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Library History

A History of the Montgomery City Public Library

Compiled by Mrs. John Gilmer Miller, Sr. in November, 1972

The opening of the free Public Library in Montgomery City was an important event in the history of our town, and owes its foundation and its survival to a relatively few individuals who had vision and extraordinary determination.

The work for the library was actually begun in 1926 at Delphian Society (a study club) meeting in the Directors Room of the Montgomery County Bank. A desire to do something needed and worthwhile for our town prompted the movement.

The history of the library can best be told not by a recital of a few cold facts but by a review and study of the actions of those few women who launched this successful movement. The Delphian roll of membership at that time included Mrs. Everett Barton, Mrs. D. J. Bentley, Mrs. Eugene Mabry, Mrs. E. P. Shay, Mrs. C. K. Sheets, Sr., Mrs. T. R. Hancock, Mrs. George Vogt, Mrs. Raymond Reid, Mrs. Alice McCann, Mrs. C. C. Walls, and Mrs. John G. Miller, Sr.

The project required foresight, and required as well, optimism to a remarkable degree.

The Delphian members worked to create a library fund. A candy sale netted $21.70; assessments and personal donations $37.75 and home talent musical revue "Zig-Zag Revue" presented February 14 and 15, 1927, at the old Opera House (now the Masonic Hall) netted $125.71. The following year, January 24 and 25, 1928, a second revue "Fads and Fancies" was presented. The accompanist for plays was Miss Virginia Jones. The programs are still available.

Mrs. J. G. Miller secured a substantial gift of books from the St. Louis Public Library. An appeal was made to our citizens for donations of books and their response was generous. New books were purchased. Later a gift of fifty books was given by Mrs. Jerry Miller of High Hill, Missouri.

On May 11, 1927 the Library was formally opened in the City Hall room, upstairs in the Mrs. Julia Gill building, now occupied by Attorneys McQuie and Deiter. There were 700 volumes on the shelves insured for $1,000.00. In August, 1938, the library was removed from its upstairs quarters in the late S. S. Nowlin building to quarters in the Community Building on North Sturgeon Street.

Due to the great interest in the library it was decided that a permanent Library Association should be organized.

At a mass meeting at the Court House, July 29, 1927, the association was formed. Mayor M. F. See called the meeting to order. Mrs. J. F. Ball was elected President; M. F. See, Vice President; Mrs. Albert Guy, Secretary; and E. B. Spears, Treasurer; Book Committee, Mrs. John G. Miller, Mrs. Lucy Hensley, M. F. See.

From May 1, 1927 to May 1, 1928 there were 318 registered readers and a book circulation of 2,870 volumes. The work of invoicing, cataloguing and lending books was donated.

The library grew and prospered to such extent that the Library Association members petitioned the City Council to call an election to vote a mill tax levy for maintenance of the free public library. The proposition was voted upon at a special election held May 22, 1928. The proposition won by a majority of 29 votes.

The members of the Library Association met at the home of Mrs. J. F. Ball on June 16, 1928 for the purpose of organization of a permanent Library Board as required by statute. The drawing for board membership was as follows: one year, Mrs. Elmer Brinegar; Mrs. E. P. Shay, Mrs. D. J. Bentley; two years, Miss Katie Rosenberger, Mrs. T. R. Hancock, Mrs. J. F. Ball; three years, Mrs. George Vogt, Mrs. George Jones, Mrs. John G. Miller.

The officers and committees were as follows: President, Mrs. James F. Ball; Vice President, Mrs. John G. Miller; Secretary, Mrs. D. J. Bentley; By-laws, Mrs. E. P. Shay, Miss Katie Rosenberger, Mrs. Elmer Brinegar; Book Committee, Mrs. John G. Miller, Mrs. T. R. Hancock, Mrs. I. C. Uptegrove; Finance, Mrs. George Vogt, Mrs. D. J. Bentley, Mrs. George Jones, Mrs. E. P. Shay; Librarian, Mrs. I. C. Uptegrove; Assistant-Librarian, Miss Edwina Owings.

In September, 1928 arrangements were made for a branch library at Lincoln Park School, the school now closed to conform with federal desegregation laws. Mrs. Ella Drain Taylor had charge of the books at Lincoln Park.

The affairs of the Library are managed by a board of nine members appointed by the Mayor, and are limited by law to nine consecutive years. Mention should be made of the longest service of a Board member, that of Mrs. Charles Schneider, who served for twenty-eight consecutive years and retired due to a new Missouri statue limiting service on a Library Board to nine consecutive years. She was a dedicated worker!

On April 2, 1929, an election was held to repeal the mill tax for the maintenance of the Public Library. The tax levy carried by a large majority, the vote being 323 for the levy and 163 against. "It seemed to be the general opinion that the vote would be close....but when the votes were counted it was found that the levy had carried by nearly two to one....The victory for the library tax was due entirely to the splendid work done by the ladies who organized for the purpose. If ever we have an itch to run for office, before announcing we are going to see if we can get them to manage our campaign. We all have to take off our hats to them, and whether for or against the levy, we have to acknowledge they are efficient campaigners."

The Library was open from l:00 - 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

On June 27, 1930, Edwina Owings was appointed librarian and served until she resigned in September, 1938. She was succeeded by Miss Lavinia Smith who served until her resignation on September 9, 1949. Mrs. W. T. McCord succeeded Miss Smith. Mrs. Ralph Kettle was appointed November 1, 1967, succeeding Mrs. McCord.

The new library on Third and North Wentz opened February 11, 1969, being removed from the Community Building and was dedicated National Library Week, April 20-26, 1969. This is the first permanent housing for the library since it was started, 1927. It is carpeted, has air conditioning. The City Council initiated the project, it being funded from the general city revenue.

The ten cents per $100 assessed value is in effect today and brings the library an income of about $3000 a year.

An American Flag and a Missouri State Flag were a gift to the library from Montgomery Chapter NSDAR.

Mrs. W. L. Schlanker, Jr. donated two of her paintings for the children's corner.

The Montgomery County R-II Schools Art Class made and donated a colorful bulletin board for the reading room.

A reading hour was provided for the children in the Library reading room, and the first book reveiw at the library was given by Mrs. Anne Barker on To Catch an Angel.

Available to the area residents are magazines, phonograph records and the classics for both adult and juvenile readers.

Total book circulation from July 1, 1971 to June 30, 1972 was 15,766 with 938 patrons to date.

Space does not permit the listing of the names of the many citizens who have served on the Library Board.

The present Library Board includes the following: President, Mrs. Richard Arens; Vice President, Mrs. Walter Korth; Secretary, Mrs. Gilbert Prost; Treasurer, Mrs. Eugene Miller; Reporter, Mrs. Marilyn Fleetwood, Mrs. Joe Marlow, Mrs. John Fisher, Mr. Bernard Black, Reverend Thomas Smith.

Our school and colleges start an education, libraries carry it on. The largest part of a man's education is that which he gives himself.

The library today is a monument to that group of women for their foresight, never lagging courage and all-out determination and gives evidence of what may be accomplished when our citizens join their forces and work for a wider community of interest.

The Montgomery City Public Library continued to grow.  So much so that the library moved into the renovated Hoffman's IGA store in 2006-2007 under the direction of Linda Eatherton.  The new location is 224 North Allen Street.  It has a special children's department with a colorful mural of local animals painted by Patti Ann Cunningham, a teen area, a small conference room, a large community room with a kitchenette, and areas where small groups or individuals can sit.   

The current 2021 Library Board officers include Jenny Cox, president, Jamie Bukovac, vice president, Rev. Thomas Murphy, secretary, and Theo Tate, treasurer  Other members are Pat Garrett, Jim Guffie, Carole Harness, Patti Pazdera, and Marilyn Peveler.

During the July 1, 2020- June 30, 2021 year, there were 2108 registered users with 14,569 patron visits to the Montgomery City Public Library.  The library has approximately 24,000 items that can be checked out like books, audiobooks, magazines, DVDs, puzzles, and kits.  A variety of programs for preschool, school-age children, teens, and adults are available regularly and are free of charge.  Free movie nights are held throughout the year in the parking lot or the community room.  There is free Wi-Fi inside and outside the library for those with their own connected devices.  The Montgomery City Public Library strives to be a place where the community can safely meet, study, learn, explore, and grow.  



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