The Howard Public Library was the first chartered library in the Dakota Territory.
The following article, detailing the history of the library, was written by Phyllis Lauer and published in the Howard Centennial in 1981:
Howard Has Oldest Chartered Library in South Dakota
On January 8, 1886 a group of pioneer women decided to improve the cultural climate of Howard by establishing the Ladies Library Association of Howard. Charter No. One was delivered to this group, establishing the first recognized library in Dakota Territory. Just three years later, the City of Howard took over the financial and operational responsibility for the Free Public Library.
For the first six years of its existence, the library consisted of only a bookcase in a corner of Mr. Boles’ General Store. On September 26, 1892, a tragic fire on Main Street totally destroyed this building and with it, the Free Public Library’s bookcase, books and records.
Eleven books were checked out that day and from that meager beginning, the board of Trustees of the Howard Public Library began again. Within four months, new books were purchased and processed and a new bookcase was obtained.
This time the library was established in a building shared by the city jail and the city auditor. Children of that era remember their visits to the library as not only a time to obtain books but also as an opportunity to catch a glimpse of law breakers in the jail.
This small, square brick building , located a block off Main Street, was bought by the city in 1888 and housed the city council room. This announcement, Taken from the files of the January 21, 1893 Miner County Democrat, was made when the Library began its stay there: “The Free Public Library will be open Saturday, January 21 from 3 to 5 pm and from 7 to 9 pm in the evening in the Council room opposite the Methodist Church.”
In 1935 the city jail was moved to another location and plans to use the whole building were discussed with the City Council. It took two years for the Council to agree to remodel but in September 1937, the decision was made, and on January 8, 1938, the library reopened, finally occupying the whole building.
The library continued in this building until 1967 when it moved to a room in the new Municipal Building which is its present location. It had been in the old building for a total of 74 years.
What to do with the old building was the subject of several meetings. Some wished to use it for a museum but its operation on a voluntary basis without an Historical Society was deemed impossible. The Miner County Art Club used the building for about a two year period. The city waited for a period of three years after the library moved to the Municipal Building, and when no independent citizen action was taken, the old building was appraised and offered for bids to be removed.
The Board of Trustees of the Public Library, at the suggestion of Ada Gehring, joined with the Miner County Art Club to submit a bid for the building, with the intention of donating it to Prairie Village in Madison, South Dakota. No city money was used and board members acted individually. The bid was successful and after a wait of almost five years the building was moved.
The bill of sale was officially transferred to Prairie Village, July 30, 1974 with the following individuals responsible for this historic gift: Ada Gehring, VJ Protsch, Lynn Kalvig, Phyllis Lauer, Morris Corey, Gloria Faye Truman and the Miner County Art Club by Lynn Kalvig, President and Lilly Lund, Secretary.
The Prairie Village Historical Society restored the brick walls and interior appearance to resemble the early South Dakota library. It is a reminder that hard work was not the only element of the life of early settlers out here. They took time to read and supported their library.
In 1967 the Howard Library experienced a growth spurt when it moved to the Municipal Building. Since then, the book collection has had about 4,800 new volumes added and about 1,500 out-of-date books have been withdrawn from the shelves. This means that when a patron comes to the library today, over one-half of the 8,370 books on the shelves have been acquired since 1967. Acquisitions average about 200 books a year from the library’s budget from the city.
Mrs. Robert Truman is presently serving as librarian for the Howard Library. Others who have served as librarians are Miss Minnie Hotchkiss, Miss Hannah Anderson, Mrs. Clara M. Leity, Miss Daisy Gertaon, Miss Lillian Sylvester, Mrs. E. Thomas, Mrs. F. Hoard, Mrs. Arrundale, Miss Pearl Clarke, Gertrude De Bolt, Raymond Shove, Lawrence Hague, Mrs. LJ Hague, Mrs. Leon Hanson, Mrs. Theo Hanson, Mrs. VJ Trebble, Carol Coburn, Carolee Mackovets and Rosa Mae Gehring.
Library policies are governed by a board which is composed of Lynn Kalvig, Chairman; Darlene Robbins, Vice Chairman; Phyllis Lauer, Secretary; Pat Maroney and Morris Corey.
Note that the board members have changed since 1981 and the line up is: Greg Dufault, Chairman; Carol Yerigan, Vice Chairman; Mary Sue Corey; Kim Eggert; Kimberly Sumpter; and Peggy Clarke. The current director is Christie Perry-Voeltz.
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