Library History
Morganton Public Library
Morganton Public Library - 1920s

Morganton Public Library

The need for a public library in Morganton and Burke County was first mentioned in early area newspapers. An 1878 issue of Carolina Mountaineer stated, “Greetings! We ask permission to open a reading room – a library of 1500 well-selected classics.” The November 1878 issue of The Blue Ridge Blade noted that The Blade would continue to help Morganton establish a public reading room and circulating library.

In the 1880s Laura Powe, as a teenager, read one book at time checked out from a locked closet of the Morganton Post-mistress.

The Carolina Mountaineer ran this announcement on April 28, 1883: “New library in Morganton town hall, sponsored by the Morganton Library Association, with Miss Adelaide L. Avery, librarian, and yearly membership of $2.00.” 1905 – Money was being collected for a library in Drexel. 1921 – The Library Extension Department of the Morganton Woman’s Club agitated for a public library and in 1923 opened a one-room library on the second floor at 125 West Union Street. This is considered the start of the Morganton Public Library.

In 1934 “Rose Villa,” a home on King Street was razed to make way for a new building. The new Morganton library formally opened on the site at 204 South King Street in 1935. It was funded by family and friends of Andrew Milton Kistler, Sr. and donated to the citizens of Burke County. Portraits of Mr. Kistler and his wife, Mary “Mamie” Collett Kistler, hang in the Morganton Library over the fireplaces. The Morganton Public Library has maintained operations at that location since 1935.

Valdese Public Library
Newspaper article including the sketch of the proposed Valdese Library, 1952

Valdese Public Library

“Mrs. M. R. McVey, head librarian in Morganton, and Mrs. Janet W. Grant, a resident of Valdese, came up with the idea for a free public library for Valdese in 1943. Mrs. McVey offered $1,000 and her expertise if the citizens of Valdese could raise operating expenses. Mrs. Grant, Dr. Watson Fairley (pastor of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church), Mrs. Louise H. Garrou, and Mildred Shore (later Pyatt) became the original trustees and set about raising the needed cash. The Town of Valdese, the Community Chest, and various industries’ contributions enabled the trustees to rent and furnish the first floor of the Telephone Building on Connelly Street (now Main Street).”
The library’s initial book collection was purchased using funds from the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA). Additional titles were loaned from the Morganton Library, as well as from private collections in the town.
The library opened in its current location on January 10, 1954 (land which had been donated by Mr. and Mrs. John A. Pons). The new library building was praised as a grand community achievement in The Valdese News, January 27, 1954. “At long last Valdese has a new Library that is a credit to the town, to its donors, to the pride of its builders and an inspiration to the youth of the community. Not many towns the size of Valdese can boast of a comparable civic achievement. Its cultural benefits to the community are beyond estimate. This beautiful building has been made possible by the generosity of public spirited citizens and the industries of Valdese.”
“On July 1, 1982 the Valdese Public Library and the Morganton-Burke Library were merged as Burke County Public Library,” and the combined system became a department of Burke County government in 2002.
“The Valdese Library experienced remodeling and additions during 1987 and 1988,” as well as the most recent one in 2019. This addition increased the size of the building to to 9,000 sq. ft.
The library currently offers traditional services and resources such as loaning of its collection of over 27,300 items as well as access to technology. The library offers a variety of free public programming for all ages from preschoolers, teens to adults.

C.B. Hildebrand Public Library Building
Charles B Hildebrand

C.B. Hildebrand Public Library

The history of the C. B. Hildebrand Public Library begins with its namesake and founder, Charles Boyd Hildebrand. Mr. Hildebrand was a lifelong resident of Hildebran, with family roots tracing back six generations in the area.

Born on February 28, 1929, he was the son of the late John S. Hildebrand and Mammie Childers Hildebrand. The Town of Hildebran was named to honor his great-uncle Jake Hildebrand, an owner of an early industry in the area. He graduated from Hildebran High School in 1949, and attended Gardner-Webb College and Lenoir-Rhyne College. He served in the US Army as a Military Policeman and served in Korea. He retired from General Electric in Conover in the 1990’s. After retirement, he remained active, volunteering for the Town of Hildebran and the East Burke Community.

In 1991, he and his wife, Nell, founded the East Burke Community Library in a small room of the Hildebran Municipal Complex. He was also involved in the construction of the Hildebran – Icard community pool. In July 1997, the library moved to a larger space at the new community pool facility at 201 South Center Street. It became the third branch of the Burke County Public Library System and was named the C. B. Hildebrand Public Library.

In 2013, Burke County officials had a vision to expand the library and began saving for a new facility. In October 2015, the library moved to a storefront on South Center Street to serve as a temporary location until the new facility was built.

This was an exciting project for the library system because it was the first time in decades that the staff would be able to contribute to the design of the library from the ground up. The expanded space would also provide the opportunity for a variety of public programming that was not possible before. Plans included space for a children’s area, outdoor spaces, study rooms, computer lab, STEAM makerspace, and a teaching demonstration kitchen.

In August of 2017, the new 16,500 square foot facility shared with the East Burke Senior Center opened at 101 Main Avenue West. Library Director, Jim Wilson, said “We want this library to be the place of inspiration, opportunity, a place of learning, creation, a place of prosperity and community.”

On December 8, 2017, Charlie B. Hildebrand passed away after a period of declining health. His portrait hangs in an area of prominence in the library named in his honor.