Although this building was not constructed until 1933, the library collection was started by Susan and Ethel Norris, daughters of Dr. and Mrs. Henry Norris, back in 1921. At that time it contained approximately 300 titles mostly donated by Mrs. Norris and Miss Maude Coxe of Green River Plantation. The two ladies called in some favors to friends in Philadelphia to donate the books. Mrs. Lollie Hicks Revely served as the first librarian.
The library first operated out of the Mission House at Rutherford Hospital and ran on a subscription basis. In 1924, the library moved to another building beside the Isothermal Hotel but quickly outgrew that location as well and moved again in 1928 to the second floor of Town Hall. In 1932, a group of supporters began making plans and urging community leaders to build a permanent structure to house the library. The town council met on April 4, 1933 and gave its full support for the new building but committed no funds.
In true Rutherfordton spirit the community did not see that as a deterrent to their plans but as a challenge and came together to make the dream a reality. A fundraising campaign began to secure the $5,000 needed for construction. One resident donated all the brick needed to cover the exterior of the building, another gave mantels for the fireplaces. A local hardware store donated all the paint and a local lumber company provided the building materials at cost. Architect Louis Asbury, who had designed several other buildings at the time in Rutherford County, was approached to design the building. Mr. Asbury drew up the plans in less than a week and provided them at no charge to the town. The town donated a lot for the library downtown next to the new post office and construction began in late 1933.
The plan for the library included additional uses such as a meeting space for local civic clubs and a heritage center for displaying historical exhibits. The design included restrooms and a small kitchen as well as a “museum” room. In addition to the materials donated, other materials salvaged from the McEntire mansion were also used. These materials included locally made Antebellum bricks and timber dating back to 1825. Labor to build the library was provided by the Civil Works Administration. This program was created during the depression and worked much like today’s Employment Security Commission. It provided laborers a job, with modest pay, to help build and maintain public buildings. John Anderson, Jr. who originally conceived to idea for the new library was the local administrator for the program and worked diligently to coordinate the efforts for construction of the building.
A contest was held prior to the opening of the library to name the building. It was an easy decision based on the library’s history. A majority of people in the community felt that the library should be named the Norris Public Library based on its original founding family. Therefore, the Norris Public Library officially opened on December 8, 1933 and at the time of the opening had grown to over 5,000 titles. It was recognized as a town service and so subscription fees were no longer charged.