Case Statement

“A Library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people.” – Andrew Carnegie


The challenge for the Memphis Public Library & Information Center is continued growth and enhancement of the library system as an urban asset providing individuals and companies the ability to compete in the society of today and succeed in the landscape of tomorrow.

The availability of information provides an unparalleled advantage.  All of the elements of the modern library – from
leisure reading to audiovisual resources, from job listings to information about career development, from TV and radio
to video – serve to satisfy the customer’s need to know.

The Central Library works in concert with branch libraries, mobile services and online resources to diligently serve the specific needs of the community.  The Central Library serves as an “information hub” providing services and distributing materials to the library’s many branch locations around Memphis.  In turn, each library location determines and meets the specific information needs of its community.

There are increasing costs, additional program enhancements, and an escalating volume of requests from all segments of the population, yet the library continues to be the central source for this information and to assist us all free of charge.

Additional resources allow the library to remain on the cutting edge of research and technology, continually upgrading, expanding, and enhancing its resources at every level of service.

The ability to maximize the availability of information to the public requires a well-grounded public/private partnership. The public sector has long accepted the responsibility of providing an adequate and safe library environment for customers to access information. There is a tremendous opportunity and challenge for individual residents and businesses to support the library system.  With private support, we create a unique public/private partnership, making the library of tomorrow a more effective tool for all residents of our community.

The following comprehensive case for the Memphis Public Library & Information Center explains this challenge in detail.


Memphis Public Library & Information Center is in the business of satisfying the customer’s need to know.

The Library is not simply a house of books, though it does fulfill that definition.  The Library is an empowering and
transforming institution for people from all walks of life, who utilize the library to achieve personal and career goals. 

In reality the library serves immeasurable roles, which are crucial for the education, enjoyment and advancement of our community.  The Library serves all people:  businesspersons, trades people, professionals, scholars, seniors, adults, teens and children.  The library is committed to serving each of these people in a courteous, professional and timely manner.

“My mother and my father were illiterate immigrants from Russia. When I was a child they were constantly amazed that I could go to a building and take a book on any subject. They couldn't believe this access to knowledge we have here in America. They couldn't believe that it was free.” - Kirk Douglas


The public library is a cultural institution unlike any other. Like an educational institution, it is a resource for lifelong learners and readers. Like a museum, a library houses great works of art and serves as a record of the imagination and individuality of the human spirit. Like a stage, it provides a place for people to experience the performing arts, through collections of music, photography, and literature.

But the library transcends all of these comparisons; in the purest sense of the word it is “public”. It is free. The
library reflects the values of the community and supports the basis for humanity.

Central to our image as a free and democratic people is that knowledge is the key to all that life offers and that it
should be available to everyone.  If knowledge is power, then the library is indeed a primary source of empowerment for all of our people regardless of their age, economic circumstances, or educational level.

The Memphis Public Library & Information Center is a key to a better quality of life.  A premium public library system not only enhances the environment for current residents and businesses, but also serves to attract new residents and companies.  The library is both a gift and an opportunity for each individual to enrich his or her personal and professional lives.

In business, success is measured almost exclusively by return on investment. The immense number of services provided to the countless individual and corporate residents by the library makes this measurement an infinite value. Individuals use the library for personal and professional growth, as well as employment opportunities and job-related information needs.

On all levels, residents are united behind one institution – the Library, an institution of incalculable worth and return on investment.


Since its founding in 1893, the Library has grown and adapted to communicate information through many forms. The traditional library serves the public through books, reference materials, and periodicals.  Over the years, services have expanded to encompass new technology.  A modern library offers DVDs, audio CDs, computer resources and other materials.

How Do I…..

  • find the educational requirements of various careers?
  • decide what books will interest me?
  • locate local clubs or organizations with a particular area of interest?
  • access resources to assist in the education of my children?
  • develop management skills?
  • trace my family’s history?
  • find information on personal and family health issues?

Throughout our lives the need to find out specific information is a given, from small home repair to locating a nursing home for a loved one. As lives and lifestyles change, people and companies are constantly asking “how do I….?”  The library has the answer.  It is always there, acquiring, keeping, and maintaining information that will be needed by someone.  It is the library’s goal to foster the self-reliant atmosphere of the Memphis community by having the most current and reliable resources to answer the customers’ questions.

In the daily operations of the library, information is moved throughout its 21 locations so that customers can have any requests delivered to the branch most convenient for them. Nearly everything in the Central Library can be delivered
throughout the county-wide system overnight.

As the public’s demand for information expands, the library seeks new vehicles of communication and collection
enlargement. Programs are developed that appeal to all segments of the population, making the pursuit of knowledge and personal growth easy and enjoyable for everyone. In addition, professional librarians link customers to the most
appropriate resources to answer their specific questions. Through these efforts, the Central Library and our 20 branches continue to expand and thrive. Each branch specifically surveys their individual community needs in order to provide beneficial and relevant services for residents.

Additionally, the Library’s three mobile services target specific needs in the community.  Underserved populations such as recent immigrants can find materials targeted to meet their needs on InfoBus. English as a Second Language support services coordinate with Memphis City Schools and local service providers to make available audio-visual materials, computer access, and reference services to instructors and students.  

Customers entering the job market for the first time or seeking to change career paths can find materials on all aspects of their job search and job opportunities on JobLINC. Childcare providers can find resources to help build a curriculum on the Training Wheels mobile service.  While individuals can get information from many places, only the public library serves its customers until their questions are totally answered.

“As a child, my number one best friend was the librarian in my grade school.  I actually believed all those books belonged to her.” – Erma Bombeck

Children’s Services
The library offers services to children of all ages and its abilities are far reaching. The library provides children a home away from home, a school after school, and the avenues of opportunity and advantage through age appropriate materials including board books and easy readers.

  • Preschoolers and toddlers hear stories and take part in activities that help instill a love of reading at the more than 40 library storytimes held each week around the system.
  • The Summer Reading Program inspires over 22,000 children to strengthen skills learned during the school year, reinforcing the importance and enjoyment of reading.
  • Resources available to parents and teachers offer practical and expert information on pre-literacy activities, vocabulary building, hands-on learning activities, home schooling and more.
  • Special Collections such as Infant and Toddlers, which contains concept books about numbers, colors, and letters, Beginning Readers and Elementary Age, which contains extensive nonfiction and fiction resources, and Geography, which contains a wide variety of books, maps, and other materials.

Adult Services
From entertainment DVDs to the latest novels, and programs on a variety of topics, the Library is a center for lifelong learning and enjoyment for its adult customers.  

  • The Same Book Same Time program gives customers an opportunity share a love of reading with our entire community by participating in the area’s largest book club during the summer.
  • Readers' Advisory program enhances reading pleasure by giving library staff and customers the expertise necessary to recommend and explore books that are similar to old favorites.
  • Job and Career Centers offer employment information on a wide variety of topics. Materials are available for particular study needs, including the testing requirements of various professions.

Business and Sciences
The Business & Science Department provides access to such diverse topics as the hard sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, etc), cooking, gardening, home repair, construction, technology, engineering, consumer health, finance and investing, psychology, self-help, insurance, transportation, computer science and more.  Specific collections and centers provide in-depth information on specific topics.

  • The First Tennessee Small Business Center offers crucial resources to individuals who are planning to open a small business or currently have one. It provides information on all current business issues as well as instructional material for improving or growing a business.
  • The Non-Profit Resource Center amasses information invaluable to local non-profit organizations on where to find grants and potential donors, board development, volunteer recruitment and strategic planning.
  • Customers can find crucial information on personal or family health issues in the books, videos, CD-ROMS, and audiocassettes of the Health Information Center, made possible by a gift from the Assisi Foundation.  Many resources in the center are also designed to be of use to healthcare professionals in their work.  An interactive cancer database provides comprehensive information to health issues of families and caregivers.
  • Do-it-yourselfers can find useful manuals and other tools in the Automobile and Appliance Repair Center, donated by AutoZone, including detailed repair information, providing wiring diagrams.

History, Genealogy, and Travel
The History Department is a wide-ranging repository for historical information with a local, national and global perspective.  The department is an important local and regional source of genealogical information and resources.

  • Students, local history enthusiasts and others find the resources of the Memphis and Shelby County Room invaluable.  The collection housed within is a repository of local history books, photographs, significant personal papers, and other items of significance.  It is open to the public for research into many aspects of our community.
  • As the genealogical center for the Mid-South, the Central Library’s History Department serves an active population whose heightened interest in genealogy has prompted yearly workshops for the past twenty years. 
  • The African-American Popular Collection crosses all subject areas and contains multiple copies of more than 300 of the most requested titles, both fiction and non-fiction, in one, attractive accessible location.
  • The travel section collects information from abroad as well as from over 8,000 Chambers of Commerce throughout the United States.

When you think of humanities, think human – that is, the amazing variety of activities that humans can pursue.  The Humanities collection includes an amazing variety of resources on literature, art, music, performing arts, philosophy, recreation, foreign languages, religion and more.

  • The extensive fiction collection is the largest in the state and throughout the Mid-South.  From the hottest authors and titles in the Popular Library collection to the classics, romance, science fiction, mystery and more, there are plenty of choices for enthusiastic readers.
  • The Memphis Music Collection highlights the music and musicians who have made Memphis a destination to music-lovers from around the globe.  Beyond records and CDs, the collection is also home to photographs, books, and more.
  • Ministers, theology students, Sunday school teachers, and churchgoers will find valuable assistance in the Chuck Neal Memorial Christian Collection. The collection features books and other materials on Bible study, Christian living, ministry resources, church history, Christian denominations, inspirational fiction, Christian theology, philosophy and ethics. Because the materials in the collection are so diverse, they spill out of Humanities and into other subject departments.
  • The Memphis Grizzlies Reading & Learning Center offers a stimulating place for teens to read, study, or relax.  It is an attractive anchor to the teen area that is home to frequently assigned classics, books from popular series, computers and on-line resources, study guides and other materials of particular interest to teens.

Whenever you have a question, your first stop should be LINC.  The LINC staff assists customers with ready-reference questions, community information needs and referral services in the Central Library and via its popular telephone service.

  • An important component of LINC is information and referral services. LINC serves as the primary resource for all local social service information. With a comprehensive database that includes more than 2,400 entries on community services, nonprofit agencies, government entities, and clubs, LINC connects residents with needed help or resources on a particular area of interest.
  • Immediate answers to reference questions whether by phone, in person, or online. If you have a reference question all you have to do is pick up the phone, walk up to our info desk, or log on to
  • JOBLINC provides employment assistance by maintaining job listings and referrals for enhancing job-finding skills. This mobile services unit travels around the city with up-to-date career and training resources for jobseekers.
  • The launch of the 2-1-1 service, which is a special telephone service that provides telephone access to information, will raise LINC's community information and referral service to a higher profile in the community.  The new, easy-to-remember number will make LINC services easier to access than ever before.

Services for Customers with Special Needs
The Library also serves as a beacon in the community for residents with diverse and expansive needs. Various populations, such as seniors and immigrants, benefit greatly from the special services the Library provides.

  • The library has a growing collection of large print books and audiotapes to serve the visually impaired.  The collection rotates throughout the library system to provide a variety of materials to customers who want and need them.
  • The library’s radio reading service, WYPL FM 89.3, broadcasts books, magazines, newspapers, and information to print-impaired customers, and customers on the go. 
  • InfoBus is a mobile service designed to meet the specific needs of non-English-speaking populations in Memphis and Shelby County.  English as a Second Language materials, citizenship information, foreign language books and videos, and other materials are available for checkout.  Internet-enabled computers provide access to foreign language newspapers and other resources.

WYPL FM 89.3 & TV 18
The Library’s broadcast services take library programming and information into customers’ homes and cars 24 hours a day.  WYPL FM 89.3’s 100,000-watt signal brings radio reading services to print impaired customers all over Memphis & Shelby County.  WYPL TV 18 is available to area Comcast cable television subscribers.

  • In addition to its broadcast of current books and periodicals, WYPL FM 89.3 provides live simulcast of Action News 5 programs, and other informational programming.
  • Book Talk, which airs on both WYPL FM 89.3 & TV 18, features best-selling authors discussing their latest works.  Library customers can attend live tapings of the program, and meet such famous writers as Mary Higgins Clark, Sela Ward, Ralph Emery, Mitch Albom, Isaac Hayes, Martin Clark, Bobby Flay and James Patterson.
  • WYPL TV 18 programming includes education programming such as Jabberblabber, the children’s show which is a companion to the popular magazine; informational programs by officials from local and state government; and entertainment programs such as Memphis Sounds, hosted by radio legend George Klein. 

The changing face of information delivery has brought many technological enhancements to library services at the Memphis  Public Library & Information Center. 

  • The 24-Hour Library search engine available via the Library’s Web page provides an easily searchable database of the Library’s cataloged materials and access to useful databases on nearly every subject imaginable.  Customers can also renew checked-out materials, and access personal library account information.
  • Library customers can access on-line resources and databases from every brick and mortar library in the system.  Wireless technology has also brought computer resources to the library’s mobile services JobLINC and InfoBus, allowing customers to access up-to-the-minute job listings and foreign language newspapers via the World Wide Web. Recently, satellite technology was implemented for InfoBus to allow even more timely service.
  • Expert analysis by library professionals have resulted in the compilation of useful Internet resources available via the Library’s Web page including the Virtual Health Information Center, suggested genealogy sites on the Internet, and a list of kid-friendly Web pages.

To find information on services that the Library offers, branch locations, hours of operation, or information about specific or general topics, go to the Library’s recently updated home page at

Top Priorities for Funding

The Foundation for the Library Board, a group of private citizens united by a common passion for this unique civic asset supports, champions and publicizes, in every possible way, the merits of the Memphis  Public Library & Information Center. The Foundation, established in 1994, actively seeks private funds to support the needs of the Memphis  Public Library & Information Center, enhancing the basic funding provided by local governments. Private funding can be used to enhance collections or provide cutting edge technology.    

Every year, the needs of the Library’s customers continue to expand and grow.  To continue to meet the needs of library customers, the Memphis  Public Library & Information Center needs the support of individuals, companies, and foundations.   

The following are some of the areas where private funding can increase the value of the library to its customers.


$1,000,000    Fiction Collection/Popular Library-Non-Fiction

These collections allow for access to the most current information available. The Popular Library is enhanced with most of the items that are listed in the New York Times Book Review. African-American Popular Titles are some of the most heavily-used items and are a point of major emphasis when books are purchased. Books on tape, videos and compact discs are all high-traffic items in the Popular Library, especially current best-seller books on audio. Foreign Language Fiction is a category that the Library hopes to expand significantly, with the focus mainly on titles found primarily in the foreign language countries. Other potential second language additions are Spanish, Cambodian, Chinese, and French.

$ 1,000,000    Math and Science

For children and young adults, science and math are two crucial areas for learning and discovery. Supporting the school system is one of the greatest needs so that children can compete and succeed when they are older. The core collection of quality materials in every branch provides the basis to children seeking to develop math skills and access to tools to help develop science fair projects.

$ 1,000,000    Genealogy

Extensive genealogical records, indexes, and documents help customers, along with a tremendous volunteer staff, in their quest to discover their family’s history. One of the most frequently used areas of the Library, the section is used by those residing in the city and county and even by those who reside outside of the Memphis  Public Library & Information Center’s community. The genealogy collection also documents our community’s history for researchers and historians.

$ 250, 000    Computer Materials

The world is growing as the information flow continually widens and with the nature of technology as it is, constant change and upgrades are needed. With various workshops and training classes the Library is a prime source for customers who want to learn how to use current hardware and software. In order to stay cutting edge, the Library is constantly adapting its computer system with the latest upgrades and newest technologies.

$ 50,000    Children’s Geography

The race to keep up is a global one and understanding the world around them is a key factor in living in the social climate of this new world. Studies have shown that a high percentage of the youth of today are unfamiliar with state capitals or world geography. The collection at Central is very popular, but there is a need to expand this collection to the branches.

$ 150,000    Children’s Picture Books

Children receive the most impact in their development and learning before reaching the age of four. Literacy development can be the earliest stage of teaching skills that will impact future success in all areas of learning. Picture books are a child’s first introduction to reading and are vital to starting a child on a reading path for life.

$ 50,000    Small Business Information

A very high demand resource, many small business were aided by research and information gathered at the Library. The First Tennessee Small Business Center is a place for those who need help planning, opening, and developing a small business. Among the resources are materials about writing a business plan, securing funding, developing a marketing strategy, and managing the books.

$ 750,000    Memphis Music

Preserving one of the things that Memphis is world-renowned for while acquiring items to add to an ever-growing and important collection. Memphis Music combines books, records, and CD’s, as well as other material pertaining to music and musicians who highlight the past and that create for the future. The collection highlights the artists and musical periods that are unique to our community while demonstrating Memphis music’s impact on the world.

$ 2,000,000    Memphis/ Shelby County Room

A repository of local history materials that span generations, the Memphis/ Shelby County Room includes books, maps, periodicals, photographs, newspaper clippings, manuscript collections, and indexes. Naming rights for the Memphis/  Room allow for the ability to accept donations as well as secure collections, process secured collections, preserve the collections, and produce finding aids. It is vital to crossing over into the world of tomorrow that we preserve our history and heritage.

$ 15,000,000    Endowments

            $ 5,000,000    General Collections
            $ 3,000,000    Technology
            $ 3,000,000    Furniture and Equipment
            $ 2,000,000    Broadcast
            $ 1,200,000    Memphis Music
            $    500,000    Staff Training
            $    500,000    Children’s Teen and Adult Programming

Endowments are a visionary gift that ensure that the quality of today’s library will be available forever. Endowments are a gift that pays dividends when needed or possible. They ensure that the Library never is a public burden, offering the assurance that the community will always have resources available and that the Library will always be a beacon for information. Endowments ensure that resources will always be available to everyone.

$     250,000    Book Festival

 A celebration of the written word, the Book Festival attracts authors to discuss books, reading, or writing. The festival introduces readers to new and established writers. An urban asset idea, the Book Festival is a helpful tool for impacting a community’s literacy.

$2,000,000    Technology

Technology brings constant change and the Library strives to lead the pack so that the community has all of the advantages in this ever-evolving landscape. Needed are overall upgrades to the system, laptop computers, more computers at branches, and a Mobile Services Technology Upgrade. It seems technology is advancing at a rapid rate and ensuring that the Library stays current is imperative, giving staff the necessary tools to satisfy the customers’ needs.

$    250,000    2-1-1 Funding

An information hotline, 2-1-1 will offer residents an easily identifiable phone number for information and referral services. It will accentuate what the Library accomplishes through LINC and offer another outlet allowing for collaboration with community partners. This service will promote the Library’s ability in community referrals as well as adding the ability to follow-up and insure that residents received the services they need.

$     25,000    Children’s Programming

A yearly need, especially in the summer, children’s programs are a way to introduce reading and library services to the youth of the community.  From storytimes to literature-based puppet shows to literacy workshops, children’s programs are a comprehensive service that aim to present education and learning to youth in a safe environment with an entertaining approach.

$   750,000    Broadcast Equipment

Another way to reach residents while providing Library services is through library broadcasts. There are some residents who cannot get to the Library and community programming in radio and TV provides a lifeline to many loyal listeners and viewers. Daily reading of the Commercial Appeal, Action News 5 broadcasts, as well as other services help inform a larger audience. In this new digital age, new equipment will provide residents with a higher quality sound and picture.

Second Tier Priorities for Funding


$     75,000    Travel Collection

A highly-used collection that includes the latest guidebooks, videos, and travelogues.

$    75,000    Horticulture and Gardening Collection

A collection that meets both professional and personal needs and provides detailed information regarding garden design, caring and nurturing plants, and general knowledge.

$  250,000    Job and Career Centers

A service used by students researching future careers and by current job-seekers, the job and career centers are home to a comprehensive collection of materials.

$  150,000    Parent-Teacher Collection

This collection provides information for parents who seek details regarding child rearing and education. It is also a helpful tool that teachers use and is part of an open and ongoing dialogue between the Library and school representatives.

$  250,000    Non-Profit Resource Center

A special resource that collects current information about where to find grants as well as potential donors. Non-profit organizations will find useful information about all aspects of running a non-profit.

$    50,000    Professional Collection

This collection is a benefit to residents, but Library staff as well. Library staff constantly seek ways to stay abreast of issues that affect library service and accessing information. The collection aids in professional development
and studies community analyses on all branches.

$   500,000    Teleconferencing Abilities

This offers long needed service that would allow both staff and residents the ability to access seminars, meetings, and workshops where information could be garnered and fostered in a more time-sensitive format.  The library is an important center for training, not only for its employees, but also for customers.

$     50,000    Programming for Adults and Teens

Programs are a way for the library to leverage the power of the printed word.  Discussion brings learning to life.  The library hosts programs for customers of all ages on topics ranging from cooking demonstration, to gardening and bioethics.

$   100,000    Translation Abilities

The importance of this funding grows as the number of residents to whom English is a second language grows. It is a vital link that allows families to maintain contact with their homeland.   

$   200,000    Training Room Technology

Training Room Technology is of vital importance in terms of continuing the exceptional quality of staff proficiency and customer service. Training Room Technology allows for better equipment to be used for the many public training classes, which are beneficial and highly-requested by residents.  It also provides needed technology to train staff, which in turn allows staff to better serve the community.