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Mount Ayr Public Library

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, August 06, 1915

The library board recently appointed by the mayor and approved by the town council met recently and reorganized. Officers are Maud SPENCE, president; Mrs. R. S. BEALL, vice-president; Mrs. Sam SPURRIER, secretary; and J. A. STEPHENSON, treasurer. Other members of the board are Mrs. H. H. TEDFORD, Mrs. C. R. KEATING, H. H. WILSON, F. E. SHELDON and Bert TEALE. STEPHENSON, WILSON, TEALE and SHELDON were named as a committee to find suitable grounds for the erection of the new Carnegie Library and steps toward securing such grounds will be taken at once. A tax levy of 31/2 mills was also fixed by the board.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, September of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, July 12, 1916

At a meeting of the Mount Ayr Library board held yesterday, Maud Spence was elected president; Mrs. Randolph S. Beall (sic, should be spelled "Beal"), vice-president; Mrs. Sam Spurrier, secretary; and J. A. Stephenson, treasurer. The brick for the new [library] building to be constructed on the Allyn lots on the southwest corner of the square, was selected and the contract for the building will be let at an early date.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, August 09, 1916

At a meeting of the library board held Thursday evening, the contract of the building of the new Carnegie Library, soon to be erected on the southwest corner of the square, was let to Young & Woodward, of Creston. As the amount to be received from the Carnegie Corporation will be but $8,000, it was necessary to make some eliminations and the bid of the contractors was reduced from $7,658 to $6,748. This firm built the Baptist Church and is now building Howard Tedford's new residence in Sheldon Heights. J. L. Kinsell, of Mount Ayr, was the successful bidder for the heating and plumbing, his bid being $1,042.97.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, September 13, 1916

The cornerstone of the new Carnegie Library on the southwest corner of the square will be laid tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon with appropriate ceremonies. The program will include selections by the Mount Ayr concert band and high school girls' chorus; invocation by the Rev. R. M. Shipman; address by the Rev. Robert L. Welch and laying of the corner stone.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, December 17, 2015, Page 5

Public Library almost 100 years old

'Tis the season for thanks and the library would like to say thank you to the community for their patronage and support. The library will celebrate its 100th birthday January 3, 2017. An example of the federal style of architecture, it was designed by Architect Frank Wetherell of Des Moines who also designed the Bedford Library and several others in the state.

In 1915, the citizens of Mount Ayr applied to the Carnegie Foundation for $10,000 to build the library. They were granted $8,000 since the community had not shown growth in the 1910 census. An additional $2,000 was raised to purchase the lot on the southwest corner of the square. Mr. Wetherell charges $343.23 for his services, the distinctive tile roof an additional $268.00. Library furniture, still in use today, was $1,347. The cornerstone, which you can view on the northeast corner of the building, was laid September 14, 1916.

When the library opened on January 3, 1917, the total collection was 1,083 books and 27 periodicals. Mrs. Thomas J. Williams was the first librarian. It has been a privilege to join the ranks of distinguished librarians since being appointed library director in July of 2011. A special thanks to Roberta "Bobbi" Bainum for all her help and support and to Nancy Roe for her training and continued support. An additional thanks to our terrific library board of trustees, Donna Watson, Rosemary Hullinger, Darrel Dodge, Collus Lawhead, Cheryl Taylor and Meredith Dredge and to all the past board members.

In the almost 100 years of service to the community, the library has done more than just check out books. Following the opening in January of 1917, America entered World War I. Maps showing the country's participation were made easily accessible to the public. Government menus, recipes, and suggestions for meals were distributed. In the first World War, the nation did not ration food. Instead they observed "meatless days," "wheatless days," and "eggless days" to conserve food for the servicemen and our allies, so new menus and recipes were needed. The library was also used for the sale of thrift stamps. In 1918, a campaign of "books for soldiers" was conducted. During the second World War, a victory book campaign for soldiers in army camps shipped fiction, non fiction, technical, professional and education books.

A full service library in every sense of the word, the meeting room downstairs has been used for daycare, Scout meetings, summer reading programs with an average of 80 children in attendance, story hours, child care classes, political meetings, bridal and baby showers, graduation parties and family reunions. Young people are always welcome.

In the late 1940's school buses stopped at the library so young patrons could check out books.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, May 2016

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, July 01, 1965

The red carpet was rolled out Friday afternoon for the 150 persons, young and old, who attended the fiftieth anniversary observance of the Mount Ayr Public Library.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, September of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, December 22, 2016, Page 4

By Mike Avitt

Say hello to Ringgold County's newest centenarian, the Mount Ayr Public Library! The library was dedicated January 1, 1917 with dedication services held across the street at the Christian Church.

I've written about the library before, so I'll try to include some new information including earlier attempts to organize libraries.

An advertisement in a November 1895 Twice-A-Week News says Homer Fuller is the librarian of a reading room located in the Liggett building (111 West Monroe) on the south side of the Mount Ayr square. The reading room was located on the second floor and consisted mostly of magazines and newspapers that had to be read on the premises.

Mr. Fuller was an attorney and no doubt he had an office above Liggett's Grocery as was common in those days. Another ad in the March 26, 1896 Twice-A-Week News informs readers of the closing of the reading room citing cost as the reason. Attorney H. C. Beard was involved with the reading room at this time.

In 1905, there was another attempt at a public library called the Tabbard Inn Library. It closed after one year and I have no information about it.

The first public library in Ringgold County opened in Ellston on May 5, 1900. I don't know how long it lasted but Ellston has another library today. It's located in the community room of the United Methodist Church and I believe it is a privately funded library.

The beginning of today's Mount Ayr Public Library began November 15, 1913 when a library opened in the upstairs rooms of the Timby building on the southeast corner of the square. Martha Timby, who was one of the leaders for the public library effort, donated the library rooms in her building.

The work for a new library building continued and a grant was received from the Carnegie Foundation. The contract for construction of the new structure was let to Young & Woodward of Creston. This construction firm had just finished building the Tedford home in Sheldon Heights (201 Shelway Drive), the current home of Jeff and Kim Lutrick. Young & Woodward had also built the Baptist Church in Mount Ayr the previous year.

The cornerstone was laid September 14, 1916 and the library opened three and a half months later. Mrs. Thomas Williams was the first librarian and her husband was the first janitor.

The building has changed very little in 100 years. The coal furnace has given way to natural gas and the addition of a rear entrance are probably two of the biggest changes.

Library services, however, have changed dramatically. The internet, books on compact discs, fax machine, copying machine, and genealogical information were not offered in 1917. These are all a big part of the library today.

I often visit the library because Ringgold County's old newspapers are on microfilm in the genealogy room in the basement. I also visit because sometimes the librarians have cookies.

Stop in and visit the Mount Ayr Public Library during its 100th year of continuous service!

~ ~ ~ ~

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, December 22, 2016, Page 1

100 years of service
Mount Ayr Public Library hits century mark

[Editor's note: On January 3, the Mount Ayr Public Library celebrated its 100th continuous year of public service.

In recognition of that milestone, we present a brief history of the library written in 2015 by head librarian Mary Kathryn Gepner in her weekly column.] Coordinator note: Article appears above.

Photographs courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News & Mike Avitt
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, April of 2017

The Mount Ayr public library was built in 1916 with help from an $8,000 grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation and an all women's organization, the Village Improvement Society. The new library was dedicated on January 3, 1917. Prior to the erection of the library, the lot was the location of a 2-story brick building which housed the Mount Ayr Bank, A. O. INGRAM's store and an abstract office. That building burned years before 1916 and the lot had been empty for a long time.

Mount Ayr Public Library
121 W. Monroe St.
Mount Ayr, IA 50854
(641) 464-2159

NOTE: Photocopies are 25-cents/page. Donations are welcome

Mount Ayr Public Library Hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday
1:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

10:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

9:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Closed on Sundays


Collections and Resources at the Mount Ayr Public Library

  • Local, county & other county histories
  • BANNER, Raymond V.  Cemetery Gravestone Recordings of Ringgold County, Iowa A project of and published by Ringgold County Historical Society, 2003
  • LESAN, Mrs. B. M. Early History of Ringgold County: Centennial History of Mount Ayr, Iowa 1875-1975
  • KNUDSON, Ruth BLANCHARD. American Pilgrimage for LESANS, BLANCHARDS, and SWEARINGEN, 1974
  • CORING, Bernard & HARDY, Joseph. Across Iowa on the Keokuk & Western and the Humeston & Shenandoah Railroads
        not available for check out but available for reference at the library
  • Family histories
  • Ringgold county atlas, plat maps & plat maps of other counties
  • Ringgold Co. federal census 1860-1920
  • Oral history collections
  • Various county church records (1800-1924)
  • Bohemian settlers, 1856-1900
  • Zaruba family records 1864-1900
  • Ringgold Co. BEALL directories 1896 & 1899
  • Misc. cassette tapes of old-timer interviews
      Newspapers (microfilm):
    • Ringgold Record (1872-1908)
    • Twice-a-Week News (1892-1907)
    • Mount Ayr Journal (1893-1920)
    • Kellerton Globe (1894-1907)
    • Mount Ayr Record News (1908-1989)
    • Redding Herald (1915-1919; 1926-1947) Redding Rustler & Redding Register (1901 and 1906)
    • Shannon City Messenger (1915-1918)
    • Diagonal Reporter (1918-1972)
    • Tingley Vindicator (1903-1948)
    • Ringgold County "Old Timers" Bulletin (1930-1946)
      Vital statistics resources at Mount Ayr Public Library:
    • Register of marriages 1855-1912
    • Birth records for Ringgold Co. (index 1880-1897)
    • County death records (index 1880-1897)
    • Marriage records for county (index 1880-1913)
    • Index to wills (1858-1880)
    • Gravestone records (1800-1930)
    • Cemetery records for county
    • Obituary collection for county


    Mount Ayr Record-News
    Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
    Thursday, July 13, 2017, Pages 1 & 9

    Library turns 100

    The Mount Ayr Public Library will celebrate its 100th birthday with special events to be held Saturday, July 22 during Ayr Days.

    From 9:30 to 1 p.m. Ranee Roed will conduct antique appraisals in the library basement.

    From 10 a.m. to noon local author Guelda Barker will sign copies of her recently published book, "Grandma Guelda's Cookbook."

    At 1 p.m. onstage at the Princess Theater, the history of the library will be told through a Reader's Theater piece entitled, "If the Walls Could Talk: Celebrating [Page 9] 100 Years of the Mount Ayr Public Library."

    The original play, written by Martha Landphair and Marilyn Hawkins, will feature performances by SFL students directed by Shaun Kniep and Nancy Roe.

    At the conclusion of the play, past and present librarians and board members will be introduced.

    The recognition will conclude with an open house at the Public Library. Cookies and punch will be served.

    As an added attraction, special T-shirts and canvas book bags commemorating the library's 100 years will be offered for sale at the library.

    Mount Ayr Record-News
    Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
    Thursday, July 13, 2017, Page 5

    Public Library turns 100 years old

    Dedicated in 1917, the Mount Ayr Carnegie Library has served the community for 100 years as the center for public learning, civic activities and reading pleasures. It is architecturally significant because it is an example of the Federal type of architecture and showcases the skill of architect, Frank E. Wetherell of Des Moines, IA.

    The simple functional style reflects the wishes of the citizens of Mount Ayr to have a building that would serve as a center for learning rather than a showplace. The construction firm of Young and Woodward of Creston, got the contract to put up the building for $6,748. Mr. Wetherell designed other Carnegie libraries in Iowa.

    Wesley I. Shank's biographical dictionary of "Iowa's Historic Architects" lists the cities of Alden, Bedford, Bloomfield, Cherokee, Creston, Eldon, Laurens and Oskaloosa as having libraries designed by Frank Wetherell. Seven of these, including Mount Ayr, are still used as libraries today. This is due to the fact that these buildings were well designed and constructed using good quality materials.

    In preparation for our centennial celebration Saturday, July 22, during Ayr days, the library is undergoing a face lift. Stull Construction is tuck pointing, sealing the building, painting trim and foundation, washing windows, repairing gutters, the coal shute (sic) and front steps. The library thanks Rick Stull and daughter, Annie Main for their hard work in restoring the building to its original pristine condition as we move into our next 100 years.

    In 1915, Mount Ayr applied to the Carnegie Foundation for a grant of $10,000 to build a library. The steel tycoon, Andrew Carnegie, has been called the "father of public libraries", for the Carnegie Foundation's grant to build public libraries around the world. In 1891, Iowa senator James Wilson requested money to build a library in Fairfield. His request was the first to be granted outside of Carnegie's home state of Pennsylvania. In order to qualify, the community would have to provide a site for the building and a tax base sufficient to maintain a library.

    The 1910 census revealed a low rate of population growth so only $8,00 was granted to Mount Ayr for site purchase and construction. The community was able to raise the additional $2,000 to purchase the lot on the southwest corner of the square formerly occupied by a bank and a mercantile. This site, in the center of town on the courthouse square, was near stores and churches with convenient parking.

    Vintage photographs courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News & Mike Avitt
    Photograph, transcriptions & submission by Sharon R. Becker, June of 2009; updated September of 2015; updated May of 2016; updated April of 2017; updated July of 2017

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