Boonville Library Endowment Continues Speer Family’s Legacy of Support

It’s not a stretch to say there might not be a Boonville Community Public Library without Frieda Speer.

Or at least how it exists today. Frieda, who loved reading, helped lead the effort to create the library in 1997 and donated the land the library sits on today in the small town in northwest North Carolina.

Frieda Speer

And in 2021, just days before Frieda passed away at the age of 96, the Speer family established the Boonville Community Public Library Endowment, a designated endowment at the North Carolina Community Foundation that will provide ongoing support to the library.

Frieda was a founding member of the Friends of the Boonville Library. “She was always an avid reader and she felt like the town needed a library,” says Dr. Allen Speer, Frieda’s son, who initiated the effort to create a library endowment.

The community library was initially housed in about 300 square feet in the Boonville Town Hall and operated solely by volunteers. With the help of donations, Frieda’s gift of the land, and volunteer efforts, the library moved to its 3,000-square-foot location on Main Street in 2003, where it’s located today.

The library facility was gifted to the town by the Friends organization and is now operated by the Northwest Regional Library system.

As the library continued to grow, Frieda donated additional land to support future expansion.

“We’ve almost outgrown our library already,” says Bonnie Lasky, the treasurer of the Friends of the Library, which these days focuses on providing programming support. “We need more books, more room, more parking.”

The endowment for the library continues the legacy of Frieda, who worked as a teacher and for Yadkin County Farm Bureau during her lifetime. The Speer family felt an endowment was the best way to continue their legacy of support of the library for the long term.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, and if you have an endowment, you may be able to absorb the shocks,” says Allen Speer.

The Boonville Community Library

For the Friends of the Library, it reduces the pressure to fundraise and allows them to better invest funds they’ve raised.

“The endowment is going to be a godsend down through the decades,” said Ellen Reece, former head of the Friends of the Library. “And we hope to eventually have enough for an expansion.”

Allen Speer initially approached Reece about taking on a major fundraising effort. Ellen suggested he talk to the Yadkin County Community Foundation, an affiliate of NCCF, to set up a long-term endowment.

For the Speer family, a love of reading is in their genes. Allen is a historian who is a professor emeritus of humanities at Lees-McRae College. He taught at the college for 34 years and specialized in intellectual history and the history of political thought.

He’s written a quartet of books that are tied to family stories about what was happening in the Yadkin Valley in the mid- to late-1800s. The themes are universal and tie to issues that the country grapples with to this day, such as racism, education, political polarization, and extreme gaps in wealth.

Fittingly, his books are available for sale at the library and the proceeds support the library’s endowment.

The most recent book, “Struck at the Crossroads in Boonville” is based on letters between Speer’s great-grandparents, Aaron Smith Speer and Mattie Cleveland Thompson. The letters were discovered in a box in his cousins’ attic. He uses the letters as a basis for painting a picture of what life was like in Boonville during the 1890s.

“Any success I have, I attribute to my love of reading,” he said. “When something like that changes your life, you want to support it.”

The Speer family’s support for the library will live on for a long time.

“It’s been a real jewel for our little town,” Reece says. “We might still be in that back room of town hall if it wasn’t for Frieda.”