A Carnegie Library built in Spring Valley
Glimpses of Yesteryear
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 9:03 AM
What an exciting year, 1904, when the Carnegie Library took shape! Board member officers that year included J.N. Graling, president; Mrs. C.H. Smith, vice-president; D.M. Leach, secretary; and Mrs. E.W. Thayer, assistant secretary.
Hans J. Aurlie and crew erect the Carnegie Library, which cost $7,800, on the corner of Broadway and Main Street in 1904.
Bids were solicited for the erection of the Carnegie Library with the knowledge that Andrew Carnegie was granting $8,000, and the city would provide the building site and levy a tax for its operation. Among the plans submitted was one by Mr. VanDugan, architect for the First National Bank, and one by Hans J. Aurlie, architect. The latter's bid of $7,800 was the low one and was accepted, with the requirement that Kasota stone be used on the west and north sides.
Work began at once and the magnificent edifice soon took shape on its prominent corner of Broadway and Main Street. In September 1904, a letter was drafted and sent to Mr. Carnegie - would he consider $1,000 more grant money? By February the following year, the answer came back, yes, if the city council would increase the levy. We assume they did.
With completion of the building in late fall, the board decided to "move in" Dec. 1, and on Dec. 29, the board met in the new facility's rest (reading?) room. There were bills to pay: $15 for new lights and labor of $13; to install storm windows from Henry Kruegel's woodworking shop down the street for $70; coal at six dollars a ton, wood for $2; books at $10, and librarian salary of $25, which salary remained the same for 10 years.
The basement was to be rented out to various groups - 50 cents for daytime meetings, $1 for evening meetings. It wasn't until 1906 that a janitor was hired - J.A. Stevens received $5 a month for his efforts, a stipend that continued through 1918, the length of the secretary's minute book. Perhaps doing janitorial work spurred librarian Nellie Grant's resignation, but she was honored with a lavish appreciation party at the home of Mr. & Mrs. S.M. Wilder.
Emma Stevens became the new librarian in 1907 and elected officers included Dr. Geo. McGillivray, president; H.T. Tolmie, vice-president; D.M. Leach, secretary; and Mrs. Flora Thayer, assistant secretary. The Book Committee consisted of Mrs. Elmer Lloyd, Mr. Dan Sullivan, and Mrs. Elwyn Washburn.
There were regular monthly expenses for books as the library increased its offerings. The librarian always gave a monthly report and it was fascinating to see the amount of "fines" reported by the librarian at one cent a day for failure to return a book. In 1908 the Up-to-Date Club, founded by the Lobdill Twins, Emily Lloyd and Emma Viall, was given permission to install a bookshelf called "Week Books," which were rented at 5 cents a week until they were paid for and then added to the collection.
Emma Hart became the librarian in 1909. Three years later, the faithful board secretary, Dunbar Leach, died and his replacement was Mrs. Frances (Milo) Graling. The roof developed a leak, and the librarian requested more transoms over the doors to aid air circulation. It was a tragic loss for the board when devoted volunteer S.M. Wilder died. The city requested permission to install a pumping station near the library, and it was agreed they could do so, provided the noise did not disrupt readers.
A new "cement sidewalk" was laid on the west side in 1912 at a cost of $29.70. Burgess & Son won the bid for coal for heating - $6 a ton, and the library would pay their own drayage. President McGillivray moved away and banker Lyle Hamlin was appointed to fill his term.
In 1913 a surplus in the treasury - $700 - was placed in two banks, earning 4 percent interest. Librarian Miss Hart resigned and there were seven applicants for the position. The hands-down winner for the post was Miss Alice Steffens.
Alice was my great-aunt, sister to my grandfather, Harry Steffens. She had taught at Mantorville, Minn., and her departure from there in 1890 prompted a lovely reception and a gift to her of Shakespeare's complete works in eight volumes, which grace my personal library today.
From the minutes, it is apparent Alice stirred things up. Within three months she was allowed time off to attend a state conference in Minneapolis, the board paying her railroad fare of $9.25. Distel & Co. was charged $8.75 for a splendid librarian chair, now on display at the present library. Alice also asked for a raise and shorter hours, but this was not granted for some time. However, she did not give up, and six months later, her salary was raised to $30 a month, and the library would be closed forenoons, but open at 1 p.m.
Alice also brought to the board's attention the need for a new card system, and more help in keeping the library clean. Indeed, the next month, Mrs. Stevens came in for daily cleaning, paid $3 a month, and the librarian could charge a dollar per month for extra cleaning.
The next year, Alice asked to be relieved of all cleaning, and to be paid for what she had done. The matter was tabled until December when the board agreed to pay the requested $26.
Radiators were installed in the basement for warmth, which cost $173 for parts and labor, and many groups, clubs and organizations rented the rooms for meetings - again 50 cents for daytime and a dollar for evenings.
During World War I in 1917, the American Library Association asked for funds for "Books for Soldiers." The library board almost reluctantly agreed to collect $25 for the project as long as it was not considered "for the library." To everyone's great delight and satisfaction, two months later the librarian was congratulated in the area newspapers for raising Spring Valley's quota of $25.
The secretary's book ended in 1918, but it was heartwarming to read the determination of the board, and the struggles they endured in those early years. We are so blessed with our present library and staff.
Tell 'em so!