Library History

Columbus Junction's first library was located at 122 E. Maple St. The building was originally built for $7,840 in 1882 to be used as a public school. In 1936, the building was transferred to the town of Columbus Junction by the school district, and WPA funds were used to renovate it. For a few years time, it was used as a community building. The first library was started by Mrs. T. N. (Madge) O'Neill in the west room upstairs. Individuals donated books and various organizations held fund raising projects to help out. No records are available, but it is thought that Mrs. Marie Letts and Miss Grace Butler served as early librarians.

In July 1948, the town council passed an ordinance establishing a library and board of trustees. The first meeting was held on July 19, 1948. Members appointed by Mayor Thomas E. Perry were Paul B. Smith, Ann Marker, Vivian Merritt, Marie Letts, and Ruth Fisher. Lots were drawn to determine the number of years for each term of office. Paul Smith was elected president and Ruth Fisher, secretary-treasurer. At this time, a book club was organized by interested citizens and annually gave 24 books to the library after they had been read by the members. The former library presented a check for $25.53 and the Priscilla Club gave $5.00 to purchase some children's books. Approximately two dozen letters were sent to each of the clubs and organizations in the community asking for donations to help buy lamps, desks, tables, etc. The library opened as a tax supported institution on November 13, 1948 with Mrs. Frank (Alta) Isett as librarian. In August of 1949, the B.P.W. held a tag day and the receipts of $102.90 were donated to the new library. The library bought its new books from the Waffle Book Company. At stated times, Mr. Waffle would bring a supply of books from which the board of trustees would choose the books they wished to purchase. Anna Robertson became librarian in 1950. The library was open 10 hours a week. It paid the Park Board $10 a month rent. The budget for 1957 was $1200.00; for 1958, $1350.00.

Fire damaged the building in 1959 and the library was moved to the west room on the main floor. It is reported that the move was made quite easily as the room was the same dimension for the furniture and shelves to fit in the same places. Mayor H.M. Duncan, members of the town council, and library board members all helped. Lumber was obtained from the lumber yard and placed on the stairs to slide the furniture down. Each shelf of books was placed in a mail bag borrowed from the post office and labeled, so that the books could be placed back on the shelves without sorting. It was reported there were 4045 books at this time. Teachers brought the children over to the library so that country children could obtain books. Fifty cent cards were charged to adults and 25 cent cards to the children who lived in the country as only the city was supporting the library with taxes. At this time, E.P. Shellabarger bequeathed $2000 to the library to purchase books as a memorial to his wife, Mary. This money was used with the interest over a period of years to purchase books and a special stamp was placed on each of the memorial books. Circulation of books and magazines for the year 1961 was reported as 7,393. The library was heated with oil stoves at that time and the fuel bill for the winter of 1961-1962 was $69.88. The budget for 1961 was $1450.00. Isabelle Sellers became the librarian in 1966 when Anna Robertson resigned.

In May of 1969, discussion was started about moving to the larger east room. This was accomplished in 1971. Again, volunteers helped with the moving and building of new shelves. Dennis Peters was contracted to paint the room green. In 1971 Adeline Crawford became librarian. In 1972 the governor's wife, Mrs. Robert Ray, visited the library and later sent a letter of appreciation for her visit. Taxes received for that year amounted to $1119.96. Mr. Don Schnell was appointed to the board of trustees in July 1972. In 1976, he was appointed to serve a three year term on the state Library Commission as a representative of the board of trustees of small libraries. He was appointed to the State Standards Committee.

In 1977, members of the library board of trustees were Don Schnell, Lyrel Norris, Anna Robertson, Betty (Emily) Bell, and Ardith Ostrem. In April of that year, hours were increased from 10 to 12 per week by being open 9-11 am on Saturdays. In July, the library became issuing library cards. At this time, the county supervisors also decided to tax rural property owners 1/4 mil for library tax. Lyrel Norris and Anna Robertson resigned at the end of the year 1977. Margaret Newell and Sue Schweitzer were appointed to replace them.

In February 1978, a team of 2 people (CETA workers) from Southeastern Library Services started work to catalog the library's collection. In August of 1977, Ardith Ostrem was asked to serve in the capacity of director of the library - to see to the operation of the library and ordering of supplies and books. Upon the resignation of Adeline Crawford in 1978, Mrs. Ostrem became librarian. In September of that year, hours were again increased from 12 to 17 1/2 hours per week, open 6 days per week.

On June 20, 1978, a reception and tea was held at the library to honor former trustees and librarians. A plaque was presented to Anna Robertson for her many years of devoted service as librarian and trustee. Another plaque was presented to be placed in the library denoting the names of former trustees and librarians and the years served. Those serving the longest terms as trustees were Mrs. Anna Robertson for 27 years, Mrs. Lyrel Norris for 23 years, Mrs. Vivian Merritt for 28 years, Mrs. Myrtle Paxton for 18 years, and Don Schnell for 12 years.

In July 1980, the board of trustees decided to meet with the town council for the purpose of requesting remodeling and the acquisition of more space - the eventual use of the whole main floor of the building for the library. The request was referred to the Community Building Committee. When Sue Schweitzer and Margaret Newell resigned in 1981, they were replaced by Sharon Della Vedova and Alice Huston. A historical preservation project was started in 1981 with Verl Lekwa as coordinator. A tape recorder was purchased and some of the older citizens interviewed. Discussions continued on ways to improve and enlarge the library. Beryl and Sime Roundy donated $5000 to the Community Building to be used for the benefit of the library. Air conditioning was installed in 1982. The town council agreed to give the kitchen to the library to be used as a workroom, remodel the bathroom, and build in some closets. That fall, the remodeling was started with Dick Houseal as carpenter. In April 1982, Helen Aringdale, who had been typing for the library, consented to become assistant to the librarian. The library hours were increased to 20 per week, beginning to be open on Monday nights from 7-9 pm. On October 28, 1982 an organizational meeting was held to start a Friends of the Library group. Officers elected were as follows: James Ray, president, Dorothy McConahay, vice-president, Judy Speth, secretary, and John Della Vedova, Treasurer. Membership dues were to be $5 per year.

The budget for 1982-1983 was $10,408.00. Discussion continued on ways to improve the physical appearance of the library. The Community Building Committee was dissolved. The town council did not grant the request for the use of the entire main floor of the building, but rather kept the west room for a public meeting room, with the agreement the library could use the room free of charge whenever needed.

In 1982, the library received a $23,000 grant from the Kinney-Linstrom Foundation of Hanlontown, Iowa, for remodeling the library. In February 1983, the library moved back into the smaller west room again while the renovations began. The library was completely remodeled with new ceiling, light fixtures, carpet, furniture, shelving, paint, wallpaper, and curtains. On September 11, an open house with Victorian Tea was sponsored by the Friends of the Library, and over 130 guests attended. The total inventory of books for 1983 included 4842 adult books, 3292 children's books, 1811 paperback books, and 29 magazine subscriptions. The Columbus Junction Library Board received the Governor's Leadership Award for Community betterment from Governor Terry E. Brandstad on November 5, 1983.

Beginning in July 1984, the library opened for 29 1/2 hours, including five weekdays until 7:30 pm. Services include storytimes, summer reading programs, adult education classes. large-printe books, lighted magnifiers, loan of a Polaroid Sun Camera, renting of a 16 mm projector, screen, and videodisc players and discs.

Following approval in January 1988, the city council agreed to allo wthe use of the west room for a children's library. Construction began in January 1989 by Harris Construction, and work was completed in April, at which time the children's collection was moved and furniture arranged for small library meetings and storytimes.

In 1990, Marie Spaethe, former library board of trustees member, left $250,000 to be used for the construction of a new library. A city study was done, and a steering committee and foundation was formed. A decision was made to construct a building that would hold the library, city hall, and police department located at 232 Second St. After 15 years of fund raising, the Columbus Community Civic Center became a reality in 2005, as ground was broken. A ribbbon cutting and open house was held on February 13, 2006. The library was open the next day, and, by the end of the month, 74 new card holders had been registered. The library occupies the second floor of the building, with a private conference room, staff workroom, study room, main library, and children's room. In June 2018, renovations were completed thanks to a generous donation by the Warren and Connie Lewis family to turn a staff break room into a functioning kitchen, named "Connie's Helping Hands." Various community groups use the kitchen to teach cooking skills, and the library is able to provide snacks and food related programming.

Librarians include:

Mrs. Alta Isett 1948-1950

Anna Robertson 1950-1966

Isabelle Sellers 1966-1971

Adeline Crawford 1971-1978

Ardith Ostrem 1978-2009

Cathy Crawford 2009-2015

Mandy Grimm 2015-present