Sara Freeman Clarke established the first public library in Marietta and Cobb County in 1882 when she allowed residents to borrow books from her home without charge. She named it the "Franklin Lending Library".
The next year, a group of citizens organized the Marietta Library Association, but lacked a permanent location and public funding. Miss Clarke developed a plan to merge the two libraries and encouraged her many friends from New England, including Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, to contribute money to erect a new brick building at the corner of Church and Lemon Streets, where the c. 1845 William Root house then stood.
The Root house was moved to Lemon Street behind its original location. On October 26, 1893, the Sarah Freeman Clarke Library, modeled after the British Museum reading room, formally opened to the public with 4,000 volumes, 2,000 which were donated by Ms. Clarke.
In 1938, an addition to the rear was completed and the north wing was added in 1945. The Clarke Library added two branches, Fort Hill and Marietta Hill prior to merging into the Cobb County Library System in 1959.