Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Blast from the Past - History of the Mackay Public Library 1907 to 1976

History of Mackay Public Library
Author Unknown. Provided by Mackay Librarian, Shirley Olsen
On January 19, 1907, twenty-one women met at the home of Mrs. George L. Morgan for the purpose of organizing a club. The group had as its object “mutual help in fine needle work and the promotion of socialibility among its members.” The first officers were: Mrs. Edith Easley, president; Medora Greene, secretary; and Mrs. Ella Davidson, treasurer. Charter members included Clara Bailey, Emma Burnett, Ida Boxwell, Jean Clark, Ethel Clark, Pearl Dillingham, Susie Diers, Margaret Dunstain, Pearl Herman, Elsa Hansen, Anna Morgan, Mary Trego, Lula Huffman, Lena Heidt, Nellie Huddle, and Mae Boxwell.

In 1909 the club incorporated for the purpose of purchasing and establishing a public library. Mrs. Medora Greene was the first librarian and Mrs. George Ambrose and Mrs. W.D. Asire served on the first library committee.

The next two years were busy ones and profitable for the club was able to buy itself a home in which it met for the first time on September 112, 1912.

Shelves were built on the walls and thus was born Mackay’s first public library. The books were mostly donated by the members of the club.

By October 25, 1912, a piano was purchased, the result of a gift of a “certificate valued at $112” given by Mrs. Greene for that purpose.

The next few months the women worked diligently to finish paying for the piano and to get the floors in the clubroom carpeted, wall to wall, with hand woven rag carpeting.

This property was the site of the present building and the “home” was a log structure, not elegant, but adequate for its day.

In 1915 the building was wired for electricity. This was a big step in the realization of the club members’ dream. A boy janitor was hired to sweep the snow, carry the fuel, and build the fires for “not to exceed 25 cents per meeting.”

At this period it was proposed that a dam be built across the Big Lost River. The club members invited the Hon. M Alexander, Governor of Idaho, to meet with them for an open discussion of the problems confronting the people of the community. The method of the construction of the dam was considered to render it “unsafe and a menace to life and property”. Though the club failed to accomplish was they had hoped, they enjoyed the unusual honor of a visit from the chief executive of the state.

In 1916 the club held a book social to provide a nucleus for the Mackay Public Library. A few years later it was proposed that the club offer the deeds of its property to the village of Mackay provided that the council agreed to aid in the building of a new library and club house. The proposal was rejected.

Through the years many volumes were added to the library by donations from public minded citizens. The women used every legitimate means conceivable to raise money to maintain their library and to have some left over to place in their building fund. They dreamed of someday having a new home for the library and clubrooms.

For more than twenty years they received no financial assistance from any tax unit. Activities for fund raising included dances, operettas, plays, raffles, and many dinners for conventions, public and private gatherings.

The future looked very dark when in 1933 the depression set in and the local banks closed taking the club’s savings account of $2,600.00

However, by 1934 the C.W.A. labor was available for public works and with the club furnishing the material, the present building was erected, and was a monument to the vision and hard work of the faithful and far-sighted women whose ambition was to make Mackay a better place to live. Harold Whitney and Bill Hewitt were the first two men to begin work on this building.

In 1939 the new building was completed and it boasted a spacious clubroom and a library of approximately 4,200 books.

In 1940 when George Miller was the Mayor of Mackay he saw to it that the library received $500.00 a year from the city. This was the first help that the Women’s Club had ever received, and seemed very sufficient at that time.

By the 1970’s prices had risen so much that $500.00 a year just wasn’t enough money. Some of the club members got together to attend a city council meeting to see if they could get more money. The women who went to this meeting were Rosella Nelson, Elvira Williams, Evelyn Kayler, and Erma Anderson.

At the meeting they found that the city was unable to give them any more money, but they might be able to go to the county commissioners and see about being put on the tax rolls. They did this and found they would have to have a petition signed by two-thirds of 640 people.

Rosella Nelson and her granddaughter, Linda Ivie went from door to door in Mackay and surrounding areas getting signatures from people interested in keeping the library. They got enough signatures and the library was put on the tax rolls. It was then called the Mackay Free Library.

In 1976 the first story hour was held at the library with Gleana Stanley reading books to the pre-schoolers. It has been considered very successful.

The library now boasts of over 10,000 books. A carpet has been laid. It was a donation of Gary Windslow. A new desk was purchased and several new book stands, including one for paper-back. Nearly all the shelves are full.

Some of the librarians who have served over the years are Mrs. Boone, Rose Bruno, Francis Marinac, and Erma Anderson. In 1976 Evelyn Ivie was hired as an assistant.

The women of the Women’s Club of Mackay have worked very hard for almost seventy years for their library and it has certainly been a worthwhile endeavor.

We still have the piano in 2011. Pictured here in 2002.

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