Into my hands is given the task of presenting to you the condition of our library at the present time and also a sketch of its history. It is a pleasure to do this, and yet a strong feeling of regret is mingled with it that we cannot make a better showing in the matter of a library home and a larger number of books for a city of the size and wealth of ours. Were Colorado Springs less cosmopolitan in its make-up, older in years and experience, its library history might be more encouraging. The city's energy has been spent in so many ways, upon so many things; it has accomplished much in the line of municipal improvements, its school system is so good that some things have had to wait and we are encouraged to feel that when our people do awaken to the Library fact- the Library Spirit within them will be strong and powerful.
In October, 1885 a company of men and women who were anxious that there should be a place where "good literature might be furnished free to any wishing to read" "formed themselves into the Colorado Springs Social Union." A small room in the second story of the building called the "National Block" and owned by Colonel George De La Vergne, and now occupied by the Pelta Dry Goods Company, 125-131 South Tejon street; was hired, "a new carpet put down, a table and chairs purchased and the room put into good order." The back part was partitioned off for the home of the person in charge, and Miss Mary L. Cowles was engaged to care for the books and room at a salary of $20.00 per month. The books of the Young Men's Christian Association, I find no record of the number, were given to this "Social Union" and these formed the nucleus of our present library. A constitution and by-laws were adopted at the first annual meeting and at this meeting (Oct. 5, 1885) the following board of managers was chosen: John Curr, George De La Vergne, A.H. Corman, George Perry, J.J. Hagerman, John Himebaugh, Mrs. C.A. Eldredge, Mrs. L.E. Wilson, Mrs. Channing Sweet, Mrs. George Summers, Mrs. Charles White and Mrs. Matt France.
From this board Mr. John Curr was chosen president, Mrs. C.A. Eldredge vice president, Mrs. L.E. Wilson, secretary and Mrs. George Summers treasurer. For several years book socials, entertainments, lectures etc. were held and canvassers were sent through the city to raise money and secure books. These efforts were more or less successful for in 1889 or 1890 the library was moved to north Nevada Avenue into three rooms in a two story brick building, No. 16, owned by Judge E.A. Colburn. One of these rooms was the home of Miss Cowles. After this move, and in the same year, the name was changed to the "Colorado Springs Free Library and Reading Room Association" and the constitution so changed as to eliminate all reference to religions and benevolent work and connection with the Young Men's Christian Association. At this time also, Miss Cowles' salary was raised to $30.00 a month and the title of librarian was given her. Up to 1890 there had been three presidents, Mr. John Curr for one year, Mr. Charles A. Eldredge for three years and Mr. G.B. Turnbull for one year. In 1890 Mr. Louis R. Ehrich was chosen president and still holds that position. In 1892 Mr. Francis B. Hill was chosen secretary and continues to hold that office. Mrs. Charles A. Eldredge was chosen an office at the first annual meeting and every year since has been elected to office on the board and since 1887 has been continuously treasurer of the association.
On May 5, 1896 after ten years of uninterrupted service Miss Cowles resigned her position and, as a mark of esteem and appreciation of her faithful services, the trustees presented her with $50.00.
Miss Anna M. Rohl was elected librarian on this date and Mrs. Susan T. Dunbar assistant, each with a salary of $20.00 per month.
Early in 1897 the library was again moved, to the south-west corner of Nevada and Huerfano; and before the close of the year moved to the present home. During the summer of 1897 Mrs. Dunbar was granted a four month leave of absence to travel in Europe. In 1899 the salary of Miss Rohl and Mrs. Dunbar was made $30.00 each, a third person was employed for noon hours, and as they were not at the library during the same hours their authority was made equal. Up to about 1895 the Association was almost entirely a charitable institution, but about that time the City Council was persuaded to take and interest and appropriated $500.00 towards its support. This was increased soon after to $1000 then to $1500 till in 1899 $2700 was reached with the understanding that for that year $1200 of this was to be spent for books. In 1899 Miss Rohl was absent because of ill health for seven months. During this time Miss Adela S. Kriest was employed as an apprentice-assistant; her work was very satisfactory and after Miss Rohl's return she continued to hold her position as the work in the library had greatly increased; her salary was from ten to twenty cents an hour for some hours each day for nearly two years.
In 1900 Mrs. Dunbar was chosen librarian at a salary of $50.00 per month and Miss Rohl assistant, at $35.00 per month. At this annual meeting a vacation of two weeks with pay was voted the members of the staff. Till this time no vacation with pay was allowed.
During the summer of 1899 the use of the library was given to the residents of Manitou, Colorado City and Roswell for one year upon the payment of one dollar; this privilege was so much appreciated that it was afterwards extended to all residents of El Paso County. In the summer of 1900 the County Commissioners were approached on the subject of appropriating money to the library in order that traveling libraries might be sent to the larger towns in the county, and packages of books to the scattered ranches. It was felt that in this way the influence of the library would be extended and many more people needing good reading matter reached. The result was that in the spring of 1901, the sum of $500.00 was appropriated and with this money, the chairman of the book committee, Miss E. Brinley, the county superintendent of schools, Mr. E.M. Collins, and the librarian purchased 400 books, had made six boxed cases; and at this writing four are in active use. The other two stand ready to travel as soon as Mr. Collins finds a care-taken for them. At the annual meeting in 1901, this date having been changed from Oct. to Feb. some years ago, the librarian and assistant were re-elected and Miss Kniest elected to regular assistant at the same salary with Miss Rohl.
Since August 1900, monthly meetings of the board have been held which have tended to enlarge the scope of the library work by making the members better acquainted with library needs and workings. A year ago the scheme of purchasing the new books of fiction and charging five cents a week for them (and five cents fine for each day overdue) until paid for was tried and met with such unqualified success that it continues in use and no other money is spent for novels except to replace old stands works that are worn out. In the spring of 1900, Miss Margaret McVety was employed to make a card-catalogue according to the Dewey system of classification and the Cutter members. In conjunction with the library force the catalogue was completed in the following September with the exception of the government documents.
Today the library consists of nearly 7000 volumes; of these about 2000 are fiction, 800 juvenile, 400 reference books including bound magazines, 300 government publications; the remainder in the other classes, the largest of which is history, which includes biography, travels and history proper. The smallest class is philosophy. The library hours are from nine thirty (9-30) to five thirty (5-30) daily except Sundays, and every evening from seven (7) to nine (9) o'clock. On Sundays the rooms are open from three (3) to five (5) afternoons for reading only. Legal holidays the rooms are closed. Each year we have some definite object to accomplish by which the library shall extend its influence; by which our people may become more intimate with good books and form an enduring friendship with them; by which the children shall be helped to grow into cultured men and women, and lovers of books. The work to be done the rest of this year is the establishing of separate childrens' department in a part of the reading room; they are not to be shut off from the other books in the library, for they are encouraged to browse among the books. But so many things of value to childhood and to those children whose homes are in a great measure destitute of books, may and can be taught them in a library, and to such advantage when their room is their "own," that we feel it is worthwhile keeping their books apart. The way seems bright to its accomplishment and there is little doubt that at the next annual meeting the department will be an established fact.
The library does its own repairing but it does not have a bindery; when the books are beyond our skill they are in a hopeless condition. We subscribe for 16 magazines 7 weekly and 5 daily publications. Last year, 1900, nearly 40000 books circulated in the homes of the city and county; this year the records indicate quite an increase. No record has been kept of the daily visitors, but several hundred must be with us each day except on Sundays when not more than thirty or forty, at the most, are here.
Our library home it may be worth while to describe, simply as a contrast to the beautiful building which I have no doubt will be the pride of our city long before the twentieth century closes and perhaps that will have passed to other uses, and the home of the library at the time this letter sees the light of day in one hundred years, may be far beyond all our hopes and ideas of today. But here is the word pictures.
The present home of the Colorado Springs Free Library and Reading Room Association, this association became a body corporate under the state laws in 1894 is on the north side of East Bijou Street, nos. 8 & 10, near the corner of Cascade Avenue. It is two rooms of a one-story brick building, connected by a large opening near the main entrance, making practically one large room partially divided, forty feet-wide and one hundred and eighty feet deep. The west room is the library proper, the east, the reading room. They are lighted by full front widows, south, and half glass doors, and two large windows and two half glass doors on the north; the library has additional light from two west windows near the ceiling. There is no "system of ventilation" except that if doors, transoms and windows. Two large coal stoves, one in center of each room furnish heat. Electricity lights the rooms at night. All the wall space of the library to the height of six feet is lined with shelves, and a double row runs through the center of the room, leaving space only for the stove, the charging desk, the card catalogue stand and a large reading table near the front windows. Another double row extends across the north end of the room partitioning off a work shop for repairing books etc.
In the west alcove, formed by the middle shelves, stands the librarian's desk and the cataloguer's table. On the library walls above the books shelves are engravings of four noted scientists; Darwin, Huxley, Spencer and Tyndall; a woodcut of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; two large photographs of Colorado scenery; two large photographs of sculptured mythological subjects; a head in passe-partout of Ceres; a portrait of Wm. H. Seward, U.S. Secretary of State 1861-69; and a clock.
In the reading room are three long tables, one used for current magazines, and two for filed illustrated papers. Two high tables for Colorado news, papers and various other publications are against the east wall, also a case of shelves where are kept the religious or denominational news papers which are all contributed. On the opposite side of the room is a very handsome black-wood desk and cabinet, recently given to the library which will be used in the childrens' department. On the walls are maps of the state, of the city, county, the United States, and the world. Two oil paintings of Colorado scenery, one chromo of a writer scene, and two water colors of Colorado flowers adorn these walls. Extending two-thirds the length of the east wall are three rows of pictures of noted men and women, thinkers and doers of all nations and in all walks of life. On a table in the opening between the rooms are Webster's unabridged dictionary, Worcester's dictionary and the Century dictionary in ten volumes. A small table beside this holds the city directories of this city and of Denver. The broad window sill in the reading room holds files of newspaper of the west, south and east and government publications of the maps of geological surveys of the W.S. On the window sill of the library are files of current illustrated papers of this county and England and France and Germany. These are all donated by visitors in this city of transients, or by residents from abroad who after reading their old home papers give them to us. In each room is a nondescript collection of chairs which must be reasonably comfortable as they are occupied all the time.
Such is the Colorado Springs Public Library today.
The present board and officers are as follows: Mrs. E.C. Goddard, Mrs. G.E. Noble, Mrs. L.E. Collins, Miss Brinley, Wm. F. Slocum (Pres. of Colorado College), Theophilus Harrison, Dr. J.K. Robinson (Mayor of the City), E.R. Clark, Miss Stockwell, Mr. L.R. Ehrich, Pres., C.W. Haines, Vice Pres., Mrs. C.A. Eldredge, Treas., and F.B. Hill, Secty.
The library staff is Mrs. Susan T. Dunbar, Librarian Miss Anna M. Rohl and Miss Adela L. Kniest assistants.
It is to be hoped that before many years some public spirited citizen will feel inclined to perpetuate his name in a fine library building and some others in endowments. We are hoping always for this, and in the course of one hundred years it will be accomplished. I enclose in my package specimens of the cards and other materials that we use here now; also a copy of Edward Bellamy's book "Looking Backward" with the catalogue cards for it. Two photographs of the library, one exterior and one interior which Mr. Ehrich has promised me. If by chance I do not receive them for my package, they will be found among the one or two hundred enclosed in the "century chest." At the request of Mr. Ehrich our photographs; they were taken some years since, and although we have all grown older since then our library spirit is fresh and strong and strengthens as the years go on.
Miss Kniest is spending six weeks this summer at the library summer school at Chautaqua, New York and is making a specialty of the work done in children's departments for she is to have charge of that work when our plans shall be completed.
And now I must bring this long communication to a close. Be assured that if it is possible for our spirits to be with you in the day when the "century chest" is unsealed we shall be among you to listen to expressions of wonder at their "beginning of things" in the library work at Colorado Springs.
Not doubting but that you will be in the forefront of the profession
I am sincerely your sister in library spirit,
Susan Teel (Schonlu) Dunbar
(Mrs. Simeon James Dunbar).
Librarian of the Colorado Springs Public Library
July 31, 1901
8600 patrons names on our list today
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