Library History

This was put together in 1983 to celebrate the Library’s 100th birthday.

Library History

On March 29, 1983 the Superior Library will begin its one hundredth year of service to this community.  On September 1, 1893, to commemorate the approaching tenth anniversary of its founding, the minutes state:  “Mrs. Day was appointed by the president to write a history of our library to be sent to different newspapers.”  Her pencilled notes are still in the front of that first minute book.

“The Ladies of Superior, feeling the necessity of a Public Library, met pursuant to call at the house of Mrs. W. S. Bloom, March 29, 1884 to organize themselves into an association to be called and known as THE LADIES LIBRARY ASSOICATION OF SUPERIOR, NEBR.”

“A constitution was adopted, taking the constitution of the Library Association of Kalamazoo, Mich. as a guide. The board of directors was elected: Mrs. M. G. McNaughton, Mrs. A. J. Briggs, Mrs. R. Guthrie, Mrs. J. F. Padden, Mrs. G. L. Day, Mrs. Stokes, Mrs. F. Fosmir, Mrs. Sterrell, Mrs. J. S. Johnston, Miss F. S. Barber, and Mrs. D. Guthrie.”

“The town was canvassed for memberships and by hard work funds enough to buy less than one hundred paper bound books, was (sic) raised.  The books were kept in the school house on Main Street, now the Reformed Presbyterian Church.”

“By hard work and entertainment of various kinds, by November 1885 the ladies were enabled to purchase their lot of the late V. H. Kendal.  Mr. Kendal showing his interest by being very reasonable in the purchase price.”

“The summer of 1887 the present building was erected.  (This is as of 1893, remember.)  From time to time books have been added until at this date there are about two thousand volumes, including the best books of history, biography, travels, historical novels, novels, and books for young people.”

“The library has been a beneficent institution by making the fee so small. People who have not been able to purchase books have had the advantage of the best literature, which is a factor of great importance to a community as it cannot help but elevate and refine its people.”

“The work of running the library is done by a board of fifteen ladies.  Mrs. I. King, President; Mrs. J. S. Johnston, Vice-President; Miss Cleary, Second Vice-President; Mrs. Scoular, Treasurer; Mrs. E. Bossemeyer, Jr., Secretary; Mrs. Mackey; Mrs. Allen; Mrs. Dean; Mrs. Day; Mrs. Powell; Mrs. D. Guthrie; Miss Speer; Miss Maggie Guthrie; Mrs. Merle Felt; and Mrs. Wm. Wilson”

“The fee is one dollar a year or twenty-five cents for three months. The library is opened once each week from half past one till four o’clock on Saturday afternoon.  All money is devoted to the current expenses of the library and purchasing new reading material, no remuneration being granted any member of the Board for any labor done, the officers and Board (members) each taking her turn as serving as librarian.”

No one of us now living can personally recall our library’s beginning.  Remember this was less than twenty years after the last Indian raids through this area.  This Superior was still in transition from a raw frontier town to a more settled community.  What a debt of appreciation we owe the ladies of that time for their determined effort to provide our community with an essential part of The Good Life’.

A reading of the minute books of those early years gives us a glimpse of some of the details of that struggle.  They washed windows, made curtains, swept floors and scrubbed walls, carried coal to build the fires on cold winter days, they swatted flies and fanned themselves on hot summer afternoons.  And most of all they raised money.

Hardly a month went by that the community wasn’t being enticed, urged and cajoled to part with some of its hard-earned money for the benefit of the library.  A partial list of these activities conjures up a picture of a community working hard to support the efforts of these ladies, and having fun along with it. Minstrel shows, elocution recitals, an exhibition of Wax Works, a calico ball, a masked ball and just a plain ole’ dance were presented. Other entertainment was   ‘The Tennesseeans’, lectures, concerts, literary courses, lawn socials, and a dinner on held on election day. For this dinner the ladies made hand-hemmed napkins and fancy boxes to hold the dinner which must have been in the nature of a box supper. Also they put on ‘fairs’ with admission thirty-five cents for adults and twenty-five cents for children.  This was -pretty steep for those times.  Some of the more ambitious projects including a play, a bazaar, presentations of H. M. S. PINAFORE by a traveling troupe; “The Messiah”, a music festival, a banquet, vaudeville shows, a scarf drill.  The list goes on.

By March 8, 1886 the record shows they had purchased a lot and felt affluent enough to dream of a brick building to be erected on it.  By the following February they had abandoned the brick building and settled for a frame structure and, “on motion Mrs. Bloom, Mrs. Padden and Mrs. Briggs were appointed a committee to secure plans and specifications for such a building.”

On September 15, 1888 they engaged in investigation of the tax title to their property and were seeking an exemption from taxation for the Association.  On that date the building and contents were first insured for $300.00 on the building and $400.00 on books.  Even then the ladies had their priorities straight!

On February 2, 1889 the minutes show that the YMCA asked to use the library building as a reading room… and to build an additional room on the rear of the library for a business room.  A committee was appointed to look into the matter but no further reference is made, so presumably the young men had to look elsewhere for their reading room.

The following month it was voted to employ a paid librarian at $26.00 per year, the library to be open two afternoons each week on Wednesday and Saturday. After that each month recorded various improvements.  “a three foot wall to be built from the library to the road’, “a tree to be put out in front of the library building’, a dozen and half chairs purchase…”, “that we have a hitching post in front of the library.”

In October 1891 the insurance was increased to $1,000.00. (Building $300.00, fixtures $100.00 and books $600.00)  The premium paid to Alex Hunter was $12.50.

The ladies kept a sharp eye on the morals and values of the community for in September 1892 it was “moved to exclude all French novels from the library.”

In 1836 Mrs. King “was appointed to ask Mr. Naylor to have the Council cut weeds surrounding the library and to fix the sidewalk in front of same.” At this time the Board members resumed the task of serving as librarian.

October 1, 1898 the School Board asked the LLA to donate the library to the public schools, offering in return “to care for same.”  The record tersely states.  “Offer declined.”

It was obvious that the library was getting to be too much for the Ladies Library Association to handle without some kind of outside assistance and in May 1906, it was moved that a letter to Mr. Carnegie be written, asking aid for our library… “  A few months later a committee was formed to investigate the laws regarding transferring the library to the City…”  From that time on the minutes do not reflect much except that from time to time “a report was given on the library question” and “report given of matter pertaining to the Carnegie donation,” and further, “that a committee wait on Mr. Dodds with regard to the price of lots…”

The outcome of the negotiations with Mr. Dodds  is not reflected in the record, but January 28, 1908 the LLA entered into a contract with Robert Guthrie for the purchase of five

city lots on the southeast corner of Fourth and Commercial, the site of the present library, for the sum of $1500.00.  Mr. Guthrie gave the women sixty days in which to raise the money, and led off the subscription with a donation of $500.00.  The women set to work with a vengeance and the final subscription list shows fifty-eight names, and the campaign went over the top by $110.00!

February 1, 1908 seems to be the date of the last meeting of the LADIES LIBRARY ASSOCIATION.  No mention is made in the minutes of an impending transfer of ownership to the City of Superior, and ordinary business is conducted.  The treasurer’s report shows a balance on hand as of January 1, 1908 of $173.88 and the record shows all outstanding bills paid.

A couple of book lists published in the newspapers have been preserved and are interesting in that they reflect the taste and good judgment of the LLA.  A number of these books remain in circulation yet.  In 1904 Superior residents were reading:

Romance of the Missions –West

Tropical Africa – Drummond

Alaska – Claflin

Ivar the Viking  — Duchaillu

Fishin’ Jimmie – Slosson

Told in the Hills – Ryan

Mighty Atom – Corelli

That Husband of Mine – Anon.

The Oregon Trail – Parkman

Little Pilgrims of Plymouth – Humphry

Legends of the Norse Land – Pratt

Another list, undated, is even more interesting;

The Valley of Decision – Edith Wharton

Log of a Cowboy – Andy Adams

In the Fog – Richard Harding Davis

The Magic Forest – Stewart E. White

Cruise of the Cachalot –Frank T. Bullen

After Prison –What? –M. B. Booth

Scouting for Washington –John P. True

Raiding with Morgan –Byron A Dunn

Natural Law in the Spiritual World –Henry Drommond

Call of the Wild –Jack London

On the Frontier with St. Clair –Charles S. Wood

The Tailor of Gloucester –Beatrix Potter

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm –Kate Douglas Wiggin

Art for Arts Sake –John C. Van Dyke

These are just some of the more representative items being purchased at that time.

The first meeting of the Board of Directors, as it was then known, met January 14, 1908 at the home of Mrs. George Day.  Others present were Mesdames Bossemey, Scoular, Johnston and Mr. G. L. Fisher. At that time the Board was supposed to consist of nine persons and on January 22 others present were Miss Speer, Dr. Nelson and John Eyre.  At the following meeting Rev. Embree was also in attendance.

For the next several months the most important order of business was employment of an architect, a Mr. Miller of Chicago; approving drawings and plans, and on August 24, 1908 they voted to accept a bid from Ambuson Bros. of $7,000.00 for construction.  In October a bid of $265.00 for a heating plant was accepted from W. P. Long and Sons.  At that same meeting Mrs. Lucy Conn was hired as librarian.  The salary given her is not stated in the minutes, but on July 29, 1909 was raised to $25.00 per month.

By April 1909 the Board had accepted a bid for $134.00 from Johnston Bros. for plumbing the building.   Mr. Stanfield offered to wire the building for free and the offer was accepted. A bid of $410.00 from Mullet’s for library furniture was accepted.  Plans were made to sell the former location.  The fee for out-of town patrons was set at $1.00 per year, payable in advance.  This was later reduced to fifty cents.  Hours were set at from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. on weekdays and from 3: to 6:p.m. on Sundays.

All present and past Board members who read this will be amused and appalled to note that in September 1910 it was “voted to repair leaks in the roof”. This matter has plagued every Board member down to the present day and no replacement or repair has ever solved the problem for more than a few weeks.

In December 1910 the first donation to the library was received from Dr. Jno. Punton, a set of books on ““Diseases of the Brain”” and Roy King donated a clock which, still hangs in the library, ticking faithfully away.

In July 1912 the Children’s Story Hour was begun with Mrs. Kendal in charge.  Even though the library was now financed by the city, money was never available for all the books the Board wanted to have. In July 1914 a paper drive was held and the proceeds were used for that purpose.

During that same year the Board voted to allow ”Miss Brodstone” space on the library grounds for the erection of an instrument for taking the temperature.”  Later that year insurance coverage was purchased from Mr. C C G. Jensen.  The amount of coverage is not shown but the premium was $69.00 for five years.  A box was rented “at the bank to hold valuable papers.”  In July 1915 Sir William Vestey of London, England donated a new set of Encyclopedia Brittanica,  a most welcome addition to the library holdings.

From the very earliest time, the Board encouraged the librarians and Board members to attend meetings where feasible to keep abreast of new developments in the field.  In October 1916 Mrs. Conn was allowed her expenses to attend the fall meeting in Lincoln in the sum of $5.24.

February 1918 the Board voted to call in all books that were out; to close and fumigate the library.  Re-opening date was set for March 1st.  This was, no doubt, due to the severe outbreak of influenza that wept the country during this time.

In March plans were received from a landscaping firm for the grounds.  The plans were rejected and the Board voted $15.00 to be spent on shrubs and plantings. For a number of years this project received a great deal of attention and a great deal of effort was expended in trying to make the grounds look as nice as the ladies wanted.

During the next months from time to time the mill levy was discussed.  It was the consensus of the Board that a levy of two mills was inadequate and they asked the council for a mill levy of 3.1 in June 1919. There is no record in library minutes of the result of that request.  In August that year the Board passed a Resolution of Respect for “the late Andrew Carnegie” and a bronze plaque of him in the library was draped in black for 30 days.”

For a number of years the library operated very well, it would seem.  Mrs.  Conn’s salary had been raised to $70.00 monthly by 1924. Certain matters such as repairs to the roof and the need for more shelving were dealt with from time to time and continue on the agenda to the present time.

From time to time certain groups were permitted to use the basement meeting room.  Among those named in the minutes were Women’s Club, Unity School of Christianity, The Christian Science Church, Business Women’s Council.  During this time the Superior Board of Education voted to pay the library $100.00 per annum for the use of the library. Presumably this donation ceased when the schools installed libraries on the school premises for students’ use as it is not a part of the present income to the library.

In July 1926 Superior Library entertained 26 delegates from Lincoln, Harvard, Hastings, Nelson, Carleton, Fairbury and Guide Rock at a Nebraska Library Commission meeting.  The cost was $20.85.

In 1927 the insurance cost had risen to $197.15 for three years, but coverage was expanded to $7,000 on the building and $5,000 on contents.

In 1928 the roof was replaced.  The cost was $258.80 for materials and $114.62 for labor. In 1928 the Board agreed to install an oil furnace for $325.00 plus labor.  This would include a thermostat.  At the next meeting the action was rescinded, however, because it had been learned that a gas line was coming through Superior and the Board felt it was wise to wait until after that and reconsider the matter.

On July 14, 1930, Mrs. George Day resigned from the Board after forty-six years of continuous service.  A resolution expressing appreciation for her service, her many donations, and of regret at her resignation was adopted unanimously.

By now the Depression was being felt, and hard times were upon us, but the Board and library personnel worked hard to avoid a cutback in services.  For some time Mrs. Conn had had an assistant librarian.  It was decided to reduce that to a “helper’.  Christine Ross was hired at $20.00 per month in June 1930. During this time all books were called in, the library closed and an audit made of the collection.

In 1933 the library budget was reduced by 20%.  There were 12,575 books in the collection.  The circulation for the 1931-1932 year was 58,537.  We had 35 out of town patrons.  It was obvious from these figures the library was being well used and was a vital part of the community during these trying times.  The Board, in spite of the restricted budget, actually expended $2,476.46 and for several years operated in the red.  By April 1934 the library was again operating in the black.  During the summer of 1934 no Board meeting was held because of extreme heat.

The City Council continued to attempt to reduce library costs, and at one time the Board finally acquiesced to their demands and reduced Mr. Conn’s salary and that of Mrs. Towle who was now her assistant. At the following meeting the Board quietly voted to reinstate the salaries at their former level.  At one time the Mayor and Council met with the Board and advised they would have to be more economical in their operation.  One member of the Board acidly informed them that “they had ALWAYS operated as economically as was humanly possible and there was simply no place to cut.” About this time the Board voted to accept the offer of Lady Vestey to care for her donations of valuable artifacts until a museum could be built to house them.

In August 1937, Mrs. Conn resigned.  Mr. Towle was promoted to librarian and Janice Hursh was hired an assistant.

In 1940 the Mayor and City Council suggested they reduce the work force to one librarian.  The Board gravely considered the pros and cons.  Decided they needed the two and continued that way.  In 1941 and 1942 the request was again renewed and finally the Board, seeing no alternative, regretfully advised Janice Hursh that her position was being abolished by the City Council’s order.  However, Mrs. Towle’s salary was then increased to $66.00 per month.  During this period there was an ongoing discussion between the Board and the Council about the custodial care of the building and grounds.  The Council wanted the custodian they had employed to work at the library also, and it would seem on the face, a reasonable suggestion.  Mrs. Johnston  said, “I have no authority to boss the man.”  The Council voted her that authority but it was not a satisfactory arrangement from any point of view apparently. The Council finally said that the man was to be used only for outside work and minor repairs.

In February 1943 the Board discussed hiring a new librarian, Mrs. Towle having apparently announced she was leaving.  The next month Mrs. Emma Hodges and Mrs. Ida Gilliland were both hired as librarians. Each would receive $30.00 each per month with equal authority and were to work out their hours of work between themselves.

In July 1944 the annual report shows an average monthly circulation of only 1270 volumes, down from a high of over 6,000 per month in the early ‘30s.  World War II was being raged and men were involved in that, families were leaving for high-paying jobs in defense industries, the ones left were working doubly hard on the farm to replace the absent ones.  It would seem there was little time or desire for reading during those years.  But the Board continued on a somewhat even keel, doing its bit for the effort by canvassing the community for books to be sent to men on board ship in the Merchant Marine, allowing recruiting displays to be set up on the property, etc.  During these years no detail was too minute to escape recording.  Approval was voted for the purchase of a flashlight for the librarian and an extension cord for the janitor.

In 1948 Mr. Noren, then on the Board, was instructed to contact the Mayor about having the policeman on duty sprinkle the library lawn! Also that year Mr. Ross Bonham requested permission to have his reading classes meet in the library after school.  The request was refused because of ‘lack of seating space and the confusion it would create.’

In 1949 Mrs. Gilliland was appointed Head Librarian and Mrs. Lloyd Elliott was appointed Assistant Librarian.  Their salaries were $70.00 and $30.00 monthly respectively.  From this time until 1957 Board meetings were at rather rare intervals, often being called and dismissed for ‘lack of quorum’.  Although no scheduled meetings were being regularly held, the library was not being neglected.  In June 1957 the minutes reflect that “improvements made in the past year were as follows; construction of a fence at the rear, removal of some trees and re-planting of shrubs.  Number of volumes in library 16,699.  Number of patrons 995.  Total circulation for the year 16,939.” And they were operating within the budget.

In September 1957 the insurance coverage was for $20,000 on the building and $6,000 on contents and Board voted to ask the Council to purchase a sprayer to be used on the trees.

The Board had realized for some time that we were outgrowing the space and that our building was not arranged for the efficient use of the space.  In 1958 the Board asked the State Librarian to come to Superior to make suggestions as to the best way to “make the library more up to date.”  There are no minutes shown in the interim but evidently discussions were being had as in April 1959 it was voted to “ask the City Council to collect the full levy as given by law” so that plans for remodeling could be gotten under way.

From then again for several years only intermittent meetings were held and recorded and no mention is made of further remodeling for some time.  Mrs. Gilliland resigned February 1963 and Mrs. Arcele Anderson appointed in her stead. The Board installed storm windows on the north and west; an air-conditioner, Venetian screens  “instead of awnings.”

In September 1964 the Board met with a member of the Nebraska Library Commission regarding plans for enlarging and improving the library.  Almost one year later they met again to look at plans drawn by Stan Sheets.  A number of meetings with Mr. Sheets were held and Board member, Mr. Davidson, went to Lincoln to visit the Library Commission and get their input on the proposed plans, and to discuss joining the Willa Cather Regional Plan.

Meetings continued, surveys were made, plans were drawn over the next couple of years or more.  By this time the roof was again in need of replacement and a new furnace was needed.  In April 1968, the Board voted to authorize the installation of a telephone.  This certainly proves the Board had operated with due regard for expenditure of the taxpayer’s dollar.  In July an architect was employed to make a survey of the needs and to draw tentative plans.  The following January the plans were ‘tentatively approved’.  Following this, the Board met the City Council and it was agreed to submit a $25,000 bond issue to the voters in April.

Due to a legal difficulty, the bond issue did not appear on the April ballot.  The Board did not want to subject the voters to the expense of a special election, and certain repairs were so urgent that the matter of a new library was dropped and the Board proceeded with extensive remodeling plans.  In December 1969 Mrs. Anderson resigned, Mrs. Elliott was appointed Head Librarian and Mrs. Marie Marshall was employed as assistant.  In 1970 the renovation was completed and Open House was held for the community to show off the many improvements.

In May 1971 the Board was requested by the City Council to meet monthly.

In January 1973 Mrs. Elliott requested that Mrs. Marshall be appointed Head Librarian; that she be permitted to assume the position of assistant; and that Arcele Anderson be employed part time as needed.  The Board agreed to this plan.

From this date on for some time routine matters occupied the Board’s attention.  Always the roof needed repaired. Need for more shelving and necessary business matters were dealt with.  The collection was being strengthened and improved; equipment was being updated.  Item by item, film equipment, cassette equipment, audiovisual equipment, big investment in large print books, much attention paid to children’s section; microfilm and microfiche equipment were acquired with state grant money.

In September 1979 the Library received a gift of $10,000.00 from Mrs. Lois Hunter Cook in memory of her grandparents, Mr. And Mrs. Alex Hunter, early residents of this city.  This gift triggered the establishment of the Superior Library Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation founded for the purpose of soliciting gifts for the library and expending the funds for the improvement of the library.  None of the principal of this gift has yet been spent.  The money has been invested in Certificate of Deposit and during this period of high interest has earned a goodly sum which has been spent for improving the Nebraska History section; children’s and large print books, shelving and other needed items such as a new card catalog cabinet, etc.

Among other recent gifts to the library was a donation of microfilmed copies of early copier of The Superior Express newspaper.  From time to time the Board or the Foundation purchase additional rolls and will continue  until the file is completed.

In May 1981 the Board shamelessly took advantage of an opportunity to pick the brains of a former area resident, Lee Shriever, whose field of expertise is energy conservation.  He made

without charge an audit of our library building and advised of several things we could do to increase our energy efficiency.  These steps are being taken. The attic insulation has been increased substantially, ceiling fans installed and new storm windows will soon be installed and several other measures recommended will be undertaken.

In June 1981 the building was insured for $75,000 and the contents for $23,000.  There are now more than 33,000 volumes in the collection.  Remember this is the same space that was over-crowded with 16,000 volumes.  The library continues to be overcrowded, but BOOKS AND MORE BOOKS is the name of the game.  It is the intention of the staff and the Board of Trustees to serve the area to their very best ability.

Also in the front of that first minute books are the following pencilled notes which seem to have been written at a later date.  It was probably at the time the city took over the library.

“The opening of a free public library is a most important event in the history of any town.  A college education is a fine thing, but the part of a person’s education which one gives to himself is the best; and a good library is the means by which a person can become self-educated. We should all be anxious to see the library influence diffused more effectively and more widely throughout our community, and especially we hope that our library will become a branch of our educational system.  The public library should be the main adjunct of the public schools, and the community will expect the hearty co-operation of the Board of Education and the schools officials in any intelligent development of the library organization in modern times.

We most earnestly desire and believe that we have in our library the foundation for a far-reaching good to our town.  The work that may be done in the next few years is such as should claim the efforts of our best type of citizenship.  If personal sacrifice is called for, this will be repaid in the future by the beneficence of the work achieved.

The Library Board should not be a relatively obscure body, but by its membership and its accomplishments it should be one of the most auspiciously useful in the service life of the city.”

This community owes a very great debt of gratitude to the many men and women who give much in time, talent and money to make this library the integral part of our city that it is today. With Inter-Library Loan we have the printed word of the world at our demand.  Regretfully, this valuable adjunct has been reduced as a part of the sacrifices being made to reduce the federal deficit, but so far, Inter Library Loan is yet alive and well in Nebraska and many out-of-state libraries are still cooperating.

To the names of librarians listed we must add Mrs. Jean Wheatcraft and Mrs. Judy Moore who are a necessary part of our present staff.  Earlier in this article the names of the Ladies Library Association were given.  Below are the names of the many men and women who have served on the Board of Directors and Board of Trustees since then.

Persons who have served on the Board of Trustees for Superior Carnegie Library since 1903:

Mrs. H. C. Johnston                              Mr. G. L. Fisher

Miss Dora Speer                                   Dr  Young

Mrs. Bossemeyer                                  Mr. John Eyre

Mrs. George Scoular                             Mr. W. S. Staley

Mrs. Shaw                                            Mr. Ike King

Mrs. G. L. Day                                     Mr. Kendall

Mrs. C. D. Myers                                 Mr. C. E. Stine

Mrs. Bennett                                         Mr. R. R. Johnston

Mrs. Frank Felt                                     Mr. Howard Nicholson

Mrs. J. S. Montgomery                          Mr E. Bossemeyer, Jr.

Mrs. H. Hildreth                                    Mr. Charles Eyre

Mrs. B. C. Mendell                               Mr. Stanley

Mrs. Eva McBroom                              Mr. J. G. Preston

Miss Conforth (sp?)                               Mr. Doane Keichel

Mrs. A. E. Florea                                  Mr. H. B. Hartzler

Mrs. Eloise Baird *                                Mr. B. F. Ward

Mrs. Estle Teachworth                          Mr. Paul Schmeling

Mrs. Marjorie Mooberry                        Rev. Hart

Mrs. Robert Hudson *                           Mr. Eichman

Mrs. Loren Clarke *                              Mr. Noren

Miss Katherine Boersma *                     Dr. Nelson

Mr. Don Kronberg

Mr. Harold Davidson

Mr. Lowell Houghton

Mr. Ray Cope

Mr. Jack Nispel

Mr. Robert Applegate

Mr. David Townsent

Mr. Michael Johnson *

* Presently serving

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.