Earlham Library History
The Earlham library has a long history stretching back over 100 years. In 1909 a library of sorts was started by an enterprising druggist. It was really more of a business proposition than a library, for the drugist stocked some 200 books and sold $1.00 memberships permitting holders to borrow books. However, it did give residents access to reading material. This drug store was located in the building now housing the Earlham tavern.
There is no record of how long this project lasted, but in 1919 an anonymous donor gave funds to buy 100 books. These were housed in the home of Hattie Hodson, long-time 3rd and 4th grade teacher at the elementary school, now the Masonic Temple. Miss Hodson gave space in her home, now the Allen Treadway residence, for the books and served as librarian. Donations soon augmented the books to a sizeable number, and memberships were again $1.00, with funds being used to purchase more books.
In 1932 the Earlham business men chaired by Wallace Jackson did further library promotion. They felt the library should be a part of the business district, so books were moved to the vacant Bank of Earlham building on the site of Dr. Risuis' present office. Marie Benson was the librarian. In 1934 there was another move, this time to the basement of Earlham Savings bank on the corner of Chestnut and Main. Amy Hadley was the librarian. Later the bank basement was rented, and the library moved back to Hattie Hodson's home.
Tired of having the library shunted from place to place, interested citizens decided a permanent home was needed. Several clubs worked to raise funds to buy a small frame building on the site of the present library. This building belonged to the defunct Bank of Earlham, and a committee composed of J.H. Junkin (mayor), Les Goeldner (Echo Publisher), and H. Claude Peer (attorney), attempted to persuade Mont Griswold (bank receiver) to deed the building to the town. He remainded adamant in demanding $100 for the building. Only $75 was available, and it was over a year before that sum was finally accepted in 1937.
A Library Association was formed, and it was decided to make it a free public library. Amy Hadley worked as librarian without pay. As time went on, the old frame building fell into such disrepair that it was evident that another move would soon have to be made, as the building was beyond remodeling.
In September, 1951, an interested group met and decided to circulate a petition requesting the town council to put to a vote at the November town election a bond issue for buiding a library. The $17,000 bond issue passed by a substantial margin, and books were again moved to a temporary home in the Care building. The old frame building was raised and a new library was built on the site. The new library opened in December, 1952. Over the years the library added to it's collections and by 1978 it was obvious that more space was needed. In 1983, the adjoining building was purchased, raised, and the site was used for the expansion of the library which more than doubled the available space. The project was completed in December of 1984 and continues to be used by Earlham residents and patrons from surrounding areas.
Interested in more history? Check out the Iowa Historical Society.