Baxter County Library reflects on 10th anniversary in the Donald W. Reynolds building

Photo: A brand-new library card with a watercolor illustration of the Donald W. Reynolds building housing the Baxter County Library will be available throughout the month of October for a $5 or more donation.

The Baxter County Library will celebrate its 10th anniversary in the Donald W. Reynolds Library building on Saturday, Oct. 10.

From 10 to 11:30 a.m., the public is invited to stop by the library to pick up a cup of hot cider and a cinnamon donut in commemoration of the historic day. Items will be available while supplies last. COVID-19 protocols will be followed, with masks and social distancing required.

Throughout the month of October, the Baxter County Library will be honoring its past, its significance to the community and its vision for the future. Limited edition commemorative library cards featuring a brand-new watercolor illustration of the building will be available for purchase with a donation of $5 or more at the information desk.

A special display in the library foyer will feature library memorabilia. Also during October, the Read | Write | Ignite Literary Series will be taking place, featuring virtual author visits and writing and craft workshops. To see what virtual events are happening during the Read | Write | Ignite Literary Series, check out the calendar on the library’s website at baxlib.org.

Long before the Donald W. Reynolds Library as we know it today broke ground, the entity had gone through multiple locations. The library was first opened in the 1930s, in the basement of the Baxter County Courthouse on the square, by the 20th Century Women’s Club. It was a tiny, dark and cramped location, run exclusively by volunteers.



Photo: The former Mountain Home Firehouse on Baker Street once house the Baxter County Library during the 1950s.

In the 1940s, the library was managed by the Business and Professional Women’s Club. In the 1950s, the library was relocated above the fire station at the north end of Baker Street, and in 1956, officially became the Baxter County Library with the establishment of a 1 mil county property tax.

More recently, and probably most familiar to current Baxter County residents, would be the previous location of the library on Seventh Street, which opened in 1964. Located near the Mountain Home square with just 3,200 square-feet, that location went through multiple expansions through the years, but ultimately the library outgrew the space.



Photo: The Baxter County Library’s former location on Seventh Street in Mountain Home

In 2008, after years of hard work and perseverance, spearheaded by former Library Director Gwen Khayat, the library was awarded a $9.8 million grant by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

Dedicated members of the Baxter County Public Library Foundation at the time made it their mission to raise $2 million in the community, as a requirement of the grant. Headed up by Campaign Chair Deborah Knox, the initiative was a success. These funds, matched by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, were used to establish restricted funds, managed by the library foundation, a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization.

The foundation funds are necessary to supplement the county property tax millage, which has not increased from the original 1 mil set in the 1950s. In 2019, funding from the library foundation including donations provided nearly 30% of the library’s annual operating budget, with additional funding coming from the state and the Friends of the Library.

The library has grown significantly through the years, not only in square footage, but as a vital community center in Baxter County. When the Donald W. Reynolds building first opened, the collection featured 75,000 items, which has since grown to hold 105,642 as of 2020.



Photo: The present-day Baxter County Library at its location in the Donald W. Reynolds building in Mountain Home

As a public epicenter, the library has always provided a place for community organizations to gather, parents to bring their children for storytimes and a snack, teens to meet up and work on homework or hang out after school, job seekers and entrepreneurs to access public computers and internet and college students to study. The interior is also host to a wide array of art on display by primarily local artists, featuring photographs and artistic interpretations of the area’s beauty and history.

The library’s offerings and resources have always been on the cutting edge, too, enabling the community to grow and thrive in the 21st century. With access to eBooks and eAudiobooks, computers, copiers, online language learning, databases, workshops, the addition of special collections such as ukuleles and telescopes, and a brand-new redesigned website, the library has always kept its eyes set on the future to provide patrons with the tools they need to succeed.

“With a heartfelt thank you to Library Foundation Trustees, past and present, Friends of the Library members, library volunteers, and our amazing library staff, we hope you will join us on Oct. 10 to reminisce on the ways the library has enriched your life and celebrate this prominent landmark and symbol of pride in Baxter County,” says library officials in a news release.

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