Tekamah Public Library will be celebrating its 105th birthday this month. The original Carnegie structure was dedicated on October 25th, 1916, but Tekamah’s library was already a couple years in the making.
The community’s desire for a library had been known since May 1914, when the Burt County Herald reported that the Tekamah Commercial Club was putting forth efforts to secure the funding via a grant.
This money came from none other than businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie’s foundation. Tekamah Public Library is one of 2,509 libraries that were built with this grant money between 1883 and 1929. There were 69 Carnegie libraries constructed in Nebraska, but only a handful are still standing and even fewer are still used as libraries. What we have in Tekamah is truly a precious jewel.
By October 1914, the mayor appointed the members of the first library board: Mrs. Hattie Hopewell, J. A. Clark, J. E. Cornish, A. H. Dixon, Dr. J. P. Merritt, Mrs. J. W. Tamplin, E. I. Ellis, Dr. A. D. Nesbit, and Mrs. Ed Latta. The board selected the current site of the library and it was reported in the newspaper that there was great community support for the project.
A grant of $8,000 (over $200,000 in today’s money) was awarded on November 17th, 1914. The building was designed by Beatrice architect R.W. Grant. Bids for construction and masonry were granted to local contractors.
In June 1916, the library board appealed to the public for donations of books and magazines. They were concerned they would not have the funds to purchase enough books by opening day. Again, the citizens of Tekamah came through. The library had 1200 pieces of material, most of them donated, by November.
This set the precedent for community support of our library, a strong driving force that has continued over a century. This same effort led to the wonderful renovation and addition project that was completed 97 years after the original building came to be. We think we look pretty good for being 105 years old!
We will be celebrating the library’s birthday on Monday, October 25th from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Please stop by for a cupcake and an entry in our prize drawings! We will be giving away some book totes and other goodies.