A Fort Payne, AL city library had been established during the 1889-1891 boom and located on a second floor in the Opera House block. But during the mid-1890s depression years there was no money available for library service. Although various women volunteered their services as librarian during these years, no new books were purchased. Old books were lost or destroyed and interest waned.
Finally, through the efforts of a very remarkable Fort Payne woman, a library was again established in 1930. Mrs. Mary C. Weatherly, wife of C. I. Weatherly, president of the First National Bank, scoured the county for books and, with 400 volumes donated by interested citizens, started the Fort Payne Library on October 1 that year. This date marked the beginning of 40 years of library service to the citizens of DeKalb County by Mrs. Weatherly, a period during which she neither received nor desired any compensation.
The city council having agreed to pay the $5.00 per month rent for the upstairs room of the Masonic Building, F. E. Ladd donated coal for the open grate which heated the room. The initial supplies were purchased from a $100 loan made by Mrs. Georgia McFarlane, who was reimbursed in money from small charges collected for the rental of books. Every day of the week Mrs. Weatherly ascended the stairs to the library carrying her infant son in her arms, and proceeded to build and tend the fire and to serve as librarian, janitor and handyman.
By 1940 the little room was not large enough to hold the 4,000 volumes Mrs. Weatherly had accumulated through donations and careful buying. Fortunately the WPA was at this time providing funds for small libraries, and $11,000 thus obtained was matched by the state and county. But as federal and state money could be used for county libraries only, the name was changed to DeKalb County Library whence it came to be moved to the basement of the new City Hall.