The original library was founded in 1858 as a subscription library. Later, shares were sold to investors who wanted to ensure that a library was part of the fabric of Smyrna. For a long time, the Town of Smyrna was responsible for the library; however, it became a labor of love in the 1940s for certain dedicated citizens who created a Board of Directors, oversaw the daily operations, and volunteered to run it.
The building where the current library is housed was built in 1869-70 to house a town hall, police station, fire department, library, and auditorium (the Opera House). It continued to house all these functions throughout the remainder of the 19th century and into the mid-point of the 20th century.
For more than a quarter of a century (from c. 1945 until her death), Louise Denney Clifton, a local real estate agent, volunteered as the main librarian. In 1948, a Christmas Eve fire destroyed the third floor and bell tower, and very nearly burned the entire city block. After the fire, all the surviving books were taken to her office to dry out, and it became the de facto library’s location until enough remediation had been done to the fire-damaged building to allow the library to move back in. Our endowment fund, established by her niece, Janet Clark, is named in Louise Denney Clifton’s honor. During the 1980s, the Town of Smyrna acquired the library from the governing Board of Friends, and has funded it ever since. The Town’s support enabled the library to stay open six days a week, and hire a full-time library director. Then, as now, volunteers were central to running the library. The building remained a two-storied survivor, housing all the civic offices that were a part of the original. In time, the Town outgrew the building and created an independent police station/jail, Town Hall, and fire department. Only the library remained, and it expanded to fill the first floor areas vacated by the others. When the Smyrna-Clayton Heritage Association was formed in 1998, it had the stated purpose of restoring and re-opening the Smyrna Opera House. As the Opera House was rebuilt, part of the project included digging out the dirt cellar and creating storage and meeting rooms in the basement, which doubled the size of the library from 2,500 square feet to 4,900 square feet. The task was completed in 2003 when the Smyrna Opera House reopened, and remains an active and central part of the Smyrna community to this day.
Unfortunately, in recent years, the library has had limited use of the basement, and has been confined to using its original first floor space while sharing the facility with the Opera House. The quarters are cramped, and the library has only 2,500 sq. ft. of useable space - less than some modern homes. The library remains one of the smallest in the state even as the area's population of potential consumers has nearly tripled. The Town of Smyrna commissioned a Needs Assessment in 2007 to evaluate the current library and determine the optimal size to service projected populations over the next several decades. As a result of this study, the Town of Smyrna asked a group of citizens to form a new committee in order to act on the recommendations of the Needs Assessment. This committee eventually developed into the Smyrna Public Library Guild, which is now named the Friends of the Duck Creek Regional Library.
The Friends stated intent has always been “…to improve library services in the Smyrna- Clayton region…by building a much-needed, expanded and modern library for our citizens.” The group is entirely composed of volunteers. Our board of director meetings and resources are focused on the end result of building a new regional state-of-the-art library for our communities, as well as implementing a state-approved method of governance.
Once the library has been erected, furnished, and stocked, it is the intent of the Friends to transfer the management and funding of the library to a Governance Board created for that purpose. The Friends of the Duck Creek Regional Library will then be dedicated, as most Friends groups are, to raising money for the benefit and operations of the new library.