Woodbine and Hawthorne, the Garland County Library expanded its services to include reading clubs for young people, a books-by-mail program, and a bookmobile that served rural communities and schools in Garland and Montgomery counties.

When the facility at Woodbine and Hawthorne proved inadequate for the needs of the growing Hot Springs community, voters again approved taxes to benefit the library. In 1995, utilizing land available at the site of the Garland County Health Department, the current Garland County Library was opened at 1427 Malvern Avenue.

The library provides the community with access to books, audiobooks, CDs, DVDs, interlibrary loans, software, and video games, as well as such items available for check-out as cake pans and fishing poles. Garland and Saline county residents can register with the library for free access to online databases and resources that they can use at home. Patrons can also connect to the library through specialized e-mail newsletters for adults, children, and teens.

Patrons can check out Kindle Paperwhites that are already loaded with popular works ranging from biographies to thrillers. In the library’s Children’s Department, Kindles are available pre-loaded with books for young people.

The Garland County Library provides in-house access to computers, copiers, and Wi-Fi. There are a number of small meeting rooms, as well as the large Gordonelle Williams Hall, named for a longtime librarian, for lectures, music performances, and meetings of local groups such as the Garland County Historical Society.

In 1975, an active nonprofit group called Friends of the Garland County Library began working to increase library services and resources. The group raises funds through the sale of donated books, magazines, and audio-visual materials that are available year-round in the library’s Book Sale Room, as well as a yearly book sale.

For additional information:
Garland County Library. (accessed July 14, 2021).

McCully, Audrey Wenger. “Garland County Public Library, Hot Springs, Arkansas.” The Record (1995): 1–10.

Nancy Hendricks
Garland County Historical Society


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