“...The new library is a dream come true to members of the board (Trustees) under whose control it has developed from a room with a side street entrance to a room whose simplicity and beauty is the last word in modern architecture-from a few worn volumes to a comprehensive library including thousands of well-assorted books covering the range of a city's requirements.”
No, this is not a recent quotation praising the Anadarko Community Library. In fact, it was published when the library moved from one of its many make-do homes to the lower floor of the W.A. Dixon Memorial Masonic Temple, which housed the library from 1936 until 1990.
The first library in Anadarko was an Oklahoma Women's Federation Library, which was kept on shelves at the Gish-Baker Furniture Store. The Lyceum Traveling Library of 1,000 volumes was sent to Anadarko in 1903. This collection plus forty more donated books became known as the PHILOMATHIC COLLECTION and was kept in a small room in the American Democrat Office. With books from a "Book Shower" by the Women's Christian Temperance Union, books bought by the Philomathic Club members, and with donations, the collection reached 1,400 volumes. In 1907, it was moved to a room on North Fifth Street, which had a side street entrance. The Library Committee, the Philomathic Club, and the Commercial Club formed the Library Association. On March 18, 1907, a constitution was adopted, and the library became known as the PHILOMATHIC LIBRARY AND REST ROOM. The object of the Association was to provide standard and current literature, and to provide a reading room and rest room for the general public. Membership in the Association was of two classes, annual, with a fee of one dollar, or life, with a fee of ten dollars. This idea was not new, for Benjamin Franklin initiated the Subscription Library early in the history of our country.
By 1912, the library had moved to a room in city hall, and later became the Anadarko Public Library. The city council, in 1914, passed an ordinance making it a department of the city. In the early years, the librarian earned her salary of one dollar a month by keeping the room clean and "carding" the books when they were checked in or out. The library board members were appointed to committees to find and purchase books they felt appropriate, thereby relieving the librarian of the privilege of book selection and ordering. They also opened, read, and sorted the mail. The library remained in city hall until moving to the Masonic Building in 1936. At the time, this was a wonderful place for the library and they were glad for the space. But as the years went by, this room became much too small for the library which the citizens needed and deserved.
In the mid 1980's, the library board began, in earnest, to locate another site for the library that would be large enough and would be accessible to all the citizens. In 1987, the city council allowed the board to hire Don Beck, Beck Associates Architects, and apply for a grant to help fund the library. Various locations were considered, and, with the help of Mr. Beck, who specialized in renovating historical buildings, the vacant, sixty year old building that had been the Roy Hall Chevrolet Dealership, was chosen. The library board at the time was composed of Marilyn Buzbee, chairman; J.D. Sanders, secretary; and members Nancy Roberson, Walt Stangle and Glenda Scaffetta Cook. Joan Hines was the librarian. The Anadarko Community Library Trust was formed to raise the necessary funds. The trust was chaired by Betty Bell; Evelyn Boake was secretary; Joyce Milton, treasurer; and members of the trust were Jim Donahue, Dr. Robert D. Slavin, Doug Hall, Cindy Fletcher and Sarah Stangle. In less than a year, this remarkable group raised $604,016, exceeding the original goal of $500,000. A venture that seemed almost impossible became a reality with the backing and support of the entire community. Memorials and donations came from individuals, families, and businesses. School children held fund-raisers, and local and area civic clubs donated. The trust sought and was awarded numerous grants from foundations. Hollytex Carpet Mill and its employees donated the Community Room, which was dedicated to long-time employee, Marvin Elrod. The children's section was donated by the Paul Allen Foundation in honor of his mother, Faye Gardner Allen, who as a high school student worked at the library.
There were some who doubted an auto garage could be made into a library, but Mr. Beck, working with the Library Board, turned the old building into a beautiful, spacious, inviting place, retaining the feeling of the "old" while adding the functionality of the new. Wide-open spaces, lots of natural lighting, warm colors, and climate control make it a very pleasant place to be. Of particular interest is the children's "reading pit" which was once the grease pit of the garage.
On completion of the facility, books were moved the two blocks from the Masonic Temple using the "Book Brigade", hundreds of people forming a hand-to-hand assembly line, into the library doorsand onto the waiting shelves. The Anadarko Community Library was formally opened in September, 1990. Since that time, the library has become fully automated and offers computers for use by adults and children. Julie Hall is the present librarian. Friends of the Library group has been organized, and has provided items necessary for the ongoing activities, technology updating, and maintenance. Friends of the Library annually organizes and conducts a book sale, its proceeds benefiting the library. The library has received numerous honors, and accolades from those who visit. From the letter to the newspaper announcing the Open House Celebration in 1990, comes this quote….. “We can all take pride, not only in the beauty and spaciousness of the building, but in the fact that community effort made it possible. Hundreds of people contributed in whatever measure they could because they believe in Anadarko and its future. The result is a truly wonderful facility that we believe is unmatched in any other community of our size.”
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