- Susan Matheny
- Madras Pioneer - News
Book by Kathie Olson traces the grassroots beginnings of the Jefferson County Library from 1916 to 2008
"Pages of the Past" is much more than a history of the Jefferson County Library; it's a history of the Madras community from 1916 to the present.
Author and retired children's librarian Kathie Olson spent seven years researching old library minutes and records, interviewing past librarians, thumbing through old volumes of The Madras Pioneer, and reading local history books to gather material for her book.
The publication has photos and illustrations on almost all its 146 pages, and was funded with a grant from the Jefferson County Cultural Coalition.
Olson will have copies available at a book signing from 4 to 5:30 p.m., Thursday, April 10, inside the Jefferson County Library. The books are being sold at cost, which is $27.50.
The book chronicles the strong community backing this library has had from the start.
"We've had some very wonderful people in Jefferson County who were determined to keep a library going -- and they did," Olson said, adding, "Every year they thought it was going to die, and they'd bail it out again."
The book notes Lewis "Turk" Irving established a Library Association in 1916, which he supported with his money and efforts, serving as president for 28 years.
The Library Association's 77 members paid $1 a year dues, and the first books were donated by Mrs. Jerro. They met at an athletic hall until the Odd Fellows Lodge donated a few rent-free rooms for the library. The first children's story hour was held in 1916, and minutes note that Irving provided a cord of firewood to heat the rooms.
Joining with the Madras Study Club, the Library Association was at the center of Madras' social activities, helping plan and cater many activities to raise funds. The fledgling library "had no means of support other than the generosity of the community."
In 1917, the library moved to the courthouse, and by 1919 it was open 15 hours a week and had a collection of 574 books.
It moved into the first library building in 1920, a small white structure located where the dance studio is now.
Elegant "Silver Teas" were held in the 1920s to help pay for a librarian. But in 1922, the librarian's salary was discontinued and it was run by volunteers all through the Depression years.
A Ladies of the Library Association held fund-raising events, including singing and reading nights, a Library Ball, dinners and teas.
Helen Hering was appointed the head librarian in 1932, and in 1935 "Tulip Land" and other elaborate children's operettas became a yearly tradition. The 44-minute plays with costumes and scenes were big entertainment for the small town.
In 1944, the lot sold, so the building was moved next to city hall. As irrigation water arrived in the county, some 600 to 1,000 new families were expected to move into the area.
The Madras Kiwanis held a drive to raise $9,000 to construct a new building, and reached their goal in 1955. The cinder block building was built the following year.
Kathie Olson helped paint the inside of that building, where she began as the first children's librarian in 1984.
Madras resident Carl Peterson donated a lot on the corner of Seventh and E streets to the library in 1985, and another effort began to construct a larger building for the growing town.
Again, the community pitched in donating $80,000 toward the $255,000 construction cost, and in 1990 the new 6,000 square-foot library was built.
Enthusiastic community members turned out and formed a serpentine to pass books from the old library on D street to the new facility on E street on Aug. 25, 1990.