The first public library in Onslow County opened it doors to the public during the summer of 1936. This library was housed in a room on the second floor of the Abner H. Jarman Building located on the main street in Richlands. The first librarian was responsible for only 100 books, some of which were on loan from the State Library in Raleigh and some of which were donated by local citizens. The Women's Club of Richlands accepted responsibility as sponsors of the first public library in Onslow County. The library's collection grew quickly, and by 1939, over 1,000 books filled the shelves. By 1940, the library had grown to such an extent that the Library Board requested aid from the Onslow County Commissioners, who responded with a $300.00 appropriation.
After the arrival of the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base, county officials decided in 1947 that the Onslow County Public Library should be located in the town of Jacksonville. Reluctantly, the citizens of Richlands decided to share some of their library's collection to help establish the library in Jacksonville. In 1949, the Jacksonville library was officially designated as the Main Branch of the Onslow County Public Library.
In the early 1950's, the Women's Club of Swansboro started a Swansboro Library. In 1957, the county library system agreed to take over the operation of the library providing that the town of Swansboro provided a location. The location chosen was the old Swansboro Community Building. In 1968, the Swansboro Branch Library moved to Swansboro City Hall. After the purchase and renovation of a funeral home, Swansboro Branch Library moved to its present location on West Corbett Avenue in 1993. In need of more space, an expansion of the Swansboro Branch Library was undertaken in December 2001. In March 2004, the expansion from 2500 sq. ft. to 5300 sq. ft. was unveiled.
In 1952, the Main Branch moved to Mill Avenue in the downtown area with the ABC Store as its next-door neighbor. In 1968, the Main Branch was relocated to Henderson Drive. In 1976, construction on a new building was complete, and the Main Branch opened its doors at its present location on Doris Avenue. In need of meeting room space for library and public use, an addition was added to the Main Branch in 1980 and dedicated as the Faye Reeves Waters Auditorium.
In 1974, the Richlands Library, now as a branch location, moved into the old First Citizens Bank on Wilmington Street. In 1994, the Richlands Branch Library received a new home in the complex constructed specifically for the Onslow County Museum and Richlands Branch Library located on the corner of Hwy. 258 and South Wilmington Street.
In 1979, the Sneads Ferry Branch Library began in the Community Building next to the Sneads Ferry Volunteer Fire Department. In 1981, it moved to the old Fire Department Building on State Rd. 1515 (Sneads Ferry Road). In 1991, the Sneads Ferry Branch relocated to the former First Citizens Bank building on Sneads Ferry Road, which continues to serve as its current home.
During the 1980s, with a growing city and county population, the Main Branch found itself in need of a larger facility to accommodate its collection and services for its growing community. Plans were set in motion to add separate rooms for reference, children's storytime, and local history & genealogy. Renovations and expansions began in 1989 and were unveiled in 1990 with a total of 14,000 square feet. In 2001, the carport of the Main Branch was converted into needed workroom space for shipping and receiving.
In 1996, the Main Branch celebrated its 20th anniversary at its Doris Avenue location as well as the 60th anniversary of the Onslow County Public Library System. Today, Onslow County Public Library has evolved into a system comprised of the Main Library in Jacksonville and three other branches located in Richlands, Sneads Ferry, and Swansboro as well as a Law Library Branch housed in the Onslow County Courthouse (E.W. Summersill Building) on Old Bridge Street.
In 2001, a grassroots effort began to raise funds to build a new, larger Main Branch. As a result, the Jacksonville Building Fund Group formed and are presently working to raise funds to build a new Main Branch. In late 2001, the Onslow County Board of Education offered to give Onslow County a 4.25 acre tract of land next to the Jacksonville Commons Middle School to build a new Main Branch. In March 2002, the Onslow County Board of Commissions made it official by formally requesting to acquire the land. Later in the year, the City of Jacksonville offered to donate an alternative tract of approximately five acres in the Jacksonville Commons community located between the intersection of Gateway North and Commons Drive North and the Onslow County Emergency Operations Center.
In late 2005, Onslow County awarded ADW Architects of Charlotte with a contract to assess and analyze present and future county library facility needs. As a result, a countywide master library facilities plan was developed by ADW Architects and presented, reviewed, and accepted by the Onslow County Board of Commissioners in 2006. As of 2007, needed funding has not been appropriated by Onslow County Government or raised by the community to carry out the approved master library facilities plan. The dream of a spacious, new Main Library and expanded Branch Libraries cannot become a reality without community support! Become a Friend today and find out how you can become an advocate for your Library.