Story by Erin Chesnut
UT Martin alumni are giving back to the community through the funding and design of a new library for the city of Martin. While the Martin Public Library Foundation includes many UT Martin graduates, Dr. Nick Dunagan (’68), chancellor emeritus and current foundation president, and his wife, Cathy (’68); Langdon Unger (’80), former foundation president; and David Warren (’67), library consultant and major project donor, are serving in key leadership positions.
Unger, a local attorney, served as the first president of the Martin Public Library Foundation and established the organization to receive charitable donations toward the funding of the new building and its services. Dunagan took over as the foundation’s second president to focus on fundraising and make a difference in the future of the community.
“One of the reasons that I’m involved is because I think this is really going to be great for the community, and I’m excited about it,” he said. “It was something that my wife (Cathy) and I talked about, and we both felt that this was an issue … that could really make a difference for the community. So we said, ‘Let’s put our time and effort into this.’ I’m out in front, but she offers a lot of good advice, also.”
Dunagan says the city has received a $5.5 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Program but still needs to raise approximately $1.5 million to complete the necessary funds.
The new library will have numerous features including a large children’s area and a teen zone, community meeting spaces, a dedicated genealogy research room, and workshop areas where community classes in skills such as cooking, sewing and painting can be taught. The two-story building will anchor the downtown Martin area on the corner of Lindell Street and University Street where the Martin Police Department and UT Martin REED Center currently sit. The police department will relocate to a new building currently under construction north of town.
Warren, who has designed libraries all over the world, is working with the Jackson-based architectural firm TLM Associates Inc. to ensure the new Martin library is truly a modern, state-of-the-art facility of which the community can be proud.
“(Warren) has provided untold credibility, suggestions and expertise. In addition to being a major donor, he’s looking at all of our plans and making sure that we have a 21st century library,” said Dunagan.
Dunagan feels the construction of a modern library will not only serve current Martin residents but assist with the recruitment of employees to work in area industries, including UT Martin.
“I think (the library) will be a very positive recruiting tool for UT Martin as well as anybody that’s looking to settle in Martin, whether they’re with MTD or any other business, or a business that’s looking to locate here in the future. … (People moving in) want a safe environment. They want an environment that’s going to be conducive to their kids getting the very best foundation for an education,” he said.
According to Dunagan, the current C.E. Weldon Library building is a historic landmark in the community, having previously served as the town post office, and will be maintained as a city building after the construction of the new library.
Construction on the new building is anticipated in begin in mid-2019 with hopes that the facility will open to the public in 2020.