Churchill County Library: A great place for reading and...


Library Director

Special to the LVN

The history of the Churchill County Library dates back to 1905 when Mrs. Callie Ferguson, Fallon's postmistress, and Mrs. Mary Black operated the first lending book library in the old post office.

In 1915, Mrs. George Williams started a reading room in a building on the site where the Fallon Nugget now stands. In 1918, the Draper Club, a literary group, assumed responsibility for the room and moved it upstairs in the Wightman Building. The reading room stayed in this location until January 1920 when it was moved to the rear of the Woodliff Building, next door to the Nugget. Mrs. Mel Price was appointed as the first librarian.

In 1925, a new state law was passed making the county responsible for the reading room/library.

Mrs. Ethel Hoyt was appointed as the second librarian. During November 1932, the library was moved to 37 South Maine Street, located next door to the Fraternal Hall. Mrs. Hoyt resigned in 1940 and Mrs. Mary Martin was appointed as her successor.

The next notable event in the library's history occurred in 1957 when Mrs. Dorothy Walker, who succeeded Mrs. Martin as librarian, first catalogued the collection. Mrs. Frank Walquist, who was succeeded by Mrs. Dora Witt in 1960, followed Mrs. Walker. In 1987, the current director, Mrs. Barbara Mathews succeeded Mrs. Witt.

Mrs. Witt saw the need for a larger library. The old building had become cramped and crowded, with no room for expansion. Her first step towards a new library was a bond issue, which failed to garner the necessary votes. During the 1960s, the Max C. Fleischmann Foundation was granting monies to build libraries in rural areas. Mrs. Witt applied for a grant, requesting $111,208. There was also community support for the project, with Soroptimist International of Fallon pledging $1,000 and Friends of the Churchill County Library set aside $1,500 toward the building fund. Churchill County purchased the lot of land, and Edward Parsons from Reno was retained as the architect. Ground was broken in September 1966, and the dedication and opening was held in April 1967. The library was finally in its current home at 553, South Maine Street.

Through the years, the library has seen much change in the usage of its patrons. Where once the most active reader was an adult reading for pleasure, recently, people are using the library as a source for business, self-education and entertainment. In fiscal year 1986-1987, circulation was 85, 928 items. Fourteen years later, in fiscal year 2000-2001, circulation was 145,156 items. This was an increase of 69 percent, an average of 5 percent per year. In the last two years, circulation has increased 6.72 percent, jumping from 145,156 items in 2000-2001 to 154,911 in 2002-2003. That averages 5.6 books per resident of Churchill County. Hmmm.. We wonder who's reading the remaining 0.4 percent of the sixth book?

The library's operating budget has increased over the years, as have the number of donations received. Some of the donated material, both books and media items like audios and videos are added to the collection. The rest is donated to Serendipity Corner Used Book Store run by Friends of the Library.

The Friends of the Library is a dedicated organization. It provides the monetary means for the library to make purchases not otherwise covered by the library budget. The group's members are a vital part of the library, one that is greatly appreciated and never taken for granted. Membership in the organization is open to the public. They run the Used Book Store adjacent to the library and discounts are available to members of Friends of the Library.

Another source of help is the Library Board of Trustees. This group of five people helps to establish policy and provides, at times, moral support for issues that are important to the library. These people represent various walks of life and bring to the board and library a willingness to get involved in projects that can make a difference to the community.

The library entered the 21st century with the theme "Your library- it's not just books anymore.".Among available resources are computers for Internet access, audiobooks on CD and tape, videotapes and DVDs to expand your entertainment options in addition to great books, newspapers and magazines. Storytime and Summer Reading programs are available to the kids in the community.

Currently, the staff consists of (in alphabetical order): Eleanor Ahern, Technical Services Specialist, Nancy Aughe, ILL Technician, Joyce Betts, Children's Services Specialist, Nancy Dahl, page, Deborah Fiedler, page, Barbara Mathews, library director, Jeeks Rajagopal, Library Technician, and Diane Wargo, Adult Services Specialist.

The library is, once again, on the cusp of an important phase- the expansion of the library by approximately 4,000 sq. ft. Three lots of land on the north side adjacent to the library were purchased by the county in the fall of 2001. Architects Hershenow and Klippenstein of Reno drew up building plans. In the last six months, the library has held a variety of fund-raisers to help reach the goal of $1.5 million needed to make the expansion a reality. In November, a silent auction was held and wreaths donated by the community were auctioned off. In February, a wine tasting was held. The two events together raised over $4,000 for the building fund. This month, the library accepted donated baskets for a silent auction on May Day. All proceeds from this auction also benefit the building fund.

In addition, the library also has a unique "Square Foot Club" for raising funds. Members of the community can purchase a square foot of the addition for $258.85. For details or questions on membership in Friends, fund-raisers or the Square Foot Club, please contact the library at 775/423-7581. We also welcome any ideas you may have for raising funds for the building expansion. Currently, the funds raised stand at $30,000, a big amount but still a small percentage of what is needed.

The staff is always eager to answer your questions and help you. We pride ourselves on providing courteous assistance and a warm, friendly atmosphere.

Portions of this article originally appeared in "In Focus" magazine in 1987.


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