Clermont Library History
This photo of the Clermont Public Library is likely from the 1970s.
In the early days, libraries were unheard of in towns as small as Clermont. Mrs. M.A. (Warner) Loomis and Mrs. Anna (Appelman) Larrabee felt the need of a library and decided to do something about it. It is not definitely known when it was started, but records show that in 1880 Caroline Riser (later wife of H.H. Follet) was named as librarian. There were many books in the library at that time, and in 1939 the books were catalogued numbering 800. This library collection is still in the Union Sunday School but is not available for check out.
In the fall of 1930, the Town Ladies Aid began to discuss the idea of a local (public) library. The group’s president, Mrs. Will Crowe, appointed Mrs. Ray V. Brandt, Mrs. Lucian Appelman, and Mrs. Will Nelson to function as a committee to investigate plans and the cost of opening a library. At a meeting on December 31, 1930, it was voted unanimously to proceed with plans for a public library.
The Farmers Savings Bank agreed to let the Town Ladies Aid use a room in the bank free of charge for the library. Discussion was held about being a free or membership library. It was determined by ballot to be a free library.
On Friday April 10, 1931, the Clermont Free Public Library opened. There were approximately seventy-five books. After a time, “Free” was dropped from the name because there was a fee imposed for use of books from one area of the library. In the summer of 1931, the State of Iowa Library donated forty books to enlarge Clermont’s collection.
The members of the Town Ladies Aid were volunteer librarians, with two ladies working together for three months periods. The president of the Ladies Aid appointed the library committee to choose and order books.
When the book collection outgrew the room in the bank, the library moved to the upper floor in the Larrabee School Building and was there for several years. When the school needed the space in the Larrabee building, the library moved into what was referred to as the “Town Council Room.”
In October 1964, the library joined the Eastern Iowa Library Cooperative.” To do this, a board appointed by the city council was required. Mayor Will Nelson and the council appointed the following:
Mrs. William (Bess) Blake—President
Mrs. Franz (Joyce) Appelman—Vice President
Mrs. Fred (Fran) Cline—Secretary
Mrs. Will (Edna) Nelson—Treasurer
Mrs. Burkard (Rosa) Riegel
Mrs. Louis T. (Ruth) Olson
To comply with cooperative rules, they also needed a librarian. Lenora Shipton was hired for the position at a rate of $1.00 per hour. The library was paid $200.00 to belong to the Cooperative for the first year. Although the decision occurred in 1964, the library did not actually join until 1965.
On January 22, 1971, an arson fire burned the library. The books moved again, this time to the basement of the Community Hall (also known as the Opera House). In June of that year, the Ladies Aid donated $400.00 to the library for floor covering, paint, varnish, and labor to get the library back in order. Many hours were spent sorting, cleaning, and arranging. By August, the books were back in place. In October 1971, the librarian counted 3,043 books.
In 1974, the library was enlarged to occupy both the library room and the former fire truck space. New windows, ceiling panels, floor covering, and restrooms were added. In 1978 card catalog cabinets were purchased and, under the guidance of the Regional Library Personnel, the books were cataloged. In 1979, a back room was remodeled as a cozy place for Story Hour. The library moved back into the Larrabee Building in June 1991. In 2009, the library collection was automated, and the library catalog can be accessed from most computers and most digital devices.
Initially, the library was open 2.5 hours each week. The Clermont Public Library is currently open 28 hours per week. The library now has almost 7,000 items available for check out, not including digital materials. The library also participates in the State Library’s Interlibrary Loan System allowing access to and sharing materials across the state of Iowa and beyond.
Past Directors of the library were Lenora Shipton, Leona Griebenow, Linda Solheim, Robin Darland, and Helena Zweibohmer.
--This information is taken from "Historic Clermont" published by the Clermont Historical Society in 1967 and other local history sources.
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