This is a brief history of the Haven Public Library with a special emphasis on the role of the Woman’s Club in founding the Library. This report was given by Lois Schlickau in April of 1995 for a Humanities Program given at the library.
In 1900, nine civic-minded women met at the home of Mrs. A. L. Hartzler for the purpose of organizing a club to “become better acquainted with history and literature, to keep abreast of the times in current events, and to inculcate the reading of the best literature”.
During their meetings, they often studied a chapter or two from a textbook on history or literature, and nothing as frivolous as refreshments were served. However, it only took a few years to recognize this mistake and the oversight was corrected.
In keeping with their lofty goals, the women felt there was a need to start a public library. Letters were written to noted people asking for their assistance. A reply was received from Miss Helen Gould, at that time part owner of the MO-Pacific RR. She offered three hundred books if the library would be free to the community.
The offer was gratefully accepted and books were selected from Scribner’s Catalogue, sent by Miss Gould. Three hundred thirteen books were received and the library was formally opened on February 8, 1902, in the Lecture Room of the then Congregational Church, with members taking turns serving as librarian. In May, the first librarian, Cora Erwin, was employed to keep the library open on Saturday afternoons from one to six.
In 1911, the library was moved to a room in the basement of the Township Hall. The Township generously gave them a five year lease and furnished coal and lights for $1 per year.
In the early years, new books were placed on a “pay shelf” and were added to the “free list” only after they had been paid for in fees.
In 1918, the City Council offered a room in the new City Building to the library, and it was housed in the City Building until April 1992 when it was moved to it’s present location at 121 North Kansas Avenue.
Through the years, expecially the early years, many fund raising events were held for the library, including short plays, elocution contests, and sponsored Lyceum Courses.
In 1920, the city voted a tax of one-fourth mill for the library, and the club turned to over to the city with the understanding that they (the club) would continue furnishing the library board. The Woman’s Club furnished all the library board members until 1990 when a major change was made in the board structure. From that point on, the mayor appointed board members from only city residents.
It was in 1951, that the library voted to try a new venture – a “Children’s Story Hour”, soon after school was out. The first attempt was limited to five to seven children, and again board members took turns conducting this story hour, which lasted six weeks.
Library Board bylaws were not drafted and adopted until 1958. They also approved a rule that stated: “The Library Board is granted power to destroy books unfit for reading, IF they cannot be returned to the publisher or publishing company”. You can see that they were frugal. They wanted their money back if possible.
Whenever the library would host an open house or special event, the members of the Woman’s Club would furnish refreshments. In 1980, they started having a work night at the library for one of thier regular club meetings each year.
The club continued with fundraising events for the library. In 1966, they entered a float in the Haven Fall Festival Parade. The float depicted any early day library complete with our beloved librarian, Sadie Drieblebus, seated in a rocking chair reading a story to small children of club members sitting on a rag rug. Of course, shelves of library books were present. They won first place and $20 for the library.
Another recent (to 1995) fund raising event, sponsored in cooperation with the Progress Club, was an antique underwear style show, entitled, “Unmentionables and Old Lace”. Members, family and friends were drafted as models. This endeavor raised $300 for the proposed “new” library.
One of the final projects of the Woman’s Club for the library was hiring Sean Hartung to custom build a barrister bookcase for displaying the original books donated to start the library.
Woman’s Club has had a long and rewarding relationship with the Haven Public Library-from birth pains to independent maturity. The Woman’s Club, as such, is no longer in existence. Woman’s Club and Progress Club have merged into a new organization called the Woman’s Progress Club. As such we continue to be interested in and supportive of the Haven Public Library. (April 17,1995)