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Thanks to motivated women, DL has a library

The Carnegie portion of the Detroit Lakes Library turns 100 years old this year. Photo by Brian Basham

This fall, the Detroit Lakes Public Library celebrates 100 years of a brick and mortar service to the city and surrounding area, but the process actually started several years earlier.

The Library Club started in September of 1907.

“They started with the intention of getting a public library in Detroit,” Librarian Mary Haney said.

The women of Detroit (before it was Detroit Lakes) may not have been able to vote back then, but they were intent on improving the city nonetheless.

They formed a book committee to get organized, and by mid-December of that year, had the books in their small collection organized and cataloged.

All of the minutes of the Library Club meetings have been saved, and Haney has been spending time digging through them, which has proved to be enlightening and amusing.

The women met and recorded how they tried for a couple years to get the city involved with the library.

“It was a very popular thing to do,” Haney said of the Library Club. “It picked up steam quickly.”

The club became a part of the Federation of Women’s Clubs, which was the source behind many new libraries throughout the United States.

“It was a movement,” she said.

In June of 1910, the city voted in favor of supporting the library, and in 1911, Andrew Carnegie began his foundation that would fund libraries across the United States.

In order to receive a Carnegie grant, there needed to be property dedicated for the site, and a governmental entity had to support the effort towards the library.

The grant was only to construct the building; it was not to be used for stocking the shelves or maintenance. That would become the city’s responsibility.

On December of 1911, the city passed a resolution to give $1,000 a year to support the library. E.G. Holmes donated the land where the library stands.

Based on city population, the city received a Carnegie grant for $10,000 to build the library in Detroit Lakes. It cost exactly $9,923.60 to build the library.

There were multiple floor plans cities could choose from for the library building. They chose the prairie school style, designed by Claude and Starck of Madison, Wis. It was built from a stock plan ordered through the mail.

On May 28, 1913, the cornerstone was laid, and as of October, the building was completed except for 51 storm windows that were put in later and the screens were purchased the following spring.

It opened to the public on Nov. 14, 1913.

The Library Club then used their collection of books and money they had collected to fill the library shelves. They donated $100 a year for books.

They ordered recommended books from the St. Paul Daily News Company for the library.

The librarian was paid $30 a month to run the facility, and thanks to detailed minutes, Haney has read numerous accounts of happenings from within the new library.

“Dues to join Library Club were $1.50. In today’s money, that would be $36. We still only charge $3,” she said with a laugh.

The object of the club and the new library was to provide “intellectual and moral uplift of our young people.”

The building measured 4,142 square feet, and the upper floor housed the library, while the lower level included rooms for meetings. Library Club meetings indicate that the meeting space was in high demand.

Since the original was built, the library has continued to expand. In 1988, the addition was constructed, and the city continues to operate the facility.

Haney said she had no idea the library was such a tourist attraction either. Many travelers stop in during the spring and summer to see the original Carnegie library. There are very few Carnegie libraries left that are still used as libraries.

 With this being the 100th year of the library, Haney, staff and a committee will be planning celebrations throughout the year, with a grand finale in November.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.