Valentine Public Library is 100 years old

Let’s take a look at the beginnings of the Valentine Public Library and it’s first few years.

The Valentine Public Library began in 1921. The Chapter CA P.E.O. was the visionary force for the humble beginnings of our current library. P.E.O. member, Sylvia Quigley suggested consideration of a library during her term as president in 1920-1921. An organizational committee of Minnie Adamson Bates, Mary Quigley and Emma Haley interviewed the County Commissioners and where space may be available. Some of the instrumental Chapter CA P.E.O. members are pictured below.

They hosted multiple fundraisers including a three act comedy on November 20, 1920. It was called “The Trials of a Hostess”. It earned $100 to be used to purchase books for the coming library.

In March of 1921, it was announced that Valentine would have a library available to all. In April 1921, the Valentine Public Library began in a small room in the original Cherry County Courthouse. It was housed in a small room located in the southwest corner of the District Court Room. Hours were Tuesday and Saturday afternoons from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. The library was closed if court was in session. Books were checked out for 2 weeks and available to everyone in the area. Fines were 2 cents per day but were charged 25 cents if a messenger had to be sent. The library collection began with 500 books most of which were donated by supporters.

By December of 1922, the newspaper reports more book donations and the collection of the library had increased to over 1500 volumes. Emma Sheldon, librarian, reported in January 1924 of the usage of the library the previous year. Still mostly run by 14 members of the Chapter CA P.E.O. on a volunteer basis, the hours were Tuesday and Saturday afternoons from 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m.

The Chapter CA P.E.O. continued to hold fundraisers, rummage sales, talent plays, and various other activities to support the library operations. It soon outgrew it’s original home and was moved into the basement of the original Cherry County Courthouse in March of 1924. Employees of the courthouse donated more shelving to house the growing number of books.

The Chapter CA P.E.O. operated, supported and increased the library collection in the coming years. The Chapter CA P.E.O. had always hoped the library would be able to grow and it’s goal was to someday to turn the library over to the city. In March of 1935, the Chapter CA P.E.O. reported the following “Valentine’s Public Library, started by Chapter CA, still remains our chief philanthropic work. We have purchased a number of new books, among them the outstanding books of the year. Our librarian reports 4300 books in the library and has loaned 6300 this year.” By 1936 the Chapter CA P.E.O. organization reported the library was turned over to the City of Valentine. The March 1936 Chapter CA P.E.O. reported: “Chapter CA has turned its chief Philanthropic project for many years, the Valentine Library, over to the city. The Library having grown and the expense for maintaining the same having become accordingly large. The former Library Board consisting of P.E.O. members has been retained by the city.” It was moved into the new City Hall building that began construction in 1937 and was completed in 1938. The library was located upstairs.

An open house in January of 1939 invited the public to view the completed space and expanded its hours to include being open on Friday afternoons and Tuesday evenings. The library became a favorite spot to host bookclub discussions, businessman coffee events, celebrate National Library week and various activities. Emma Sheldon was the librarian from 1924-1949. Josie Wise was the librarian until 1953. Charlotte Ladd was librarian from 1954-1985.

We hope you enjoyed this look back during the “Year of the Library”. In our next few segments, we will look back at the beginnings of the Bookmobile, the start of the building plans for the current location plus more. Stay tuned for more info and history of the Valentine Public Library.

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