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Huntsville Library History

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None of us can remember when Huntsville didn’t have a library as that has been a over hundred years ago. In 1905, the people decided that they needed a library. Members of the GT Club, a literary organization of women originated a movement to start a library. Each member paid $1.00 each as a membership fee. This was followed by entertainment and a book shower held at the Court House. This was the beginning of the Free Carnegie Library. More entertainments were given and more memberships taken and a mass meeting was held at the Court House. The price of admission was one book and their collection grew.

As yet there was no place to house the books. They were shifted from place to place. At first they were kept in a small jury room at the court house with Mrs. D.A. Barnhart Mrs. D.B. Shaefer, Mrs. J.G. Dulaney, and Mrs. PL. Vasse taking turns as janitor and librarian. Then they were moved to the director’s room at Hammet Bank, and then to the school house. All this in about 18 months time.

In 1906, an old building which stood on the site of the present building was offered by Mrs. Susie Hamilton and her husband John Hamilton. For several years the books were housed there. The library was open twice a week and membership fees were paid. The librarians served without compensation. Many women helped , but especially faithful during these years were Mrs. J.G. Dulaney and Mrs. Heether. Mrs, C.B. Shaefer worked untiringly to secure furniture and fixtures for this building. All were donated.

Then they began the effort for a Carnegie Library. This had been in the minds of the sponsors from the very beginning. A mass meeting was called at the Court House. It was an enthusiastic meeting of great interest in the community. It was proposed that a petition be circulated to submit the question to the voters that a two mill tax be voted for the maintenance of this project. PL Vasse, the mayor was chairman, W.A Brooking,

Secretary. Green Terrill, W.A Booking and Allen Bedford were appointed to have charge of this petition and very soon the reported they had secured 100 signatures.

The plan of the Carnegie Corporation was to give a thousand dollars for each $100 dollars of taxes collected. The first report was that amount would be $8000 . It was later found that the taxes would amount to $1000. A letter was sent to the Carnegie Corporation asking for the additional $2000. Although the mayor thought his wife was wasting time and postage asking for such a thing this request was granted. Thus, a grant was secured for the amount of $10,000 to build a library.

The city was required to furnish a lot for this building so the hard struggle began to raise funds for the lot. Personal gifts were given, Tag Day was observed, and a series of lectures were given by the Home

So, the work began on July 15, 1914. The architect was Ludwig Abts of Moberly. And our beautiful Library came to be in 1916.

Huntsville’s splendid $10,000 Carnegie Free Public Library opened its doors to the public on April 16, 1916 with a reception and a huge celebration. 733 persons viewed the building and registered as guests. The library board of directors and their wives assisted the Librarian, Mrs. Lillian Rice in receiving and directing guests.

Miss Elizabeth Wales, Secretary of the State Library Commission was present and gave her assistance through her vast knowledge and rich experience in library direction. Miss Wales delivered a wonderful address later that evening. She was a woman of great experience and well versed in every line of library progress. She gave her whole heart to libraries and their importance.

At some time during the great two day celebration all of the students of the Huntsville schools and their teachers toured the library and heard a talk by the librarian, Mrs. Wales. It was a grand celebration. Twelve years of hard work to establish the library had finally paid off.

Books came from near and far to stock the library. Book drives were held. Everyone wanted to support the library.

The interest in the library didn’t die down. In 1929 , 215553 books were loaned by the librarian, Mrs. Hobbs Heather. There were 2,960 books on the library shelves. The average circulation was 77 books per day. That was one busy librarian.

The library continued to prosper and in 1958 became part of Little Dixie Regional Libraries. Little Dixie Regional Libraries is a two-county library system serving Randolph and Monroe counties in Missouri. We have the main branch (Moberly) and three (3) branches located in Huntsville, Madison and Paris.