Sunday Stories: Sutherland Maxine White Public Library

Excerpted from the Sutherland Centennial 1891 – 1991, published in 1991.

The Sutherland Public Library got its beginning in April, 1915, when the Women’s Improvement Club of Sutherland, presently the Sutherland Women’s Club, established a restroom on Walnut Street. This was initially established for the convenience of ladies living in the country, who would come to town with their husbands for the day and had no place to relax and refresh while waiting for their husbands to finish their errands.

They at first received their books from the traveling library, and were available in connection with the restroom. They could be checked out, free of charge, for a period of two weeks. A fine of five cents was levied if the books were kept longer than two weeks.

In 1920 a movement was begun to create a free library. The Christian Church (which, in 1991 housed Main’s Fitness Center) had offered the use of their basement.

In the Sutherland newspaper we find that in April 1922, the Public Library was now open. Vincent Thomas borrowed the first book. The library received 400 books from North Platte for their use.
In 1924, the library was moved into the north front room of the Opera House building.

In August of 1928, George C. White met with the ladies serving on the library board at that time and offered to donate the lot for a new library if the ladies wanted it. This very generous offer was accepted and the group proceeded with plans for a new library building. In February 1929 the building committee for the library was presented with a sketch and plan for the proposed building. This sketch was submitted by Mr. Joe Marsh of Denver, Colorado. Mr. Marsh was the son-in-law of George C. White and a brother-in-law of Conner.

Construction was begun on the new building in August, 1929. Formal opening of the new library was held October 26, 1929. The ladies were highly complemented on their accomplishment. Lunch was served in the basement. Funds were raised for this new structure through the efforts of the Woman’s Club, the American Legion Auxiliary and private donations. It cost approximately $3,000. It was impossible to arrive at a correct figure, as much of the labor was donated. The electric light wiring and fixture bill for the building was $177. Mr. E. (Ernest) Brownell donated $50.00 toward this and the rest was paid by the Village Board.

In April 1930, the Village Board voted to take over the Library and to elect a Library Board, consisting of five members. This was accomplished and the first board members were Mrs. Will M. Dunn, Chairman (5 years); Mrs. Ralph S. Russell (2 years); Mrs. George C. White, 
Secretary/Treasurer (1 year). Mrs. D. C. (Mary) Wilson was the librarian. On July 5, 1930 the first card was issued for borrowing books. A ten cent charge was made for the card. All of the new books were to be kept on a “Pay Shelf” for two months and patrons were to pay ten cents a week for those books. After the two month period, the books would be placed on the free shelves. There were no children’s books on the pay shelf.

At the first meeting of the Library Board on October 1930 their speaker, Mrs. Elmer A. (Lillie) Crosby Sr. gave a very interesting talk about Ezra Meeker, the Oregon Trail and the early conditions of Sutherland. She explained about Ezra Meeker’s Ox team and why the Oregon Trail is marked with a fitting marker every so often. This marker which stood in front of the Library for many years was dedicated on November 20, 1932. It was acquired through the joint efforts of the Sutherland Woman’s Club and the American Legion Auxiliary.
When the first Library building was demolished in 1978, prior to the construction of our present facility, the marker was misplaced for a period of a few years. When it was again found it was re-dedicated as part of the Centennial Celebration. The program that was given at the first dedication was on the lawn in front of the library. It dedicated the marker to the pioneers who blazed the way for the settlement of the country. On the program, the high school band played “America,” followed by the invocation by Reverend James G. Knotter, a reading of “The Oregon Trail” by Mrs. Merle (Pansy) Cox, a song “Home on the Range” by Adelbert Crosby, the “Star Spangled Banner” by the audience and closed by Reverend Knotter giving the benediction.

For many years, members of the library board served as librarians but it was decided in time that it was more efficient to hire a librarian. Mrs. Roy (Jeanette) Wilson served in that capacity for many years. On August 15, 1953 we noted she had completed her 17th year. In September, 1957 she received the “Good Neighbor Award.”

Mrs. Harry Stewart, and Maxine White were others who served as librarians. No records have been found as to the length of service for each of the librarians. Without the total dedication of all of them, our library would not have been what it is today. Maxine White possibly served as long as Mrs. Wilson, perhaps longer. She was a very special lady, special enough to have had the present library named for her.

Some of the other persons who served on the board in past years were Mrs. V. A. Kessler, President; Mrs. H. V. Jones, Mrs. William M. Dunn and Mrs. Harold Humphrey. Mrs. George White was still acting as Secretary-Treasurer in 1941 with Mrs. Wilson, librarian.

In May 1978, the village held a special bond issue election and it was voted by the citizens of Sutherland to build a new library and municipal building on the same site that housed the original library. Griffin Beatty Lumber was awarded the contract for the construction and it became occupied in November, 1978. It was known as the Sutherland Library until October 1985, when the Village decided to officially name it in honor of Maxine White following her retirement. Our present librarian, Patsy Marrs, was appointed at that time. Patsy is a very conscientious, accommodating and helpful librarian. The Village and the Library Board members hope she stays for a very long time.

The dedicated citizens serving on the Library Board at present (1991) are Mabel Shepherd, Norma Culver, Altha Babbitt, Neva Moore, Florence Deason, Beatrice Adee, Esther Paulman, Dee Sakurai, Eleanor Gerdts, Nell Ecker, Bonita Binegar, Bonnie Nelson, Katharine Dancer and Lucille Shoup. These ladies are to be commended for their excellence of service. Many of them have served on the board for many years. It is difficult to relinquish the position once you have accepted.

At the present time, Patsy informs us there are a total of 7,608 books on the shelves and there are 764 card holders.
The Sutherland Maxine White Public Library. The Oregon Trail Marker can be seen on the left.


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