SOURCE: "LEGACY - Annals of Herkimer County" is published quarterly by the Herkimer County Historical Society, 400 North Main Street, Herkimer, N.Y. 13350.
Individual copies of LEGACY may be purchased by contacting the Society at the above address, or by visiting their website: http://www.rootsweb.com/~nyhchs/ On the site you can review a list of which copies of LEGACY are still available and their content under "gift shop" then "books".
We are grateful to the Herkimer County Historical Society, which holds the copyrights, for granting us permission to reproduce the following articles for our reader's enjoyment.
Ilion Free Public Library At 100 Years
By Jane Spellman
The surrounding grounds have been graded and seeded, and sidewalks of Oxford bluestone are laid. A cellar extends under the entire building. The building is in charge of James M. Dygert, John A. Giblin, J. Holland Rudd, and Misses Caroline L. Richardson and Harriet E. Russell. There are about 7200 volumes in the library, of which 3000 are works of fiction. Miss Anna Perkins has been appointed librarian, with Miss May Leach as assistant. Both have studied at the New York State Library School. There are about 1000 books in the reference library.
The opening exercises were well attended. Prayer was offered by Rev. W. M. Cook, and addresses were made by Mr. Seamans, President Hakes, of the Ilion Academy, C. S. Ingham, president of the village, and Amos Parker Wilder, of the New York Morning Advertiser.
The beautiful new building, administered by a Board of Trustees appointed by the Village Board, was an instant success. Statistics reported by Miss Perkins, at the end of April 1894, showed 26,383 books circulated during the first 154 days the building was open. Of this, 12,378 were juvenile, 10,587 were fiction, 149 science, 237 art, 645 literature, 622 travel, 324 biography, 787 history, 198 religion, 149 useful arts. Miss Perkins noted 7,134 books in the collection at opening with 444 gifts and 77 purchases for a total 7,676 books in May of 1894. There were 1,418 library members.
The Reading Room, with the variety of magazines and daily newspapers (a bill showed the New York Sun, Times, Tribune, New York Herald, Albany Knickerbocker News, Syracuse Post Standard, Utica Daily Press, Utica Herald Dispatch and Utica Observer were all available), as well as the local papers Herkimer Citizen, County News Democrat, Ilion News, Journal & Courier and Mohawk Eagle, was well used. There is a 1899 application to New York State for $75 of Public Library money. This application rose to $100 in 1901.
Budgets were an important part of the Board discussion. Minutes of Board meetings throughout the years talk about cost of books, the need to discipline unruly children, and the number of hours the building could be open. In 1929 it is noted that the building was open for 78 hours a week in the winter and 72 hours in the summer.
The first major change in the building is mentioned in 1944 when Architect Myron Jordan redesigned the childrens’ room. The library closed for 2 weeks in August of 1948 so the “dingy, dark walls disappeared with new green paint.”
In a January 12, 1950 meeting there is discussion of a county-wide library system. Speakers met with the Board to discuss the idea, but it was in 1959 that Trustee Phyllis Anderson met with other library representatives and state officials to discuss a multi-library system. When the Mid-York Library System was established in 1960, Ilion was one of the 18 charter member libraries. Phyllis Anderson was one of the 10 charter trustees and she would serve as System President in 1964. The mission of this organization was “to strengthen and extend library service in Herkimer, Madison and Oneida Counties, primarily by assisting in the growth and development of the member libraries, through leadership, support and services to the libraries. Mid-York also provides direct services as appropriate, to otherwise unserved populations.” It was through Mid-York that computer technology was installed in member libraries. Ilion became computerized in 1984. Through meetings, newsletters, workshops, joint purchasing, and sharing collections, the Mid-York System with 42 member libraries in 1993 has expanded the collection of books, video tapes, records in the library to include access to region, state, and national library collections.
More Space Needed
The need for more space in the library was mentioned in so me 1958 minutes. When Elizabeth Thompson succeeded Bonnie Elliot as librarian in 1966, among her first duties was to investigate federal funds available for local libraries. On January 11, 1967, a decision by the Trustees to make application for a federal grant was made. In February, Consultant Harold A. Syren, a former Library Bureau executive, presented some suggestions and on April 17 he was asked to prepare a plan.
Cost at this time was estimated at $144,000. Library Trustees met with the Ilion Village Board in May to receive their approval to apply for the federal grant. Architect Helen Gillespie of Grainger and Gillespie, Syracuse, was hired June 29, 1967. New York State approval was needed and the first application was made in November and the final state application was made Feb. 1968. The project was rejected for 1968. In February 1969 the application was sent with a cost increase of $170,000. This project was approved in April 1969 and in May the federal money was accepted by Village and Library Boards.
Long hours were spent discussing use of the existing building and expansion possibilities. Meanwhile, negotiations on the Reile property west of the library on Second Street were underway. The closing on that property was on October 8, 1969. A ground breaking ceremony was held October 27, 1970 and eleven months later (September 1971), the new facility opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony. During the construction, a temporary library was set up in the basement of the Municipal Building from December to September 1971 taking the most popular books and reference material.
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