Atkinson Library to celebrate First 100 Years

Claudia Loucks
Ninette Carton, director of the Atkinson Public Library, shows an invitation to the Library’s celebration for its “First 100 Years” planned from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, at the library, 109 South State St. Balloon artist Steve Wildemuth will be demonstrating his art at the event and prepackaged cookies will be served. Guests are invited to write a memory about their experiences at the library to be included on the Memory Wall and there will be drawings for gift certificates.

The Atkinson Public Library will celebrate its 100th birthday on Sunday, Sept. 26 at the library.

Ninette Carton and her sister-in-law Sue Wildemuth, a retired library clerk, have researched and compiled the history of the Atkinson Public Library which they titled “The first 100 Years.”

The roots of the Atkinson Public Library can be traced back to “The Reading Circle,” which was at the turn of the Century when a group of Atkinson women founded what was known for many years as the “Reading Circle, when the women gathered to discuss the most popular books and current literature. The Circle met every Monday with most of the members darning, mending or doing plain sewing while one member read aloud.

Later, a group of younger women in the area met and organized a Woman’s Club and one by one, members of the Reading Circle joined the Woman’s Club until finally the two organizations merged to become the Atkinson Women’s Club.

The Soldiers Memorial Library was organized by the Atkinson Women’s Club and opened its doors in January of 1920 in a small frame building. Located on West Main Street, its entire collection consisted of 1,400 donated books.

The library became tax supported in April 1921, when the township voted for a tax levy to support the library Board members were elected on April 5, 1921.

Cora Lloyd was hired as head librarian in May of 1921 and the library was then open every weekday afternoon and on Saturday evening.

In 1923, the library’s name was changed to Atkinson Public Library and the Atkinson Women’s Club donated $100 to establish a fund to move the library from its location on West Main St. to a new location.

In 1928, the Atkinson Public Library was moved to the PE Germinder building on East Main St. and joined the Illinois Library Association in 1929. In October of 1932, the library relocated to the Huys building next to the Township Hall on South State St. IN March, 1954, it was moved across the street to a building owned by Anna and Herbert DeRoo.

As of March, 1956, the library contained 10,140 pieces in its collection. In1 960 the first assistant librarian, Sandra Vandersnick Sturtewagon, was hired, and in January, board member Alma DeRoo suggested a summer reading program for children be started, and that program, which ran from June 1 through Aug. 15, was titled “Bookworm.”

In 1961, librarian Cora Lloyd lost her life in a car-pedestrian accident in Atkinson. Board member Alma DeRoo was elected to succeed Lloyd, but later resigned to accept a teaching position at the Atkinson Grade School.

Sarah Nickerson was hired as head librarian in 1963. When she began her library duties the Atkinson Public Library called a building on South State Street its home.

Plans to find a new site to purchase for a new library building got underway.

In 1963, a referendum was approved to allow the board to issue bonds to pay for the land and construction for a new library building. The site purchased included the area where the library originally was located in 1920, on the corner of Main and Church Sts. Cost of the building was $40,000.

In the winter of 1964, the library moved to 119 West Main St., and on Feb. 7, 1965, the new building held an official open house.

The library joined the Western Illinois Library System in December of 1965, allowing local residents to borrow books, films, art prints and reference material.

Sandra Glattly started a story hour for pre-school children in 1966. The assistant librarian served as reader during the winter months for the four through six-year-old children.

Joyce Minnaert became the assistant librarian in 1968 and remained in that position for the next 25 years, helping two head librarians in various capacities.

A mortgage-burning ceremony was held on April 18, 1982.

Although the original library began with 1,400 borrowed items, during Sarah Nickerson’s 22 years of service, the library’s collection grew to over 14,000 items and 970 registered library users.

Pat DeReu began her duties as head librarian after Nickerson’s retirement in 1986.

On April 3, 1987, a resolution was passed to create the Atkinson Public Library District, which enabled neighboring townships without library services to petition into the Atkinson Library in the future, to protect the library’s present territory, and to gain governing autonomy.

In 1987, the Library District and its patrons received a gift from the Frances Freddy family. A longtime resident, Mrs. Freddy was involved in Atkinson government as both a village trustee and the village clerk. Before her political role, Frances Freddy and her husband operated the Atkinson-Annawan News. After her death, money from her memorial, in addition to donations by her sons, was used to bind and protect nearly 60 years of the Atkinson-Annawan News. The newspapers were placed in bound books.

In 1989, a lay library planning committee, made up of community representatives, was formed. The goal of this group was to create a new five-year long range plan to fulfill the requirements set aside for the 1989 Per Capita Grant. The planning process was a prerequisite for future grant money from the Illinois State Library. A five-year plan was created and adopted by the group to improve the library’s information technology, expand programs for youth and the elderly, and to establish a resource center on Belgian culture.