Library History

Read how this library was established and how it has evolved to become such an important part of our community.

The Mediapolis Public Library was established in October, 1915 by the newly organized Mediapolis Study Club. The club members donated books from their home libraries and purchased seven books. The Burlington library donated 100 books and the Burlington Librarian, Miss Lily, also assisted in organizing the library. The first location was at the corner of Main and Harrison. Miss Ella Graham was the first librarian and held the position until her death in in 1947.

The library moved several times: to the back of the Cowger Restaurant, to the front of the Klondike Store and then later to the Walker Tin Shop. Each time the Study Club members moved the books by loading them in children’s wagons and pulling them on the street to the new location.

Study Club members asked the Town Council to establish a Free Public Library. At a special meeting on July 19, 1919, council members Ed Cling, E.D. Trostle and T. R. Luckenbill decided to consider a petition requesting that a special election be held to authorize the Council to establish a free public library. The library was established on a vote of 56 ayes to 32 nays. A one and one half millage rate was levied bringing in $280 annually. Five trustees were appointed: Rev. Ollerenshaw, Mrs. John Beere, Attorney H. J. McConnell, Mrs. N.B. Wilson and Harley Walker. Walker served on the board continuously for forty seven years.

In 1926 a permanent home for the library was purchased. The American Legion, the Masonic Lodge and the Library Board jointly purchased the school building at the corner of Harrison and Park Streets, now Harrison and Columbia Streets. 4,600 books were moved to the south first floor of the building and the library remained in that location until 1970.

17,000 books were on the library shelves in 1964 and 575 were memorial books. The memorial shelf was begun by the American Legion Auxiliary in 1948 when the book “Famous Hymns and Their Stories” was placed there in memory of Mrs. Vera Smithers Luckenbill. Circulation for 1964 was 24,727, an average of 24 books for each resident of Mediapolis.

Brothers Ben and Herman Luckenbill gave a collection of mounted birds and animals native to the area, Indian relics and old guns to the library in memory of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Davis Luckenbill and other families have added collections over the years. The collections were in the north first floor of the library and visiting that room was an important part of visiting the library for many, many children and adults over the years. The museum was moved to the current location of the library and was named the “Dr. H.M. Patterson Museum”.

Miss Mary Bridges served as the Librarian from 1947 to 1966 when Martha Young became the Librarian. Jane Gerst took over in 1990.  Carrie Haverman came in 1998 and oversaw the renovations from a devastating fire in 1999. Paula Saunders was next and stayed until 2002 when Kim Earnest, the current librarian, took over the position.

Those who have served on the Library Board include: Mrs. J.H. Scott, Mrs. James Allison,  Mr. H.M. Edwards, Mrs. Eli Browning, Mr. T.R. Richardson, Miss Della Storks, Rev. D.E.Kerr,  Roland Kords, Miss Dessa Smith, Mrs. Robert Nelson,  Homer Scott, Mr. F.G.Wright, Mrs. S.B.Matson, Mrs. Elta Archer, Mrs. Harold Nelson, Mrs. W.E.McClure, Miss Mildred McLean, Mrs. Ralph Riffel, Mr. Marion Deam, Wayne Gustafson, Hugo Thie,  Mrs. Willis DeSpain, Dr. H.M. Patterson, Harley Walker, Bruce Bentley, Mrs. Charles Mueller, Robert Cosens, Evan Wilson, Alice Schofield, William Luckenbill, Jane Schmidgall, Sally Schrock, Larry Harmon, Kim Scheitlin, Aaron Schmidgall, Kendra Jahn, and Deb Gordon.  Current board members are Ben Schmidgall, Nancy McLaughlin, Sonia Oberman, Layne Luttenegger, and Kent Schmidgall.

In 1970 the library moved to the current location of 128 North Orchard Street, the former location of the Swan Theater, a bowling alley and “The Klub”. There was a fire at the Klub and the building was then purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Lester Beckman who rented it to the City after putting it in good repair. This proved to be a good spot for the Library as it was all on one level, spacious, air-conditioned and centrally located. The City purchased the building from the Beckmans in 1973. About that same time, new stacks for the books were purchased with memorial money saved for several years for that purpose. A memorial case was built to hold the bound copies of the New Era dating back to 1881. The case was in memory of Harley Walker. In 1975 there were 24,890 books in the library and 1,112 of these are memorial gifts.

In 1981, David Fry installed carpet at the library. Around that same time a collection of cassette tapes was established and a short time later a collection of VCR tapes was added.

On January 3, 1990 an old water pipe froze, broke the ceiling over the librarian’s desk and flooded water all over the library until it ran out the front door and the leak was discovered. It was a major catastrophe but recovery was prompt and comparatively complete. In January of 1994 another pipe froze and broke under the sink in the Board Room and water ran out the front door again.

In 1998, several women from the community decided to establish the Friends of the Library for the purpose of raising funds for the Children’s Department.  Their first fund raiser was a dessert bar and some of the proceeds from that were used to paint the Children’s area at the back of the library.  Many community members have served on the Friends of the Library board, and as of May 2015 there were approximately 90 members in the group.  This group is dedicated to raising money for children’s programming by holding fundraisers such as the Dessert Bar, the Appetizer Bar, Trivia Night, and Used Book Sales.  This group also holds an annual spring cleaning of the library and in 2015 was able to help in paying for part of the painting of the library.  They also helped plan the 100th Anniversary of the Library events in 2015.

1999 was a devastating year. An arsonist put something in the book return that caught the library on fire. The library sustained mostly smoke and water damage but the fire made a move to a temporary location on Main Street necessary. After an outstanding remodel project, the library reopened at the Orchard Street location in May, 2000, where outside book return boxes were installed. Another result of the fire was that several local businesses installed outside drop boxes for customer’s payments.

After the remodel, the museum was moved to the back of the library and some of the collection still remains there. There is also a Mediapolis Museum, located on Main Street. The museum has changing exhibits and articles that are loaned by community members or from the museum room at the library.

The Library Foundation was established in June 2009 and funds are used for library upkeep.

The library was able to automate the collection in 2003. Previous to this time, all records were kept in hand-written files. When computers and software were purchased, the library entered the computer age. Currently the library has five patron access computers and three staff computers. There are several data bases that allow patrons access to music, books and information from several sources. Patrons can search the collection online, put holds on materials, and renew and request materials. This can be done at the library or from home.

As of May 2015, the library has 25,520 items in their collection and the annual circulation for 2014 was 64,825. Today, the collection includes a substantial amount of books on CD and DVDs.

Today the Library provides summer and winter reading programs, movie nights, read to the guinea pig or to the dog programs, a morning and evening monthly book club, a Preschool weekly story time, and Lego Club.

The following two paragraphs are taken from the by-laws of the Mediapolis Library and the Library seeks to live up to these objectives:

“The Mediapolis Public Library provides free service to all individuals and groups in the community and townships of Des Moines County and accepts as its responsibility the provision and servicing of materials which will aid in the pursuit of education, information and the creative use of leisure time. The Library seeks to encourage a love of reading and an awareness of books as a means of satisfying the mental and emotional needs of our community. To this end, it provides materials and services within the limits of its financial ability.”

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Revised May 2015/Julie Tribbey and Luann Schmidgall