Library History

How Clayton Library Began

The move to build a public library in Clayton began January 12, 1927, when The Woman's Club of Clayton voted to sponsor a town library. The Town Council was persuaded to include space in the Town Hall building for a public library. The citizens of Clayton were proud of their library room that opened two afternoons each week, with an initial collection of donated books equaling 600 volumes.

In 1931, the Clayton Library opened to the public and Mrs. C. W Robinson became the first librarian with an annual salary of $48.50. The librarian's salary, a stove for heating and other equipment was furnished by The Woman's Club of Clayton. In 1936, Mrs. Melba McCullers and Miss Grace Smith were appointed librarian and assistant librarian. Mrs. Imogene T. Dalton became the librarian in 1937 and the librarian's salary was paid for with WPA funds. After 1941 WPA funds were no longer available and the Town of Clayton began paying for the librarian's salary.

Sponsorship of The Woman's Club of Clayton ceased in 1943 when the North Carolina State Library Commission and the Johnston County Library recommended that a seven-member board be appointed. J. R. Satterfield, Hugh A. Page, M. W Knott, Mrs. Dwight Barbour, Mrs. P. A. Wallace and Mrs. B. A. Hocutt formed the new board. From September 1948 to 1953 Mrs. Carmen Satterfield served as librarian. May 1953 to July 1961 Mrs. Winona Gattis occupied the position; Mrs. Melba McCullers was substitute librarian.

Sadly in August 1961 the falling circulation and interest prompted the library to close, but in September of that same year the library was reopened with a new board of trustees: Charles Crone (Chairman), Mrs. J. J. Tew, Mrs. B. A. Hocutt (PDF), Mrs. Carmen Satterfield, Stephen Cauley, and Miss Grace Barbour. The library was given a facelift and Mrs. John I. Hocutt became the librarian. By 1963 the Town of Clayton appropriated $125 per month to the librarian and book volumes were added. During this time a closer relationship with Johnston County Library was cultivated and books, bookmobile and technical services were shared.

Miss Evelyn Harris became the librarian in 1968 and an aide was employed under the NYC program. In 1973 Mrs. Betty Coats came on board as librarian and three Johnston County Youth Employment aides: Renee Kirby, Johnny Wallace and Sharon Cooley. The book volume count was at 7484 and the circulation for that past year was 18,470.

In May 1965, Mrs. B. A. Hocutt deeded over her home to the Town of Clayton to be used as the future home of a public library. The property was given in memorial to her late husband Dr. B. A. Hocutt and father J.T. Ellington, thus the name Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library. The library board requested that the Town begin a library-building fund, setting aside $1000 a year. After her death in 1974, the NC. Library Commission, Johnston County Librarian and the Clayton Library Board recommended a new building be constructed on the site as well as the adjoining property. "The purchase of the late Dr. B. A. Hocutt's office property by the Town in 1975 and the 1978 gift/purchase of the log cabin property from Allan Tew by the Friends of the Library, Inc., with the original site, provided half an acre of land bounded by Main, Church and Second Streets." (Supplement to the Clayton News, 1981)

Friends of the Library, Inc. organized in 1976 to seek funds for the building and maintenance of the new library. The Town of Clayton, businesses, industry, and individuals teamed together to make the dream of a new library a reality. In 1979, the Clayton community raised over $52,038 toward construction of the new library and the Johnston County commissioners pledged a $15,000 grant for the project. The estimated cost of the library was $200,000 and about half of that total came from a Town of Clayton bond issue. On May 17, 1981, the new 3,500 square foot Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library opened - finally replacing the small one-room library in the Town Hall building.

How We Grew

Town of Clayton Library became affiliated with the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield in 1991 through a contract signed on March 5, 1991, operating as a county library under Chapter 153A, Article 14 to give library service to the residents of Johnston County and the Municipality of Smithfield. Since the State Library recognizes Smithfield as the "main library" and the current director of a "system." This allowed the Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library to continue receiving books from the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in Raleigh, Foreign Language Library in Fayetteville, and continue to receive shared books. In 1998, an automated system was established and shared county-wide and we no longer needed to use the stand-alone card catalog.

No later than 1996, the library had outgrown the original space and the need for a Children's Room was in discussion. The Town of Clayton pledged $125,000 of $250,000 needed, and the Friends of the Library raised the matching balance.

In 2002, an addition was built to house the reference collection. The addition was named in honor of Elsa Mae Hill after her love of the library and her generous donation of $100,000. Hill's bequest helped fund the 1,000-square-foot room on the Main Street side of the original building.

In 2005, a multi-purpose room was added to the library, now the Sybil Champion Meeting Room. Builder Robert Pinkus contracted the building of a 2,400-square-foot, two-and-one-half-bath home at Plantation Pointe at no cost and asked the suppliers and subcontractors to do the same. All proceeds for the selling of this $250,000 home was used to build the $300,000 addition. The Town of Clayton aided in this project and oversaw the completion. 

In 2018, after much growth of both the town and the library’s collections, the children’s collection was relocated into the Sybil Champion Meeting Room. This move allowed staff to expand children’s services while creating space for the young adult collection, study tables, and seating in the area that was once the children’s room. The library also moved its large print collections and computers into the main library space and re-purposed the Elsa Mae Hill room to be the library’s new meeting space and multipurpose room.

Since 2018, the library’s services and staff needs have continued to grow. From 2018-2019, the library hired the Margaret Sullivan Studio to complete a Library Space and Services Needs Assessment. At the completion of that assessment, MSS recommended a 25,000 square-foot facility to meet the town’s library needs. At this time, HEML staff and town administration are working towards a solution to the library’s space needs.

The Clayton History Room

In 1997 Virginia Satterfield became the Town's official historian. Miss Satterfield's collection of notebooks and clippings make up a huge part of the Clayton historical records in the library. She was also instrumental in restoring the Town cemetery on Stallings Street and documenting all of those who are buried there. 

In spring 2007, Robert Priddy, one of six grandsons of Ashley Horne, agreed to match local donations up to a sum of $25,000 to fund a library online project. The Friends of the Library raised $22,600 and Todd Johnson, formerly director of the Johnston County Heritage Center, began organizing material that Betty Coats and Virginia Lee Satterfield collected over the years. These documents can be viewed online include photographs, yearbooks, cemetery records, newspapers and public records.

In October 2007, Pam Baumgartner (Lipscomb) (PDF) became Town of Clayton's new historian. Baumgartner published Images of America: Clayton in 2008. The book can be purchased in the library and all proceeds go to Friends of the Library.

Over the next 15 years, as the history collection grew, the library’s storage area became inadequate to house its collection of photographs, artifacts, scrapbooks, and historical items. After reaching critical mass in the storage area, library staff began looking for a solution to house the collection in a manner that would allow for materials to be preserved for future displays and research.

In Spring of 2022, library staff received approval to move the history collection to climate-controlled storage and began creating a new History Collections Policy. At this time, the History Room is no longer open to the public, and library staff are actively seeking a solution to our history space and display needs. The library’s history display case still houses regular displays of Clayton history, and our photograph collections are still searchable online.