Two bookmarks will be added to the history pages of the David City municipal library system on Thursday, June 30.

This month marks the 20th birthday of the Hruska Memorial Public Library building located at 399 Fifth Street.

It is also the month when library service first began in David City 125 years ago.

To celebrate, the Friends of the Library will host a picnic lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the community room of the library. A free will donation is appreciated for the meal consisting of grilled hot dogs, chips, cookie and water. Cupcakes will be served throughout the day.

Other attractions will include a program by Jeff Quinn the magician in the children’s library between 12:15 p.m. and 1 p.m. Visitors can also see changes that have been made to the children’s library, a baseball display and additional surprises throughout the day.

The history of the David City municipal library system includes having overcome major financial and physical obstacles in order that generations of Butler County citizens could have public access to knowledge.

Like many other pioneer towns, David City sought to provide literary and cultural education opportunities for its citizens soon after the town was founded.

Minutes from the first library board meeting were dated June 22, 1891. The City Council adopted an ordinance then calling for one mil on the dollar to be levied for the purpose of founding a public library.

The library’s first location was in the basement of the old Butler County Courthouse.

Operating conditions for this first library were not easy. In 1907, it was noted that David City had four saloons, but that it had only one small library located in a cramped basement room, which was open just two evenings and one afternoon each week.

After about 25 years in the courthouse, it became imperative for the library to have larger quarters. A push was then made to take advantage of the Carnegie Library grants.

Andrew Carnegie, a 19th century tycoon in the steel industry, was also a philanthropist. He donated more than $43 million during his lifetime to establish free public libraries worldwide. About 2,000 such Carnegie Libraries, as they came to be called, were constructed in the U.S.

In November 1916, the David City Library Board received a $10,000 grant from the Carnegie Library Fund for the construction of a community library building. As per the grant stipulation, city officials then levied a city tax to provide $1,000 a year in library support.

The new Carnegie Library, otherwise called the David City Public Library, was built on a lot along E Street, west of Fourth Street.

The 32-by-60 foot brick building was completed in November 1918. However, its opening was delayed because of a deadly flu epidemic which then gripped the entire country. A formal opening finally took place on June 12, 1919.

Lillian Simpkins served as the first librarian in the new building and continued in that post until her death in 1922. The Carnegie library was comprised of 7,000 volumes when it opened, but no new books were originally added because of a lack of funds then.

The first books in the Carnegie building were mainly histories, religious literature and classics by popular writers of the period. At that time, the library also adopted use of the Dewey Decimal system for finding books.

As years passed, the David City Public Library added additional services. A summer reading program for area children had been established by 1957, while story hours for pre-schoolers were also later added.

By the mid-1980s, besides books and magazines, the library staff was then providing check-outs for music records, toys, cameras and VCR equipment. A children’s library was also added in the basement during this time.

Efforts to help finance and support the goals of the library were aided by the establishment of a David City Library Foundation Board in 1978 and a Friends of the Library organization in 1982. Among many civic and social organizations that have supported the library is the Once Weekly Literary Society, or OWLS Club, organized in 1898.

By 1987, space at the David City Public Library had again become very limited. The building was also not handicapped accessible.

The community’s response to this problem was a $1.2 million community fund raising campaign spearheaded by the Library Foundation to replace the Carnegie building with a new facility on the south side of the David City square.

Groundbreaking for the new library was held in June 1995. It first opened to the public on June 8, 1996, in a building about three times the size of the old facility.

Additional services that could now be provided in the new library included a personal computer room for patrons, private study rooms, exhibit areas for art and private collections, and a heritage room devoted specifically to area history.

The new library was named for former Nebraska U.S. Senator and Butler County native Roman Hruska, and his wife, Victoria, after the couple had made a sizable donation to help complete the facility.

The old Carnegie Library was closed after having served the David City area for 77 years. It was later sold by the city and now serves as a private residence.

Kay Schmid has been library director here for 27 years. The library currently has five part-time employees.

"The biggest accomplishment (in recent years) is that we built a library and that library gets used,” Schmid said.

"We have adapted to the changes in how people access information and reading material by providing a 12 computer technology center, wireless internet throughout the building, and access to a large collection of electronic books,” she added.

"And as we adapt to the new, we continue to embrace the best of the old,” Schmid noted. "Our book, material, and historical collections are still a primary focus, along with providing a variety of educational and entertaining programs for library patron of all ages,” she added.

The success of the David City municipal library system for 100-plus years has been largely due to the continued patronage of library card holders and others who come through its doors.

Long-time patrons of the library include David City residents Mary Ann Hotovy, Vivian Trowbridge and Betty Tarr.

Hotovy, a native of Dwight, said she has been a regular visitor to David City’s library for about 50 years.

“I like books on travel. I like romance stories,” she said. “I also read magazines. I take them down the line (as they appear on the storage shelves),” she added.

“I don’t do computers,” Hotovy said. However, that didn’t stop her from having a tribute to her late grandparents, early pioneers Matt and Anna Hotovy, added to the library’s technology room.

Trowbridge, a David City library patron since 1941, has been part of four generations to regularly visit since she first brought her children to the facility and now brings her great-grandchildren there to visit.

“I like historical novels, books on the president’s lives and magazines on fashion,” Trowbridge said. “I have enjoyed the “Food for Thought” programs once a month. They are very interesting,” she added.

Trowbridge has taken computer education courses through the library in order to learn how to email her family. She added she appreciates the staff’s assistance in finding large print books for her.

Tarr has been a library patron since her family first lived in David City from 1953 to 1957, and again after 1957 when they returned here. Her reading preferences include historical and romance novels.

Tarr and her late husband, longtime Banner-Press editor and publisher Jack Tarr, were supporters of the library system here. Jack served on the Library’s building committee while pushing for construction of the new facility.

“I was at the library for years doing genealogy,” Tarr said. As a result, the couple later donated a microfilm reader, years-worth of newspapers on microfilm and furniture for the library’s Heritage Room.

As the library system here observes its 125th anniversary, Tarr said this should only be the beginning of its usefulness to the community.

“I hope we never get rid of books and newspapers,” Tarr said. “I’ve never used a Kindle, so I can’t compare. I just like to read books. I just think there will always be a need for a library,” she added.

For more historical photos of the city libraries, go visit thebanner-press.com.

Outbrain