Thursday, April 18, 2013

Eldon Public Library turns 100

This Saturday, April 20, the Eldon Public Library turns the century mark and it will not go unnoticed by library staff and the city of Eldon.

On Nov. 23, 1912 the cornerstone was laid for the present-day library and on May 9, 1913 a formal dedication was held at the Christian Church to christen the new building and usher in an era of public institutions dedicated to knowledge and learning.

In this day we have a tendency to take the local library for granted, as most have been an institution for well over 100 years. But in the waning years of the 19th century and the early days of the 20th this was not the case, as public libraries were considered an indulgence of sorts the country as a whole had not yet wholly endorsed. But thanks, in part to Andrew Carnegie, libraries were moving from a luxury to necessity.

The legacy of Andrew Carnegie is etched in the public’s mind as the person who decided to use his wealth to benefit the masses. And to do this, he decided to build libraries in towns small and large across the country. Public libraries, free to the citizens of all ranks and social orders, to provide learning opportunities theretofore not readily available.

Nationwide Carnegie contributed funds to build 1,419 libraries for a total cost of $41.5 million. Iowa was an early recipient of the funds with Fairfield receiving the first grant in the state in 1892. This was remarkable as Fairfield was the first town west of Pittsburgh, Penn. to receive such a grant. There were many more to follow.

A total of 101 libraries were built in Iowa using Carnegie funds. Although Iowa wasn’t the leading builder of Carnegie libraries (it ranked sixth nationwide in the total built) it may not have been that high if it wasn’t for the progressive reputation Iowa is known for.

According to the Carnegie Libraries in Iowa Project based at the University of Iowa, at that time Iowa had become the 10th state to pass legislation allowing towns to establish and maintain libraries through taxation, a vital measure providing a means to create and sustain libraries.

Another progressive piece of legislation that, according to the project was instrumental in establishing libraries on Iowa, was allowing women to vote on “yes” or “no” issues in 1894—26 years before the 19th Amendment allowed voting rights to all women. This vote was critical in Iowa as women’s organizations often led the movement to establish a library.

To digress. A woman voting is something else we take for granted in society, but in the first 100-plus years of our country it was a revolutionary thought. Somewhat ironic considering all Americans at one time were considered revolutionaries.

Casual research did not reveal if a women’s organization was instrumental in establishing a library in Eldon but, given the evidence that women were prime movers in founding libraries, one can rest assured there were women on the front lines of the movement.

Eldon opened its first library in 1906 and in 1911 the local library association (established in 1908) appealed to Carnegie for funds to help construct a building. In turn he donated $7,500 to the effort and two years later Eldon had the building that has stood for 100 years and has served countless citizens.

 To honor this milestone the Eldon Public Library will hold an open house this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be refreshments available and craft building for the younger patrons is scheduled from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. At 1 p.m. Dr. Shana Stuart, director of the Carnegie Libraries in Iowa Project at U of I, will make a presentation to mark the occasion.

In the words of T.S. Elliot, “The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.” So stop by the library this Saturday and not only wish it a Happy Birthday but celebrate the future of our country. And maybe check out a book.
Brian Chambers
Media Coordinator
American Gothic House Center

The American Gothic House Center strives to become financially independent through gift shop revenue, sponsorships, and by establishing an endowment fund. Funds raised in this campaign will be used to match the Iowa Cultural Trust Endowment Challenge Grant and will become endowment funds to support the Center's annual operations. As a subscriber to the weekly newsletter, you have already shown support for the American Gothic House Center. I invite you to strengthen your role in the valuable experience we provide the community by making a contribution to our fund drive. Click here to give your tax deductible gift, or head to our website for more information. Thank you to all who have donated so far!
Our Mission: Integratin
300 American Gothic St | Eldon, IA 52554 | 641-652-3352 |

No comments:

Post a Comment