The Ladies Library Association held a very interesting meeting last week at the public library auditorium. The program of the afternoon was given by Miss Ida Van Hon on the history of the Ladies Library Association and the public library, and was very interesting, especially to those of the members who were not so well acquainted with the history of the organization. Following the paper, Miss Van Hon escorted the ladies on a tour of the library from stock room to study room, explaining things which were of especial interest.

A short business meeting presided over by Mrs. Ella Felton, in the absence of the president, Mrs. Dyall, was held following the program.

The paper given by Miss Van Hon gives a complete and accurate account of the history of the library and will be of interest to so many readers that it is given in full:

The Ladies Library Association of Mt. Pleasant is the group of ladies who paved the way and made possible the present free public library. This building, these books collected for many years are the realization of the dream of fifty years ago. The vision of 1872 was a library serving the community.

You may read the names of the ladies who sponsored the movement for a library on the bronze tablet in the entrance to the library, but the names of hundreds of others who gave of their time, labor, talent, their names and their praise will go unsung. The Reading Circle was formed in 1872 and almost immediately found the need for a public library.

Dr. Chamberlain’s books, given before the Civil War, were herely housed in different offices. Now these were presented to the ladies.

The young men’s lecture course had ceased, so their books and money were given to the cause. In 1872, the Ladies Reading Circle and the Lecture Association merged under the name, Ladies Library Association. In 1875, they incorporated under the present name of Ladies Library Association. Plans were made for a library and it was decided not to open one until they had $5,000.00 pledged, but they opened the public library when they only had $230. The library was located in the Ambler building on the east side of the square. Furniture was bought, and 870 books purchased. There were 800 volumes of the Chamberlain library. Judge Gillis had given 200 congressional records and other early documents. Dr. Ramsey gave Appleton’s Encyclopedia, the first reference books. Altogether there were 2,200 books.

The library remained in that location five years and then moved to the third floor of the present Hoaglin building, then known as the Cole and McClary building (See NOTE). This was 1882. An old newspaper article asks, "Do You Remember the L. L. A. Buffalo?"

Sen. Harlan gave a large collection of petrified woods and mineral collected by his son in Colorado. A collection of rare shells and corals was purchased by several men of the city and presented to the ladies. In June 1882, the cyclone rolled the tin roof off the building and for a time it looked as if the library was a complete ruin, but after a short time the L. L. A. again opened for business. The librarians gave a month’s service free. The library tickets were $2.50 yearly, $1.50 for six months and $1.00 quarterly. The money to support the library came from tickets, dues, donations, suppers and various entertainments, lectures and concerts.

The ladies gave freely of their time and money to support this beloved enterprise. As I remember, the rooms were very pleasant, opened three afternoons and evening each week. Wonderful double book cases of fine wood stood out from the north wall, forming alcoves; long antique settees were around the room. We had our stationary, pictures and maps, tables for chess players, tables and magazines for readers. A carpet covered the floor. In 1889 (sic:1899), we moved to the basement of the former Baptist church. Another pleasant room, but a darker one on account of stained glass windows. The arrangement of book stacks about the same. The boys reading room was added and we fell heir to their books and furniture. We have a picture of this room. Book cases, screened the furnace and the room was kept open by volunteer librarians. In 1902, by a vote of the people with a majority of 4, it was decided to have a free public library, a tax to be levied and nine trustees to be appointed by the mayor. Accordingly, the Ladies Library Association deeded to the city their $7,500 books, furniture etc., with the agreement that four of the trustees should be from the Ladies Library Association. At present all the lady trustees are members of L. L. A.

The ladies also gave $1,000.00 in cash on the price of the lot. The lot cost $300. Carnegie gave $12,500.00 for a building, later making it $15,000. The present building was erected and occupied February 22, 1905. The present addition was completed March 1927, with the formal opening June 21, 1927. The first entertainment in the new auditorium was given by the L. L. A., March 11, 1927.

The new addition contains the wonderful Worthington Memorial library, one of the choicest collections of books in the west. Many of these books are priceless. Many old prints and rare volumes. The Ladies Library Association still continues its interest in the public library by gifts of books and some very choice magazines. Lately they presented $400.00 in cash and placed a bronze tablet with the names of the incorporators.

The L. L. A. has again incorporated for another fifty years.

The Ladies Library Association supported and maintained the public library for a period of 30 years and then gave all to the city for the present library. We have now a fine library, well-chosen books on many subjects, fine reference library, a library used and appreciated by townspeople to a high degree maintained by a small city tax.

The rest of the afternoon was given to Miss Van Hon’s talk on the work of the library, cost and maintenance and what a library needs, work of library classification, according of Dewey decimal system, nine classes, 100 philosophy, 200 religion, 300 sociology, 400 philology and 500 natural sciences, 600 useful arts, 700 fine arts, 800 literature, 900 history and travel, how books are classified, how to use a catalogue in the library, how to use reader’s guide and the value of the Worthington library.

All decided that it was necessary to know where and how to find material as speedily as possible. The ladies were then taken over the library on a tour of discovery and to learn where and how to find books.
("Mt. Pleasant News", March 12, 1928)

NOTE: Research indicates that by early 1882, the library first moved from the Ambler building to the old City Hall on N Jefferson Street and was in that location when the June 1882 cyclone "rolled the tin roof off the building". By October 1882, the library had relocated across the street into the Hoaglin building, where it remained for approximately seventeen years.

Resource provided by Henry County Heritage Trust. Transcription done by James Peters, University of Northern Iowa Public History Field Experience Class, Fall 2021.

Added 06 November 2021 to Henry County IAGenWeb.
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