The first library in Niobrara County occupied part of the old Masonic Building, which was located where the J. C. Penney Store now stands. The Articles of Incorporation of the "Stillman Public Library of Niobrara County, Wyoming" were drawn up and dated January 8, 1913 with Anna Y. Thorp, Florence W. Goddard and Martin C. Agnew as the first three directors. These directors were instrumental in arousing interest in a public library for Lusk. Among the leaders were Mrs. Albert Rochelle, Mrs. Florence W. Goddard and Mrs. Anna Gray. It is interesting to know that these directors were approved by the Niobrara County Commissioners in the very first recorded proceedings of the Commissioners following the division of Converse County and $400.00 was appropriated for this venture. This first library was named in honor of Lusk's only centenarian, Mrs. Sarah M. Stillman, mother of the late Cornelia M. Lusk who was the mother of the late Frank S. Lusk, co-founder of the town of Lusk.
In the minutes of the January 5, 1914 Directors' meeting, Mrs. Emma North was appointed Librarian and a bill in the amount of $5.00 for her monthly salary was allowed along with a bill for $.25 for gas mantles. But, a month later, Mrs. North received a raise-she was given $10.00 a month.
In June of 1914, an extension move was made into the Magoon Building where the Safeway Store is now located, [now (2002) Gambles / Coast-to-Coast building]. In the minutes of that date, we find that the Board of Directors, now Mrs. Florence Goddard, President; Charles C. Browning, Secretary and John Harkin, Treasurer, were instructed to provide fixtures for the new library room, but a year later the Civic Improvement Club, formerly the Lusk Reading Club, had earned for the library by many money-raising schemes, $500.00, and the appropriation from the County had been raised to $500.00, so the board, now composed of J. L. Hall, Charles C. Browning and Amy E. Christian, approved the ordering of new and up-to-date fixtures.
The library contained 1,346 volumes in May of 1917 and the rules of that time stated that only one book could be borrowed at a time, and in case of infectious disease, a book could be retained over time and destroyed without the incurrence of penalty. Mrs. Louisa Katherine Fowler was librarian at this time.
The third location of the Stillman Library was in the home of Mrs. Fowler, and Niobrara County came near losing the library when the Fowler residence caught fire on a bitter cold morning in January of 1919. All the books and fixtures were removed from the house and very few of them were damaged, but the interior of the house was badly burned.
It was while the library was in its downtown location that the Civic Improvement Club became interested in taking advantage of the Carnegie Corporation Plan and was the sponsor of a subscription drive where by interested people of Niobrara County gave money for the purpose of purchasing a suitable site for the erection of a library building. Mrs. Albert Rochelle, Mrs. Lon Galbraeth and Mrs. Albert Bucher were the members of the Civic Improvement Club's finance committee who successfully conducted the drive. Lot 5 and the south half of Lot 6, Block 18, which lots are on the corner of 5th and Main Streets, were purchased June 29, 1917 from Mrs. Lena Henry at a cost of $550.00.
One day a committee of ladies appeared at the lumber yard of Jesse L. Hall, with a sheaf of correspondence from the Carnegie Corporation, and asked Mr. Hall if he would be willing to conduct the negotiations with the Carnegie people, the object of which was to obtain from them money with which to build a Carnegie Library in Lusk. Mr. Hall said he would be glad to give his best efforts toward it. The matter entailed a great amount of correspondence. A building had to be designed, and the plans and specifications drawn and submitted to the Foundation for approval. They were very exacting concerning many features and much of detail had to conform to their requirements for lighting, heating, shelving, etc., but eventually the check came.
From the County Commissioners proceedings, it is noted that the Carnegie Corporation of New York had agreed to donate a sum for the erection of a free library building as early as June 1914 but it was not until July 3, 1918 that the following resolution was acted upon.
Resolved: Whereas, Carnegie Corporation of New York has agreed to furnish eleven thousand dollars to the County of Niobrara, State of Wyoming, the County seat of said Niobrara County, on condition that said Niobrara County shall pledge itself by resolution of the Board of County Commissioners of said County, to raise and expend not less than twelve hundred fifty-four and fifty-five hundredths dollars a year for the maintenance of a free public library now therefore.
"BE IT RESOLVED, by the board of county commissioners of county of Niobrara, State of Wyoming, that said Niobrara County accept said donation, and it does hereby pledge itself to comply with the requirements of said Carnegie Corporation of New York. An further resolved that it will raise and expend not less than twelve hundred fifty-four and fifty-five hundredths dollars a year for the maintenance of a free Public Library in said building when erected and further."
"Resolved that an annual levy shall hereafter be made upon the taxable property of said Niobrara County, Wyoming sufficient in amount to comply with the above requirements."
(Signed) E. G. Jones, Chairman
Board of County Commissioners
E. M. Arnold and M. C. Agnew were appointed on the building committee to represent the County Commissioners.
Mr. Elmer H. Ranck, a local building contractor, designed the building in 1919. This building does credit to its designer and builder it is a fitting monument to the civic and cultural mindedness of a group of splendid women.
The Carnegie Library had its first initiation as a public meeting place in September of 1919 when the Civic Improvement Club was host to the State Federation of Women's Clubs and all business sessions were held in the library.
When the library was first built, the board voted to rent the basement to certain clubs with a $5.00 rental charge, $1.00 of which was to go to the Civic Improvement Club to help pay for the piano the club had purchased for the library, and since this Club was instrumental in establishing the library, they could use free of charge. As the board members changed, so did the rules and at one time only educational societies such as the Men's Literary Club, the Civic Improvement Club, the Delphian Club and the Holycon Club were allowed the use of the library as a meeting place. Restrictions as to club and the rental charge were reduced as time passed and today (1952) the library may be used by any organization free of a rental charge. There are now on the average of eight meetings a week scheduled in the library basement, so it has become an important community center.
The history of the library would be incomplete if the names of more of the board members were not mentioned. In the early 20's Mrs. Nan Hilsabeck was President for one year, Mrs. H. Wiltse for three months and Mrs. Charles C. Browning for seven years of until 1929 when Mrs. Olive Johnson became President. Mrs. Johnson served as president in this period until 1932 and was back on the board again in 1943 and is our present Board Chairman and is now in her twelfth year on the library board. Nellie Griffith was appointed on the board in March of 1932 and elected President, which position she held until Feb. 13, 1936 when Ford B. Kuns was appointed and held the position of President until January, 1943 when Mrs. Johnson came back on the board.
D. E. Goddard was treasurer of the board from 1919 to 1924 when the County Commissioners began appointing the County Treasurers to the library board, and they were each time elected Treasurer of the board. This started with J. P. Costlow, then W. H. Burkholder, D. A. Shoopman, John Amstice, F. Everette Brooks and Lavonne Pfeifer. George H. Glinther was elected Secretary of the board in 1920 and held this position until 1924. Three County Clerks then served as Secretary. They were E. M. Phillips, Frank Chambers and O.P. Harnagle. Other secretaries have been Gerald Bardo, Ralph Lingwood and Muriel Dalgarno.
Mrs. Fowler held the position of Librarian until July 1935 when she was forced to resign because of poor health and Mrs. Mayme Ord was appointed, which position she held until January 1, 1939 when Mrs. Lillian Peet, our present (1952) Librarian was appointed.
During the years, requests were made to the County Commissioners for levies sufficient to take care of the expanding Library budget. In 1930 a request was made for a levy sufficient to raise the sum of $2000.00 and our present (1952) budget appropriation is $6100.00 with a .256 mill levy.
I am sure that some of the early board members would be pleased to see the advancement the library has made through the years. The lawn was seeded in 1923 with shrubs and trees planted. From time to time needed repairs have been made and at this date (1952) the library room has been redecorated and has ample shelving and equipment to take care of the estimated 7000 volumes now in the library. Mrs. Walter Tyrrel, a professional librarian, is working part time in getting all the books cataloged and is arranging the library holdings according to the Dewey Decimal Classification System. A competent janitor keeps the building clean and the grounds neat. So the Library Corner is a credit to the Lusk community.
May Gillies, Wyoming's State Librarian inspected our library November 27, 1951 and reported that Niobrara's Carnegie Library had a selection of books comparable to any library of its size and a recent check with a general recommended reading list showed that our library had a majority of the titles listed. It is the wish of the present board that the library facilities will become more popular with all residents of Niobrara County.