CLARKSVILLE AREA LIBRARY

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HISTORY

SARANAC PUBLIC LIBRARY & CLARKSVILLE AREA LIBRARY

 
December 15, 1936 a committee from the Saranac Ladies’ Literary Club and the Saranac Woman’s Club met to plan how to achieve a public library for their town without any funds.  The committee was increased to include representatives from the Village Board, the Businessmen’s Association, the Ministerial group and the School Faculty.

At this time the W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) was operating in Ionia County and they agreed to pay the Librarian’s salary on the condition that utilities would be paid. The Village Board agreed to furnish their utilities.  A satisfactory, vacant building on the main street was found
and action began. Lumber and local help was donated to build shelving.  The Library opened in 1937.  The next step was to ask for books and a great many were donated.  The Library had moved a few times, as the building they occupied would be sold.  The library was always on Bridge Street, and continued to be the heart of the community.

Boston Township, in which Saranac is located, made a donation at that time to the library. It has continued to give financial help. The surrounding townships combined with the village made it possible to qualify for State Aid for libraries. The first State Aid check was received in December 1938 and the library continues to receive this aid.  The first librarian was Lottie Huhn who continued in that capacity until 1962.

In the meantime, the usual methods for community fund raising were used including, card parties, teas, raffles etc. All monies raised were used to purchase new books and Saranac Public Librarynecessary supplies.

In  1946, a building to be used as a library was presented by Miss Lua Crawford, a Saranac citizen and school teacher, in memory of her father and mother, Stephen M. and Flora B. Crawford. New shelving and other conveniences were installed as rapidly as finances would permit.

When the W.P.A. program was discontinued, operating hours were cut.  The village then paid for a part time librarian.  Eventually the library board was able to qualify for participation in the penal fine distribution for qualified libraries in Ionia County.

Lottie Huhn retired in 1962.  For a short time Evelyn Jepson, her assistant served as librarian.  Shirley Bartlett joined the library as librarian in 1963.

The Library continued to grow and add services to the Saranac area, framed art reproductions were offered for rent, and Story Hour was also offered during summer vacation.

During the early 1970’s an organization called Lakeland Library Federation was formed and Saranac became a member along with 50 other libraries.

In the fall of 1979 Mrs. Bartlett had an automobile accident.  She continued to work with help until her retirement. Then two former board members were hired. Mrs. Patricia Zander was hired in 1979 and later became Library Director.  Mrs. Emily Laird was hired in 1981 to fill the librarian’s vacancy.  During this time the Board purchased the adjoining building, formerly Tim’s Meat Market, and a large expansion program was initiated.  The expansion tripled the library space.

In 1981 Mrs. Rose Walbridge died and left her entire estate to the library board. The funds were to be used for the enhancement of the library. Maxine and Ed Compagner bequeathed $5,000 in 2000.  The interest from these funds is being used for Children’s Books, Reference or Medical Materials.

At this time a group of Clarksville businessmen approached the library about starting a library in Clarksville.  Chip Livingston of Clarksville lead the nClarksville Libraryegotiations to form a library.  In the fall of 1991 a branch library was opened in Clarksville, supported by the Village of Clarksville.  The library  is to be known as the Clarksville Area Library.  The library was started much like Saranac in the beginning; home built shelving and donated books. After much work the library opened in November of 1992 with Emily Laird as the Branch Manager.  Emily later retired in the winter of 1993. Gayle Renico was hired as Branch Manager. Gayle left the library in the spring of 1998 and Jean Vail was hired as Branch Manager.

The recent years have been busy ones, with more new shelving, and computerization in Saranac; a grant for the Clarksville library for children’s material was received in 1996 for $15,700. In 1999, the Clarksville library went on line with the Lakeland Library Cooperative Dynex circulation system.  In the near future Lakeland will be updating the circulation system.

The two libraries service areas include all of Boston and Campbell Townships, the South one half of Keene Township, and West one-half of Berlin Township, this amounts to over 8,000 persons.

In 1999, Ionia County passed a one-mill tax to support the libraries in the county. The millage is collected and distributed in lieu of voluntary contributions from the townships.  This millage allows the library to operate on a known amount of revenue.

Also at this time the county libraries formed an association called Ionia County Library Association, representing Lake Odessa, Belding, Lyons, Ionia and Saranac. ICLA meets periodically to discuss common goals and problems confronting the libraries.

In the spring of 2001 the exterior of the Saranac Library was renovated.  The windows and front entrance were changed to make the building warmer and brighter.  The building now has the look of earlier times.  It has also served as an inspiration for other downtown renovations.  Our state representative and Saranac native, Gary Newell was the keynote speaker at the unveiling on May 19, 2001.

On March 1, 2002 Patricia Zander retired as Library Director.  Sherri Rasmus was appointed as Acting Director.  On October 1, 2003 Sherri Rasmus and Mike Platte became Co-Directors of the Library.  Currently the staff consists of Jan VanderMolen, Children’s Librarian, Margo Leson, Reader Advisor, Kari McCloud, Clerk and Noreen Steward is the Clarksville Librarian.  The staff also works part time at the Clarksville Area Library.
 
Both libraries offer Preschool Story Time, Winter Adult Reading Club, Children’s Summer Program and Adult Book Discussion.  They service the Senior Housing units by offering programs and book delivery.Groundbreaking

The library offers popular fiction and non-fiction for all age groups. A collection of local and Michigan History is available.  The Saranac Advertiser is on microfilm.  In 1999 Dr. Schmid contributed a special collection on Vietnam. Access to the world through the Internet can be done on our computers. We are expanding our video and DVD collections.  We also have a collection of books on tape.

In 2007  a contribution was made by the Mary Wittenbach estate which enabled the library to add a children’s room in her name.  Mary was a long time volunteer at the library.