The William Leonard Eury Appalachian Collection is a repository with more than 44,000 volumes of books, over 200 periodical subscriptions, 8,000 sound recordings, and 1,500 videos and DVDs related to the Southern uplands, with strengths in the social sciences, regional history, folklore, music, religion, genealogy, fiction, and African and Native Appalachia.
Additional materials include CD-ROMs, censuses for all Appalachian Regional Commission counties from 1790 to 1920, an extensive Appalachian Collection Clipping File Index for regional newspapers, Appalachian Collection Microformats of over 5,300 microfiche and 11,000 reels of microfilm, including area newspapers, theses and dissertations, government documents, county records, and a large set of genealogical resources, music albums with an in-house song title index, photographs and slides, and movies, maps, manuscript collections, and Jerry Williamson's Southern Mountaineers Filmography.
Note: Use of rare books and manuscripts by appointment only. Photographs are stored in a climate controlled chamber and require additional time for handling.
William Leonard Eury died September 17, 1995 at his residence in Bessemer City, North Carolina. Mr. Eury, born in Gastonia, received his BA degree from Duke University and a BS and a MS in Library Science from George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University.
Mr. Eury joined Appalachian Normal School on a full-time basis in 1929. He served as the institution's Librarian until his retirement in 1970. During his long career at Appalachian, the school evolved from a normal school to Appalachian State Teachers College to Appalachian State University. Eury managed the library's growth from two small rooms with about 2,000 books in 1929 through the establishment of the D.D. Dougherty Library, and the library's eventual move into the former Carol Grotnes Belk Library, now known as Old Library Classroom Building. He also developed a separate Music Library which is now housed in the Broyhill Music Center.
His obituary appeared in several North Carolina newspapers. It stated that of Eury's many accomplishments at Appalachian, the one of which he was most proud was the role he played in establishing a special collection devoted to preserving materials related to the Appalachian region. That collection, which bears his name, was dedicated in his honor in 1971.
Mr. Eury's manuscript papers are housed in the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection as Collection 391. William Leonard Eury Papers. His sister Margaret Eury Agle, an Appalachian alumna, and other interviewees of the Appalachian Memory Project discuss his contributions to institutional life.
Memorials may be made to the William Leonard Eury Appalachian Collection, Belk Library, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC 28608.
by Fred J. Hay, Ph.D.
Appalachian Collection Librarian
The W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection is a repository for materials related to the Southern uplands. It is a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary library with special strengths in folklore, ethnography, music, religion, local history, genealogy, fiction and African and Native Appalachia.
At the dedication of the William Leonard Eury Appalachian Collection on October 18, 1971, long-time Appalachian State University Professor and Administrator, Cratis Williams asked: "What is the significance of this collection?" His response was:
"In the early days of Appalachian State University the cultural tradition, handcrafts, and artifacts of the people served by the University were taken for granted. Educational programs were directed toward the orientation of the sons and daughters of the mountain farmers to a general American culture; and what lay immediately about them was largely ignored. In time, though, owing to the vision of such men as Dr. I. G. Greer, a native son and long-time instructor at the college, Dr. W. Amos Abrams, and the librarian, W. L. Eury, the institution became interested in building a collection of Appalachian materials for the use of students and scholars who desire to study the local history, culture, and social problems of the region. This collection, already one of the most important in the region, is destined to grow."
It is appropriate to quote these words of Cratis Dearl Williams (1911-1985) because he, more than any other individual, is responsible for the development of the Eury Appalachian Collection. As Williams was preparing to teach a course in Appalachian song in 1943, he did a survey of the library's holdings and discovered there were only about 25-30 books having to do with Appalachia at what was then known as Appalachian State Teachers College. With Librarian W. L. Eury's support, Williams began to identify books on the area and on folk songs and purchased them for the College's Library.
This process of identification and purchase of Appalachian materials intensified and broadened in the early 1950s when Williams began work on his now famous dissertation. He and Acquisitions Librarian Zeb Shook, would visit used bookstores and antique shops to search for relevant materials. Shook kept alist of all of Williams' many interlibrary loan requests. This "Selective Bibliography" of Williams' dissertation was 57 pages and 840 citations, and was sought throughout the out-of-print market to locate and purchase copies.
The possibility of establishing a separate special collections area began to be discussed at ASU in the mid-1960s when the University's plans for a new library building were being developed. In 1967, the family of Ben Wheeler Farthing, a 1939 graduate of Appalachian State University, donated a collection of Western North Carolina and ASU materials that, along with the books that Williams and Shook had been purchasing, became the nucleus of the new special collection. Besides university related materials, this donation included documents, photographs, books, and newspaper clippings about the mountain region, as well as the remarkable diary of Professor Andrew Jackson Greene. The 164 volume hand-written diary of Baptist preacher and English professor Greene is a detailed account of life in Boone and Watauga County for the period 1906-1942.
The Appalachian Room was established in the new Carol Grotnes Belk Library. The 1968 edition of the Belk Library Handbook included the following description:
Appalachian Room: A special collection of all available material about and from the Appalachian Mountain region is housed here. The library is interested in collecting both published and unpublished materials for inclusion in the collection. The Collection is housed in the Appalachian Room on the second floor of the main library. Materials in the collection are to be used only in the Appalachian Room.
In 1969, Charlotte Ross was hired as the Appalachian Room's first Librarian. In 1972, a part-time staff person was added, and an oral history project was initiated. Funds for the purchase of the tape recording equipment used for the project had been provided by the newly created Appalachian Consortium and by the ASU Foundation.
Cratis Williams' observation that the Collection "was destined to grow" proved correct. In the early 1970s, the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection received some important donations: I. G. Greer's ballad collection and field recordings; the Jack Guy Collection of taped traditional music of the Beech Mountain area, and his photograph collection of local musicians and folk toys; the James York Ballad Collection from Mocksville, NC; the W. Amos Abrams folksong collection and field tapes; writer and singer of traditional songs, Virgil Sturgill's diaries and performance repertoire; the Riley-Fry Collection of handwoven shams and coverlets.
From the Spring of 1976 until February 1978, Margaret Vannoy, who began her tenure in the Collection in a part-time, temporary staff position, served as Acting Collection Librarian. Eric Olson, the Collection's first professionally trained librarian, began his term as Appalachian Collection Librarian in June 1978. Olson, who came to ASU from Western Carolina University where he worked as a cataloger, was also a well-known folk revivalist musician.
The Eury Appalachian Collection had long suffered from insufficient space in Belk Library and Olson oversaw its move from Belk Library to the old D. D. Dougherty Library Building in 1980, and then to the newly acquired University Hall in 1984, and the expansion of its space in University Hall in 1990. Moving the Collection to University Hall, one mile from the main campus had the obvious disadvantage of separating it from the rest of the University Library and making it less convenient for University patrons but it had the advantage of concentrating in one building the various ASU units which supported Appalachian regional research; the Center for Appalachian Studies, Appalachian Journal , Appalachian Consortium and the new Appalachian Cultural Museum. Due to the large number of artifacts that the Collection had acquired, the University decided, at this time, to remove them from the Collection and to create the separate museum.
During the Olson years, the Collection increased significantly as important manuscript collections were added, including the papers of Cratis Williams, North Carolina Congressman and Senator James Broyhill and the Appalachian Land Ownership Survey. Olson retired from University service in 1993. Dean Williams, Library Assistant served as Acting Collection Librarian until Fred J. Hay's appointment as Collection Librarian in August 1994.
The current staff of the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection are Librarian, Fred J. Hay (M.L.I.S., Ph.D. in Anthropology), and Library Assistant, Dean A. Williams (M.L.S., M.A. in Appalachian Studies). In 2005, the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection became part of Special Collections in a new Carol Grotnes Belk Library and Information Commons joining the Stock Car Racing Collection, University Archives and Record Management, and Rare Books and Manuscripts in a common space on the new building's top floor.
Baker, Barry B. 1979. "A History of the Appalachian Collection," ASU History paper, April 1979.
Eastridge, Gwendolen. 1968. Library Handbook: A Guide to Resources and Services, Boone, NC: Appalachian State University.
Hay, Fred J. 1999. "Appalachian Heritage: The Evolution of the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection, Appalachian Studies, and the Preservation of Regional Culture and History," Proceedings of the 6th and 7th Biennial Linear Parks Conferences: Partnerships & Sustainability/A Blue Ridge Heritage Corridor: Celebrating Our Past, Creating Our Future, Boone, NC: Appalachian Consortium Press, pp. 31-36.
Williams, Cratis D. 1971. "The Significance of the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection," address delivered October 18, 1971 on the formal dedication of the Collection, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Adapted from article printed in vol. 7 of the Appalachian Consortium Regional Collections Committee newsletter, The Curator. Information provided in this document updated in 2006.