The Kingsport Public Library was started by five women in 1919 when they formed the Kingsport Book Club. The women were Mrs. H.J. Shivell, Mrs. S.P. Platt, Mrs. George MacNaughton, Mrs. L.A. DaShiell, and Mrs. Karl Koeniger. In 1921, the group formally organized and the founders were joined by: Mrs. Stuart Mahar, Mrs. J.A Mahar, Mrs. Katherine Spottswood, Mrs. R.Y. Grant, Mrs. J.H. Thickens, Mrs. J. Fred Johnson, Mrs. Floyd Smith, Mrs. Keefer Lindsay and Mrs. Harry Angle. This group approached the City of Kingsport to start a library with their collection of 400 books. The City wasn’t interested at the time, but this did not deter the women from their objective. They were determined to start a library and on August 1, 1921, they opened the Kingsport Public Library in the basement of the Community YMCA.
The library later moved to the City Building on the corner of Main and Commerce Streets, then to the lobby of the Community YMCA, then to a store on Market Street. The ladies raised funds for the library by events such as bridge parties, flower shows and carnivals. By 1928, they had 6,000 books and subscriptions to 30 magazines. They decided to ask the City again if they would be interested in running the library. This time, the ladies’ proposal was accepted by the Board of Mayor and Alderman and on March 15, 1929, the Kingsport Public Library passed from private to municipal ownership.
When the library opened in 1921, the collection totaled 400 books and there were 41 family members (.07 percent of the population). A maximum number of 3 books could be checked out at one time for two weeks. Overdue fines of $.02 were charged. The library was open 11 hours per week.
In 1961, the library moved into what was formerly the post office (built in 1925 and renovated for the library). It expanded the children’s area in 1986 and added an auditorium and stack area over the auditorium in 1993.