A letter published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine for Farm Women in November 1926 tells of a group of recent high school graduates who pooled their time, effort, and money to found a library association in their rural town. In order to purchase books they “got up” entertainments of every type within the community. Little by little, these young women generated enough money to purchase books and a bookcase which was housed in a corner of a store in town. Each girl took her turn as volunteer librarian. They kept regularly scheduled hours but happily made accommodations for folks who only came to town on Sunday. In time, they were able to purchase a brick building in which to house their growing library. They met with great success and the library quickly became a gathering place for young and old alike. Happy Reading!
Dear Friends: I am eligible for this letter-writing symposium (it seems like that rather than a “contest”) as I am a farmer’s daughter and for some years had charge of our farm, so am familiar with problems of country life.
How did I find books to read? The very first thing, after leaving school, fifteen of us girls started what we ambitiously called a Library Association. We each gave a dollar toward it. We “got up” entertainments. Our first was a concert by local talent, with tableaux and charades. We charged ten cents admission and made eight dollars. Next, we gave an “Antiquarian Supper.” At Christmas time, a cantata brought us enough so we could order a hundred books and have a bookcase made with doors that would lock. We kept this bookcase in a corner of the store and one of the girls acted as librarian, opening the bookcase two afternoons each week. Our pastor helped us select the books as we desired to read the best.
Then came more entertainments of one kind or another. As it was a small town with scattered farms, we did not make much money at any of them but we succeeded in raising about a hundred dollars a year for books. These were loaned to “outsiders” for five cents a month or fifty cents a year.
At length, a small brick building was offered for sale and we bought it, pledging ourselves to its payment, fifty dollars a year for six years. We bought no new books that year as we had to furnish the building. We had eight book stacks made. We had a table given us, also a chair and we found a second-hand stove. Not very elaborate but we felt so proud of our library.
We made candy that year, selling it to the few “summer people” who passed through and making enough to add three magazines to our list. We loaned these as books after they were a month old.
We now kept the library open two afternoons and two evenings of each week, from three to five, Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, from seven to nine, Wednesday and Saturday evenings. For some who only came in to church Sundays, we would take four books from the library and by systematic exchanges supply a dozen families.
Of course, it took time to accumulate a library—for at no time were our earnings much over a hundred dollars a year but by careful buying, at the end of ten years, we had our building paid for and a thousand volumes on the shelves.
The library was a favorite gathering place for young and old, during the hours it was opened. Of course, all library service was freely given. How we did enjoy working for it as well as reading the books. W.P. California