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History Of the Elkader Public Library

Work for the Elkader library was begun on September 19, 1899. On that day a group of club women met and purchased $35.00 of books and placed them in the “parlor” of Miss Martha Mentzel, a school teacher. In addition many other books were donated. The first librarians were Mary Hagensick and Maude Taylor. The first Elkader public library was located in what was later called the Minnie Meier home. From this location books were loaned out for one week only. Violators were fined the sum of ten cents. A book carnival was held by the Coterie (a local women’s group that just de-banded in 2004) in April 1901 to raise funds for more books. For years following, lecture courses, were held, sometimes quite profitable, sometimes not. Before long the tiny Elkader library became associated with the state library and space was a big problem. The library was then moved into the local schoolhouse. Then in 1903, the library moved again to the rear of the Louise Leibrock store on North Main. This seemed to be a fine arrangement as there was no charge for rent and the only bills were freight charges amounting to less than $2.00 per month (probably for books from the State Traveling Library). As time passed the rear of the store became crowded and the library found itself back at the school. But the civic minded club ladies . continued to give all money at the end of the year for books and opera records. Three time the town voted for a public library and the issue was defeated each time. It seemed then that Elkader would keep its dubious distinction of being one of two county seats with no public library. But the women were persistent. There were now two study clubs and a PTA. The state legislature had enacted legislation permitting towns to levy a tax for public libraries and new life was put into the local effort. Finally in March of 1926 the local voters approved the library issue and the books were moved into the Cowie Building. The mayor then appointed a library board composed of women of the clubs, Coterie and Proteus (Proteus is still in existence). The first librarian was Marge Hyde. In December of 1939 Helen Niemeyer became librarian. This building was used by the library until 1946 when the Elkader Opera House was remodeled and space was provided for the library upstairs in that building. Continued growth, plus the fact that it was difficult for older persons to climb the stairs, made it necessary for the library board to seek a ground floor location. Discussions began with Interstate Power in 1963 regarding the possibility of using its old generator building as a possible site for a new library. In 1965 a lease for the building was signed with Interstate Power and work was begun. Fortunately, the basic floor plan did not need to be changed, but the board felt it necessary to drop the ceiling, install new lighting fixtures, panel the walls, install new windows and carpeting. A bequest from Miss Agnes Taken was used to buy shelving and furniture for the new library. In 1962 Clayton County became one of the first counties in the state to take advantage of a new law allowing counties to levy a tax for library support. The Elkader library could now legally serve rural patrons and rural members were added to the library board. The Eastern Iowa Library Cooperative was formed with Monona and Fayette in Feb. 1965 and these libraries began cooperative ordering and processing. A state law requiring all cities and counties in Iowa to levy a library tax was passed in 1973 and the old cooperatives were disbanded. Elkader became a part of the statewide regional library system with local headquarters in Waterloo (the library still belongs to this library system). In 1985 Aldora Hustad retired as librarian and Anita Cox was hired. Anita was library director for 17 years and retired in 2002. At that time Jill Sanders was hired and is at present still the library director. In 1998 the library began an expansion project and purchased the adjoining building belonging to Interstate Power to expand and remodel the library. A bond referendum was passed and the result is the beautiful 5000 square foot library that the community has today. Compiled by Ruth Grau. Sources: Minutes, Elkader Library Board, Clayton Co. History 1882 & 1916, Clayton Co. Register-Feb. 16,1967 & April 27,1967
Past Library Trustees & Library Directors
The Elkader Public Library was founded in 1936 with the first Librarian as Mrs. Knutsen she was paid $7.90 per month for her duties.
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