History of Fallon County Library
In Thomas Jefferson's "Writings" he stated, "I have often thought that nothing would do more extensive good at small expense than the establishment of a small circulating library in every county, under such regulations as would secure their safe return in due time." His thoughts were echoed years later in Baker when Dr. and Mrs. A. D. Brewer and Mr. and Mrs. Karl R. Pleissner, along with 25 neighbors, formed a reading club. The 30 volumes donated by the members of that club at its inception, were the beginning of a collection that today consists of approximately 20,250 volumes. In 1922, a year after the formation of the reading club, Mrs. Brewer, President of the Baker Woman's Club, convinced her fellow club members to organize the Baker library. The collection of the reading club, which now numbered 300 volumes, was housed on the law shelves of Judge C. J. Dousman in what later become the Lake Apartments. In 1923 the library was moved to the old Legion Hall on First Street West, and three women volunteers from the Woman's Club became the "librarians." Growth of the library's collection continued and soon this building was too small. The library in 1928 settled into a building belonging to the Masonic Lodge (which later became the telephone building). Mrs. R. E. McQuinn was hired at 25 cents per hour as the first official librarian. The first Library Board was formed that year, and the members approached the County Commissioners for funds to supplement the meager income of the library. The commissioners agreed to give the library $100.00 per year. In 1931, an attempt was made by the library's board and benefactors to secure the status of county library and assure further funding for it. However, due to the drought and the depression, the attempt failed. In 1940, the library was incorporated under the name Baker Public Library. The collection continued to grow, and the Woman's Club began a tremendous fund-raising effort to secure new lodging for it. The ambitious efforts of the membership of the club and their president Mrs. A. O. Gullidge resulted in the purchase, for $152.00, of the abandoned Long Schoolhouse. The building was brought into Baker and set up on lots donated by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Otter. N.Y.A. and W.P.A. labor contributed to this effort, and the building was renovated by members of the community. This building, which is now the Boy Scout Building on First Street West, was home to the library for almost thirty years.
The Library Services Act in 1959 allowed funds to create library federations. The Sagebrush Federation, headquartered in Miles City, offered many extra services to what had now become the Fallon County Free Library. Librarian Alice Newell, who had assumed duties in 1953, was allowed to hire two part-time librarians to assist her. While the library had previously been open only eight hours per week, it now served the public 46 hours weekly. As is necessary for all effective libraries, growth continued. In the 1950's the small former schoolhouse was already feeling cramped. But it was not until the late Sixties that efforts to relieve the overcrowding resulted in serious consideration of a new home for the library. Late in the 1960's the Civil Defense Department mandated that the county construct an Emergency Operating Center. The agreement that this building could be a multi-purpose building encouraged commissioners to seriously consider combining a library with the EOC. A federal grant for matching funds was available, and in November of 1968, the County Commissioners Kenneth Rustad, Herbert Straub and Delane Beach let the bid for construction of the facility to Herbst Construction for $137,490. The county had to raise approximately $87,000 of that money. But no bond issue was necessary. In fact, taxes that year were lowered two mills. The Grand Opening of the Fallon County Public Library and Emergency Operating Center was held April 19, 1970. Changes were made later when the Courthouse was added to the west of the building. Directors of the Library have included the first librarian Mrs. R. E. McQuinn followed by Mrs. John Wilson, Mrs. Scott Mitchell, Mrs. Harley Wright, Mrs. Harry Schroth, Mrs. John Berge, Joyce Stevens, Alice Newell, Bee Burns, Barbara Weiss, Karyn Brown, Judy Gunderson and the present director, Vera Abrams. The Library Board members in the early years of the library contributed greatly to the advancement of the facility, and that has not changed. Current board members are still actively involved and concerned with the library's growth and effectiveness. Those members currently serving on the Fallon County Library Board are Chair LaTonne Reetz, Trustees Carole Bettenhausen, Mark Jacobsen, Brenda Johnson, Janet Townsend and Director Vera Abrams. From its modest beginning with 30 books, many people have contributed to make the Fallon County Library the facility that it is now. Its collection of volumes, books on cassette, books on CD, DVD's, newspapers, magazines, videos, jigsaw puzzles and specialty patterns contribute to learning and the entertaining of our many patrons. And since we cannot possibly serve all the needs of all the people, we offer the interlibrary loan service which places millions of volumes within the reach of everyone.
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