Sturgis Public Library celebrating 100 years | Local News

STURGIS — Since 1922, the Sturgis Public Library has fostered a lifelong desire for reading.

And it is still relevant today because it has adapted to meet the changing needs of the community, supporters say.

“In addition to our wonderful collections, the library provides programming and is a gathering place for everyone from children to seniors,” said Sturgis Library Board President Terry Hermann.

Sturgis Mayor Mark Carstensen said he loved the library as a youngster and now takes his sons to enjoy the library’s offerings.

“Our boys love to go to the library and check out books. They were really excited when they got their own library card. It’s such a resource for the community and for the next generation,” Carstensen said.

It was through the efforts of various supporters that the library originated and has thrived for 100 years.

The story began in 1922 when a woman from Chicago, Mrs. Annie McClymonds, gave Sturgis $1,000 worth of current books. Mrs. McClymonds’ only stipulation was that the books be housed in a fireproof building,

and that they always remain free to the public. Those original books are now in the library’s reserve collection.

At that time, the city had no funds for either a building or for maintenance of the library. The only solution to the housing problem was to store the books in the schoolhouse, the only fireproof building available. The main

tenancy question was solved by paying a librarian five dollars a month and turning the operation of the library over to the Sturgis Literary Club.

The first librarian was Nellie Bradley – a member of the Literary Club and a teacher.

The Literary Club took on the project with open arms. Out of its membership a board was appointed with the duty of raising $100 annually for library maintenance.

The club periodically checked out the possibility of voting a tax levy for library support. Each time, however, it felt the town was not ready for the responsibility and would vote down the measure. After maintaining the library for 15 years, relief came in 1939 when legislation was passed

legalizing and validating all public libraries in the state. The law required that a Library Board be appointed, and librarian hired by the city.

In 1953, with the library wanting for space, the Literary Club began a publicity campaign and later asked the city council to consider a bond issue for a new building.

In the end, to the disappointment of many, the bond issue was defeated by 66 votes. The Literary Club and Library Board were disappointed but not defeated. In June 1954, Mrs. Allen Lushbough, a Literary Club member and president of the Library Board, approached the owner of a tin shop requesting an option on the building for a library.

That fall the new library was occupied. It was a community event with trustees, Literary Club, PEO, Rotary and Isaac Walton club members packing and hauling books. A city council member repainted the old shelves and various people donated furniture and volunteered their time for remodeling the building.

Plans for a new building had been discussed for some time but when the property adjacent to the library on the north was offered for sale in 1969, the board of trustees opted for expansion and remodeling.

Then, in 1974, a bond issue was placed on the ballot seeking $150,000 for library expansion.

Then librarian Carol Davis said: “We feel this is needed in the community. A library is a unique institution especially in smaller communities where they serve cultural, educational and recreational needs,” she said.

A majority of voters approved the bond issue for library expansion, but short of the needed 60% approval needed for a bond issue.

It was again put on the ballot in 1977 calling for a bond issue of $75,000 at an annual interest rate not to exceed 8%. It passed.

In 1978, the library space doubled when it purchased Gapp’s Meat Service next door with money from a federal Public Works Funds grant.

Then, in 2004, Sturgis broke ground for a new city hall, public library complex. The library would encompass two-stories in 1,700 square feet.

And in 2019, the library got a much-needed renovation which added a groovy new children’s area, 1,000 square-foot community room and 350 square-foot kitchen and storage area. The new children’s area and community room were made possible by a generous gift from long-time Sturgis residents, Albert and Laverne Elliott.

Kathy Dykstra, who has worked at the library for 21 years, said she is grateful to former librarian Carol Davis and her desire to move the library forward.

“I never knew how much effort Carol put in to making this library what it is today,” Dykstra said.

In this digital age, the library has focused on securing computers and providing wi-fi hot spots for library patrons in addition to their collection of books.

“Computer usage is huge,” she said. “We continue to be relevant because we are here for the community. We are a gathering place. And there are still people who would rather hold a book than read it online.”

What do you love about the Sturgis Public Library?

Dawn Geppert: “When I was teaching, I loved to bring in my classes for story time. They are always excellent at that program. Today, I like the variety of projects, activities, fundraisers, social events that the staff does besides just checking out books.”

Elvira Bender: “I enjoy my time here. I’ve heard so many people say what a great library we’ve got here. We’re very fortunate to have such a wonderful facility with great staff.”

Francie Ruebel-Alberts: “I love the fact that I will go in and ask if they have a book, and if they don’t, they are more than willing to seek it out for me. They are always looking for other ways to help people take advantage of information.”

Terry Hermann: “The Sturgis Public Library created a life-long desire in me to read. I remember going in as a young person sitting and feeling like it was in the biggest bookstore in the world.”

Mark Carstensen: “As a kid in elementary school we would walk from the school to the library once a month. Then, we would get to check out books. The time spent there was always really exciting.”

QUE: Open house at the Sturgis Public Library

WHERE: Sturgis Public Library

MORE: There will be library history exhibits and a birthday scavenger hunt also during the week, plus the library’s story times and children’s programs. Also, all week long you will be able to browse the book sale and fill a bag for $2.

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