The original Carnegie Library was dedicated in 1903. In 1971, the library underwent its first expansion. Another expansion for room and technology followed in 1991. Several years later an ICN room was added for the purpose of live video interaction.
In March of 1901, the town council received a petition requesting that a vote be taken to determine the answer to the question: “Shall a free public library be established?” The vote was taken and passed on March 25, 1901. The support for the library could not exceed two mills on the dollar. In July 1901, the first library board was appointed. The members were: B.T. French, F.J. Doughtery, J. M. Flynn, D. O. Stone, A.S. Colby, and Mesdames Wm. Hitchcock, G.H. Barber,
C. A. Plank, and W.W. Wooster. The first president was Mrs. Barber. She was the driving force in fundraising as is evident in this story from the Hawarden Independent –October 29, 1942.
“About forty-one years ago, the Mutual Improvement Club voted to nominate a committee to raise funds for the purpose of establishing a library as part of their altruistic work. Three hundred dollars had to be raised before an organization could be considered eligible to receive a donation of five hundred books from the library of the Good Templar’s Lodge, at that time discontinued. This committee was unsuccessful in raising the money. Mrs. Barber, not satisfied to drop the issue, interested several of Hawarden’s public spirited citizens to the extent that an organization was then formed called the Hawarden Library Association. The appointed committee started their campaign to raise the necessary funds for public subscriptions. Mrs. Barber conceived of the idea of covering the country territory as well as the town by use of her pony and cart. The money was raised and the library was established and given space within the Independent office. The women of the library board took turns in keeping the library open after the state librarian from Des Moines had helped to classify the books and had given instructions and procedures. One of the men on the board donated his services as bookkeeper and treasurer. Thus the work was carried on for over a year. Foreseeing that financial aid was necessary for continuation, the library association decided to turn the library over to the city of Hawarden so that a one-mill tax could be levied for its support. The mayor appointed a committee to carry on the work with Mrs. Barber acting as president, a position which she held for ten years. Envisioning the day when the space in the Independent office would not be adequate for the growing needs of the library, Mrs. Barber attended the
district meeting of the library board in Sioux City to find out if and how Hawarden could procure a building through the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. She was told it would be impossible as towns of less than ten thousand population were not eligible for donations unless she could convert Mr. Carnegie. A challenge like this meant action where Mrs. Barber was concerned, and she wrote to Mr. Carnegie stating the need for larger library facilities for Hawarden’s growing population. She also wrote her cousin, Mr. Whitlow Reed of New York, later U.S. ambassador to England, asking him to personally present the urgency for funds to build libraries in smaller towns to Mr. Carnegie. In October 1901, Mrs. Barber received a letter from Mr. Carnegie enclosing a check for five thousand dollars made payable to her personally for disbursement and stipulating a minimum of four hundred dollars a year expenditure for library upkeep.
This letter is one of Mrs. Barber’s prized possessions. She also received a letter from her cousin, Mr. Reed, stating that this sum was one thousand dollars more than was usually granted to towns with this small. This was also the first instance of towns under ten thousand population being awarded funds from the Carnegie Library Foundation. Thus Hawarden had the unique record of having hard and fast rules broken on her behalf to the mutual benefit of all libraries in smaller towns. Building plans for the first library anticipated the need for a basement room for smaller children which has since materialized. High standards can be maintained through personal interest and perhaps greater financial aid so that it will continue to merit the name of Carnegie.”
The first librarian was Miss Jennie P. Smith, appointed in 1902. She served as the librarian for seventeen years. The first children’s librarian was chosen in 1939. This was Wilma Brown. Miss Brown went on to a great twenty-eight-year career as the librarian for the Boys and Girls Department of the Kanawha County Public Library in West Virginia. Other librarians followed all upholding the ideal of quality services for the citizens of the Hawarden community.
The library provides materials in a variety of formats: books, books-on-tape, videocassettes, DVDs, and books on compact disk. In addition, the library has its own web page and also computers for the public to use. The library has the city’s high-speed internet connection.
The Hawarden Public Library is accredited by the state at the highest level achievable. This has meant that the library has been able to receive state funding through the new “Enrich Iowa” program. The library board and staff continue to try to improve service and to improve the delivery of quality information.
Each time you drive by the library, remember these stats. Americans go to libraries twice as often as they go to the movies. Reference librarians in the nation’s public and academic libraries answer more than seven million questions weekly. If the line of questioners were standing single file, they would reach from Boston to San Francisco. There are more public libraries than McDonald’s—a total of 16,090 including branches in the United States.
The Hawarden Public Library has seen many changes in its one-hundred-plus years of existence. The paper card catalog has disappeared to be replaced by an automated card system. The era of records has gone by the wayside. The library has indeed become an information center –whether it is tax forms, romance novels, magazines, interlibrary loans, or the internet. The library is the place to connect for your information.