News: Neillsville Library (100th Carnegie Anniversary - 2014)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Gustavson, Stockwell, Hommel, Carnegie, Awsumb, Hansen, Garland, Jenkins, Apps, Zischke, Wegner, Barlow, Mayer, Venne, Cords, Smith, Kopp, Poeschel, Williams, Gaier, Langreck, Quicker, Voss

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co, WI) 10/15/2014

Neillsville Library Observing (100th Carnegie Anniversary - 2014)

Neillsville Public Library Director Jo Ann Gustavson welcomes everyone to check out the book sale Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, in observance of the 100th anniversary of the Carnegie Library. Gustavson invites everyone to visit the library to see all the things it has to offer. (Photo by Todd Schmidt/Clark County Press)

By Todd Schmidt

The Neillsville Public Library will mark another milestone in its history later this month with the 100th anniversary of the Carnegie Library.

The library itself observed its 100th anniversary in 1993. Enthusiastic Jo Ann Gustavson, who has been library director since March 2001, took time, last Wednesday to explain the importance of the Carnegie relationship and offer a state of the library report.

According to previous reports in The Clark County Press, 13 area men incorporated the Neillsville Library in 1893 as a privately owned institution. Life memberships cost $10 each; annual memberships cost $1 each; and school memberships were 25 cents each year.

The first library operated out of the courthouse office of C. S. Stockwell. In 1896, the Neillsville City Council voted to establish and maintain a library under the municipal umbrella. Everything, including books, the original bookcase and the minute’s book, were turned over to the new Neillsville Free Library.

The new home of the library was the second floor of the city hall. It was a wood frame building, which stood on the same site of the present city hall on 5th Street.

At some point between 1910 and 1918, the library was moved from the city hall to the high school. In 1918, the library was moved into a new brick structure on the corner of 4th and Hewett streets.

A $10,000 grant from the Carnegie Foundation funded the construction of the building, often referred to as a “Carnegie Library.” Neillsville had an advantage when it came to addressing Carnegie Foundation money in the form of Mrs. J. W. Hommel, who came to Neillsville to live with her second husband. Her first husband was George C. Carnegie, whose father was a nephew of Andrew Carnegie, who made a fortune in the steel industry.

Mrs. Hommel applied for and received the Carnegie Foundation grant to construct a Free Carnegie Library building in Neillsville. The $10,000 funded the cost of the building, with two stipulations: the city had to provide a central location, and the city council had to pledge to maintain and support the building after construction.

A subscription fund drive was started to purchase the new library site. Awsumb, an architect from Chicago, was hired to design the building.

The Carnegie Library was to be built on an elevated level, not street level lots, a condition approved by the Neillsville Library Committee.

In 1982, the library was remodeled with a matching exterior to an addition constructed on the east side of the site. An addition was built in 1996, switching the entrance to the north side.

When the city-owned library was launched, it has a book circulation of 13,193. With the Depression in full swing in 1935, the circulation grew to 42,332 books.

Gustavson said in 2007 the Friends of the Library merged with the Neillsville Area Public Library Foundation, which was started with a $250,000 bequest from the Hazel and Myrtle Hansen family. Libraries in Sheboygan and Madison got a similar bequest at that time.

“The Foundation has been a wonderful partner,” Gustavson said. “They enhance the functions of the library, making it a wonderful addition to the community. People of all ages and ethnicities use the library for many different things.”

Gustavson said on any given day patrons use the four computer stations to send email, submit job applications and stay in touch with family and friends. Another computer is set up strictly for word processing.

Patrons check out DVDs and books (regular or large print), books on CDs and VCR tapes. Some, like a Washington State couple recently, use the microfilm reader to check genealogy or research various archives.

Others enjoy personal time reading some of the five newspapers and 72 magazines the library subscribes to. A small adult book club meets during the school year.

Gustavson said the Foundation purchased a CD repair and cleaner system, obtained padded folding chairs and funded the digital microfilm reader and computer. The Foundation has also supplied many of the books, DVDs and CDs available for checkout.

On the Foundation’s docket soon is the purchase of a new copier scanner, printer and fax unit, Gustavson said.

The Foundation sponsors the summer reading program for children, which features performers and craft days at various time from June through August. It also supported the series of recent speakers, including poets Max Garland and Al Jenkins, author Jerry Apps and Civil War historian Ward Zischke. The Foundation arranged for a visit by the moon rock exhibit in 2013.

Gustavson touts the library’s membership in the seven-county Wisconsin Valley Library Service (WVLS). The Neillsville library joined WVLS in 2011.

“I really like the fact that a patron can request an item, and if we don’t have it, it may be available from another WVLS library,” Gustavson said. Libraries in Clark, Forest, Lincoln, Langlade, Oneida, Marathon and Taylor Counties belong to the WVLS group.

A courier system moves materials around the WVLS area three times per week, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. If the seven-county area doesn’t have an item requested by a patron, a WISCAT catalog can scour the entire state of Wisconsin.

Library cards are issued free of charge. A patron needs one form of identification and about five minutes of time to prepare an application and enter it into the system. Anyone with a Neillsville library card can check things out from the other WVLS libraries and vice-versa.

Gustavson sees the use of inter-library loan items growing. She noted people could download digital books on Kindles and other tablet systems. “I don’t think that will affect circulation too much,” Gustavson said. “Many folks still want to be able to hold a book in their hands and be able to turn the pages.”

Four staffers in addition to Gustavson manage the day-to-day circulation desk operations at the Neillsville Public Library. They are Kathy Wegner, Fran Barlow, Leanne Mayer and Karen Venne. Bob Cords is the custodian.

Members of the library board include Chris Smith (president), Nancy Kopp, Kory Poeschel, Graeme Williams, John Gaier, Clinton Langreck and Jerry Quicker.

In 2013 total circulation was 60,188. The total operating expense last years was $136,994.

Patrons can now print or photocopy documents for 20 cents per page (B & W) and 25 cents per page (color). Outgoing fax service is available for $1 per page.

The Neillsville Public Library is open Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.

On the horizon Gustavson sees the need to expand shelf space. “We don’t have a lot of extra shelf space now,” she said. “When we buy new things, we have to discard other things to make room. It is a constant job trying to make room for things.”

The Foundation will host a book sale in the basement Friday, Oct. 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with all proceeds going to the Foundation. Cake and refreshments will be available in recognition of the Carnegie Library 100th anniversary.

The Foundation is also hosting a Halloween Make-up Workshop Saturday, Oct. 25, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The local talent of Dawn Voss will be featured. Voss has been doing professional hair and makeup for the past 24 years.



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