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LIBRARY HISTORY  

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Livingston County
Memorial Library History

by
Earle S. Teegarden Sr

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The Livingston Memorial Liberty owes its beginning to the City Federation of Women's Clubs. The federation was organized March 20, 1920, with Mrs. Harry Minter as president. The City Federation membership was composed of the president and one elected member from the following clubs: The Culture, Domestic Science, Sorosis, the D. A. R., and PEO. The D. A. R. and PEO later withdrew from the organization as it conflicted with the by-laws of their organizations, but they continued their support of the library. The Fact and Fiction Club joined the federation in June, 1929. The Federated Clubs sought to promote some important project which would be beneficial to the entire county. On September 18, 1920, Mrs. John Sheldon made a motion that the organization start a library which would make a significant contribution to Chillicothe and the surrounding community. The federation appointed a library board to have charge of the administration and promotion of the plan.

The name given to the newly formed library was the Livingston County Memorial Library. It was important that a name be selected which would include residents of the entire county, but would also be a memorial to a great many young men who had a part in bringing the First World War to a satisfactory conclusion. It was a time of fervent and aroused patriotism, and the word "memorial" would add great impetus to a concerted effort to raise the $1,000 necessary to make the drive a success and to make the library possible.

A vigorous campaign to raise money for the library was launched during the late summer and early fall of 1920. Many and varied promotion plans were used. An Armistice Day banquet brought in $144. Rummage sales and ice cream and watermelon suppers in both town and country brought in needed funds. A location for a carnival was found and women from the clubs assisted with a rodeo. A donation of $100 from each of the clubs in the county was received and a dance was sponsored by the men and various organizations of the community, including rural schools. Many smaller donations were received from individuals and various organizations of the community, including rural schools. The generosity of the citizens of the county was evidenced by the fact that by November 30, 1920, the required sum had been raised and the library board applied to the state for the $1,000.00.

In the spring of 1921, Mrs. Rueben Barney, who had been elected as head of the organization, appointed a committee to investigate the cost of buying furniture and books, renting a room, and maintaining it. They looked at many buildings and rooms, most of which rented for more than they could pay. They requested the County Court for space (Andy Prager was the presiding judge at the time), but the court had no room that could be made available. Mrs. John Taylor wrote to the Secretary of Treasury of the United States regarding space in the Federal Building at the corner of Clay and Locust, but the Secretary replied that it was contrary to government regulations to let them have a room. When every conceivable location had been explored, the group finally rented the two south rooms in the Minnie Brown Watkins house which stood at the northwest corner of Calhoun and Washington where Travel Tyme is now located. They paid $25.00 month rent, which included heat and water. The house faced Washington Street when it was first used as a library, but was later moved west and turned so that it faced Calhoun Street.

At a meeting on April, 30, 1921, Miss Ann Broaddus was hired as librarian. A number of books were bought, but over 600 books were donated at the beginning. XIX Club donated their entire library of 300 volumes. Members of the various clubs volunteered their services and the two rooms were painted and papered. Shelves were secured and arranged. Books which were donated to the library were either delivered by the donors or picked up in cars by the volunteers.
The classification of the books in the library proved to be a difficult task for the inexperienced, though interested, beginners. The extension board at Columbia furnished a list of books needed for a nucleus, and also provided much valuable information regarding classification. The library board was made up of the following women: Mrs. Rueben Barney, President; Mrs. C. E. Walton, Secretary; Miss Kitty Leaver, Treasurer; Mrs. J. A. Dailey, Mrs. Harry Minter, Mrs. F. C. Fay, and Mrs. John Taylor. The county outside Chillicothe was represented by Mrs. Raymond Russell, Mrs. L. F. Bonderer, Mrs. R. H. Hall, and Mrs. W. B. Popham.

The library was opened in August of 1921, with its formal opening October 12, 1921. It is possible that there were at least 2000 books on the shelves by the formal opening date, all of them donated, except a few key books which were purchased. By January and February 1922, they were circulating an average of 100 books a day and the need and demand for a library had been well established. A Book Week fund drive in 1922 brought in $684, and the board decided that they should sponsor a similar week every year.

In addition to Book Week, many organizations and clubs continued to raise money for the library. The Sturges Community Club, with Mrs. Russell as its president, launched the library fund raising drive by serving a banquet for the American Legion on Armistice Day, November 11, 1920, which netted about $140 for the library. The teachers in Chillicothe put on a play that cleared $300. A minstrel show sponsored by the businessmen netted $400. Other groups had ice cream suppers, benefit picture shows, a carnival, and many other means were used to secure money. The continuous drive for money during the years of 1922, 1923, and 1924 was partly due to the fact that the money to be provided by the state legislature was not paid until 1924. Thus the women's clubs of Chillicothe, through their efforts, kept the new library open.

In September, 1923, with the permission of the county court, the library was moved to the new location in the northeast corner room of the first floor of the Livingston County Court House. The library remained at this location in the court house until September, 1936, when the house at 813 Calhoun was purchased and the library moved to that address. On February 1, 1924, the application for incorporation was filed by the president, secretary, and treasurer of the library board, which made it legally possible for the board to buy or sell real estate holdings for the library. Included in this incorporation was the provision that should the board acquire property and sell it, the money was to be invested in real estate in Chillicothe, and any income was to be used for the upkeep of the library.

Shortly after the incorporation of the library, the opportunity to purchase a site for a future location presented itself. The lot available was the west half of lots six and seven of block fourteen of the original survey at the northeast corner of Washington and Calhoun Street. The land, which was occupied at the time by a large sign board, was purchased in May, 1924, from Virgil O. Green for $6000. The library board believed that a suitable building would eventually be built on this location. It was an ideal spot, just across from city hall and on the highway going through the business district of Chillicothe. There was a small rental income from the lot.

On November 26, 1929, the lot was rented to the Conoco Oil Company for $75 a month, with a five year lease, and the option of buying it at the end of the period for $12,000. It had been the desire of the board to erect a library building on the site, but the county was in the throes of a severe economic depression. After a period of over five years there seemed to be very little possibility of keeping the library open. Meeting expenses depended entirely on contributions from clubs, and some support from private individuals, plus a small income from rental of the lot. It was felt that the $75 per month rent from Conoco Oil Company would solve some of their economic difficulties.

The difficulty of securing adequate funds to support the library was constantly present, and the Library Association Board , composed of shrewd business women, believed that a tax-supported library would be the answer to their financial problems. Accordingly, on the seventh day of February, 1929, a petition to establish a district to be known as the Livingston County Library District and to vote a tax in the amount of one mill on the dollar was submitted to the county court, The petition was signed by more than one hundred qualified voters. Fifty or more of the petitioners were not residents of incorporated cities or villages in the county. The county court called an election to be held on April 2, 1929, and both propositions were defeated by a small margin. The vote on the levy was 1082 for and 1086 against.
Although the country was in serious financial condition, the leaders in the movement for a tax-supported library felt that since the vote was so close in April, 1929, another vote on the proposition would be justified. On March 6, 1930, another petition was presented to the county court which contained the names of over one hundred qualified voters. With such a petition, the court was authorized to call another election, and April 1, 1930, the date of the annual school election was set. The vote again a disappointment to the library movement. The vote for the forming of the district was 1135 for and 1163 against, and the vote on the half mill on the dollar tax was defeated by a vote of 1105 for and 1167 against. After the defeat, no action was taken to vote on a tax supported library until April, 1947.

In 1935, the five year lease to the oil company expired and the company exercised their option to buy the lot for $12,000. Then came the problem of reinvesting the money with some assurance of income. The incorporation agreement specified that the money was to be used to buy real estate in Chillicothe and the income from such property was to be used for the upkeep of the library. Shortly after the sale of the lot at the corner of Washington and Calhoun Streets, an opportunity came to buy a valuable downtown building on the southwest corner of Washington and Jackson Streets. Owned by the trustees of a closed bank, and offered for a reasonable sum, this building had considerable potential as a rental property. The building seemed to be an excellent selection and was purchased by the board. The purchase of the building was completed on June 7, 1935, for the amount of $9,000. The building was occupied at the time by the Stewart Abstract Company, and they continued to occupy the building until 1945. The library board did not have adequate funds to remodel the newly acquired building on the southwest corner of the square but the rental from the building was a source of revenue which was needed in maintaining the library.

In September, 1936, the library moved from the court house to a house the board had purchased at 813 Calhoun Street (see photo). The building had formerly been a private residence and was only one half block west from the site originally used by the library in 1921. It was reconditioned throughout and the interior was arranged so that it was suitable to accommodate the library. The Federated Clubs were again very generous with their efforts and assisted with payment for new floor, lights, redecoration, and equipment. The second floor was arranged for an apartment and was occupied by the librarian.

The new location for the library promoted growth, so that by 1937 there were 8,624 books on the shelves and 52 periodicals were taken. A total of 18,500 books were loaned during the year. The librarian, Mrs. F. A. Davis, and her assistant, Miss Alta Barrett, had gathered a very unusual clipping file through the years. This collection was of special use to high school students and club women. A small rental shelf of the latest books was in use and the money received from the rentals and from fines was used to purchase new books.

The library board at this period was made up of the president of the City Federated Clubs, the president and one selected member from each of the five federated clubs in Chillicothe. Mrs. Rueben Barney, President Emeritus, served as president for ten years, giving much time and effort to the success of the undertaking. Her efficient successor was Mrs. Raymond Russell, who served many years.

The library remained at 813 Calhoun for over a decade. During these years the country was recovering from an economic depression and the Second World War had been brought to a successful conclusion with the surrender of Japan in August of 1945. The decade was a period of marking time from a standpoint of growth, but the library had established itself as an important institution in the county and had proven its worth and need to the community and its supporters.

The plan of a tax-supported library had been voted in many counties in Missouri by 1947. It was on February 24, 1947, that the extension clubs presented a petition with names of 205 legal residents of Livingston County to the county court asking that an election be held to form a Livingston County Library District and to vote one mill on the dollar to support the library.

The election was held on the date of the annual school election on April 1, 1947. The vote to form the district was 1494 for and 1168 against, and the tax carried with 1488 for and 1174 against. On June 23, 1947, the county court appointed the following women to be members of the Livingston County Board:

  • Mrs. R. D. Russell for a term of 1 year
  • Mrs. I. W. Waffle for a term of 1 years
  • Mrs. J. M. Horn for a term of 3 years
  • Mrs. H. M. Grace for a term of 4 years

The appointments became effective as of June 23, 1947.

The favorable tax vote and the formation of a library district brought an entirely new approach to the library in Livingston County. It was no longer necessary to depend on gifts, contributions, and the rental from a building to maintain a library. Now there was money for expansion which required a larger building, new books, and a trained library staff. The Library Association had agreed that if the tax carried they would give the use of a building at the corner of Washington and Jackson Streets to the county for the library. They would sell the brick house at 813 Calhoun Street, which the library had occupied since 1936, and give the proceeds to remodel the bank building for library purposes. They also agreed to give their collection of books to start the tax supported library. The library continued in Washington and Jackson Street location, with rent free from the association, until May 16, 1966. It was then moved to the corner of Clay and Locust Streets into the building purchased from the Federal Government.

From April, 1947, when the tax supported library was voted, until April, 1949, when the building at Jackson and Washington was occupied, a great deal of progress was made in a very short period of time. The Board of Trustees, under Mrs. Raymond Russell's capable leadership, secured the assistance of Missouri's State Librarian, Miss Katherine Mier. Miss Mier gave freely of her time and of the time of other capable on her staff.

Mrs. Kathryn Devereaux, a trained librarian, was selected. A staff of four employees was trained, a bookmobile bought, and the building renovated to adequately meet the needs of the library. The books were catalogued and processed, and the countywide service was in full operation by April 1, 1949. On Saturday, April 2, 1949, the new library was formally opened with about 200 persons present. Mrs. Harold Ballew, former president of Livingston County Extension Clubs, served as Mistress of Ceremony. The history of the library was given by Mrs. Raymond Russell, President of the County Library Board, and also in her capacity as president of the board. The new bookmobile was parked at the library and was visited by many interested persons.

Mrs. Devereaux received her degree from Northwestern University at Evanston, Illinois, and completed her library work at the University of Illinois. She came to Missouri in 1936, and was employed in the Kansas City Library in the order department from 1936 to 1944. In 1944, she moved to Jefferson City, Missouri as head of the Legislative Library. It was from this position that she came to Chillicothe on July 18, 1948. She had 18 years of library experience and she was the guiding hand in getting the new library organized. She continued to be head librarian until August 18, 1952, when she moved to Moline, Illinois, as head librarian for the Moline City Library.

After the resignation of Mrs. Devereaux, the Library Board was fortunate in securing Mrs. John (Frances) Elliott to serve as head librarian. She assumed the duties on September 1, 1952. Mrs. Elliott was well qualified to direct the activities of the library. She received her B A degree from the University of Tennessee, an M A degree, a L. B. S. in Library Science from George Peabody College, Nashville, Tennessee, and had done graduate work at Columbia University. She taught in both elementary and high school, an experience which was very useful in making book selections for young people. Her administration experience in county work included five years as librarian of Giles County Public Library at Paluski, Tennessee. From 1948 to 1949, she organized the first regional library to begin operation in Missouri. This was the Ozark Regional Library, composed of four counties. This Regional Library, with headquarters at Ivonton, Missouri, was the first Multi-County Library in the state. It initiated new types of organization for the counties where it was impossible, because of finances, to promote a single county library,. Mrs. Elliott came to Chillicothe from Platte City, Missouri, where she was head librarian of the Platte County Library. She met death on January 17, 1958, when she was asphyxiated while starting her car in her garage.

After the death of Mrs. Elliott, Mrs. Richard (Elizabeth) Coffman was selected as acting librarian and assumed responsibility for the library. She had been employed by the library since 1953, when she first served as secretary to Mrs. Frances Elliott. In 1964, she was appointed head librarian after she had received a Master of Library Science from the University of Illinois. Mrs. Coffman was a native of Livingston County and received her B. S. degree from Northwest Missouri State College in 1953. She was a teacher in the public schools in Livingston County before entering the field of library work.

In 1964, it became known that the Post Office Department was intending to build a new facility and that the Federal Building at Locust and Clay, which housed the Post Office, would be declared surplus property and would be sold.
George W. Somerville, an outstanding civic leader in Chillicothe, was instrumental in getting the Library Board and the general public interested in securing the old Federal Building. It required considerable organization and planning to obtain the building for the library . Mr. Somerville offered to pay the one dollar ($1) which the federal government required as the purchase price of the building. Several meetings were held between the Library Board and the agents for the federal government to work out the details of the transaction during the latter part of 1964 and the first part of 1965. On March 24, 1965, the deed of ownership of the Chillicothe Post Office Building and some of the furnishings was formally turned over to the Board of Trustees of Livingston County Memorial Library.

The structure was granted to the people of Livingston County for educational purposes. Here to make the presentation were E. Lyle Knight, Kansas City Regional Representative of the Surplus Property Utilization Division of the U. S. Department of Health and Welfare, and Herman Huffman, Director of the State Agency for Surplus Property, Jefferson City.

The trustees immediately began to make plans for occupancy of the building. The building occupied by the library at the corner of Jackson and Washington Streets was sold in June, 1965, to the Chillicothe Federal Savings and Loan Association for $32,500.

On January 24, 1966, the contracts for remodeling the Post Office Building for the new location of the Livingston County Memorial Library were signed by Mrs. Raymond Russell, representing the Library Board, Raymond the general contractor, and Bob Wildman, who contracted for the heating and air conditioning.

Between January, 1966 and May, 1966 the contractors were busy with the remodeling of the building and had made sufficient progress so that by the sixteenth of May, it was possible to move some materials into the new library. Several service organizations, the Boy Scouts, and many individuals donated much time and effort to the moving. By June 1, 1966, the new library was opened for limited use. Much detail and finishing work was done after that date, but the library continued to function despite the inconvenience and restrictions made by the contractors.

Sunday, November 13, 1966, was Dedication Day with a ceremony held at 2 P.M. More than 1,000 people visited the new library. Included in the ceremony was the dedication of the Moore Memorial Room and the George W. Somerville Historical Room.

Speakers for the occasion were Mrs. Richard Coffman, Livingston County Librarian; Richard O'Halloran, State Librarian; Paul Shy of Kansas City, who dedicated the Moore Room; Presiding Judge Frank E. Bonderer, who spoke for the county; and Judge R. B. Taylor, who dedicated the Somerville Room.

When the library building was accepted from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1966, it was in the agreement that the library would probably occupy the entire building in a few years. Until that time the board was allowed to lease available space that they were not using to offices occupied by federal, state, or county government. The second floor of the building was used by the local office of Internal Revenue, the Social Security, and the Selective Service. The third floor was used by the Livingston County Office of the University of Missouri Extension Center. The Library Board was not allowed to lease any space for more than the pro rata share of their utilities and janitorial services, so that the board could not make a profit from the rentals.

After the budget of the library was drawn up for 1967, it became apparent that the mill tax was not sufficient to meet the needs of the library in the new location with the cost of additional staff and extra maintenance costs. Accordingly, on February 13, 1967, Mrs. Jean Miquelon, a member of the Library Board, presented a petition, signed by 571 qualified voters, to the county court. It was a request to submit a proposition to the voters to raise the tax one mill, in addition to the one mill already voted. This proposition, voted on April 5, 1967, was passed with 517 for the additional tax and 440 against it.

A history of the Livingston County Memorial Library would not be complete without including the important contributions made by Mrs. Raymond Russell who was a member of the Library Board of Trustees for 48 years and for 38 years of that time as president. Mrs., Russell was a member of the Sturges Community Club. She was president of that club in 1920, when the City Federation appointed a library board whose membership was composed of one woman selected from each precinct in the county, and the president and one elected member of each of the four study clubs. As Mrs. Russell was prominent in the Sturges precinct, she was selected to the library board and thus was one of the charter members. From that time until her retirement in 1968, she continued to act as a trustee. both for the library association and as a member of the county library after it became tax supported in 1947. Mrs. Russell retired from the library as of July 1, 1968, and in August, 1968 the board conferred on her the title of President Emeritus for her 48 years of service on the board.

On October 23, 1969, Mrs. Elizabeth Coffman resigned as librarian of the Livingston County Memorial Library, effective as of November 12, 1969, to take a position with the State Library of Wyoming at Cheyenne. Mrs. John (Ruth) Harris served as acting librarian from November 12, 1969, the time of Mrs., Coffman's resignation, until March 3, 1970, when the new librarian assumed her duties. Mrs. Harris had also served as acting librarian from September, 1963, until September, 1964, during which time Mrs. Coffman attended the University of Illinois to qualify her as head librarian of the Livingston County Memorial Library.

On January 13, 1970, the library board announced the selection of Miss Lillian DesMarias as head librarian. She was serving as Administrative Librarian of the Northeast Library Service, a regional library based at Kahoka, Missouri, when she assumed her duties as librarian of the Livingston County Memorial Library, on March 13, 1970. Miss DesMarias received the degree of Bachelor of Science in Commerce from the University of Iowa, at Iowa City, and Master of Arts in Library Science from the University of Denver, at Denver, Colorado.

Miss DesMarias served the Livingston County Library from 1970 to 1980. During this time, she demonstrated a great deal of foresight. Under her direction, a separate department for children was added, and a librarian hired for that department. An elevator was installed in 1976, the foyer was remodeled, and a covered ramp and entrance were added in 1978. Lowell Smithson provided funds for the establishment of the Ruddy-Smithson room in honor of his mother, Lena Smithson. This enabled the room to be furnished and books purchased that were devoted to the subject of women's studies. Members of the A. A. U. W. provided the labor to decorate the room.

From 1973 to 1976, Anitra Steele served as the first Children's Librarian. Upon her resignation in 1976, Janet Hartline was hired in 1977, and she served in that capacity until the retirement of Lillian DesMarias in 1980. She then became Head Librarian, and remained in that position until 1983.

In 1983, Karen Hicklin was given the position of Library Director. She was well prepared for the position, having a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Library Science from the University of Missouri. Miss Hicklin made many improvements in the library. The circulation has steadily risen, partially due to the addition of video tapes and audio cassettes. The passage of a twenty-seven cent library levy provided much needed funding for books and improvement, and new books have continually been purchased. In August of 1994, the Livingston County Library became fully automated, and this made the operation of the library much more efficient. An atmosphere of welcome always prevails.

In June of 1980. Judith Shoot was hired to replace Janet Hartline as Children's Librarian. She attended William Jewell College, in Liberty, Missouri, and Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri. She holds the degree of Bachelor of Science in Education, with emphasis in Speech Pathology and Audiology. She has additional education in library science. During her tenure as Children's Librarian, a very ambitious summer reading program has been developed. This program has a two-fold purpose. First, is to get the children into the library and accustomed to it. Second, to have the children read for fun. This has been a very successful program. Mrs. Shoot also places emphasis on programming for upper level elementary students, and promotes the visits of classroom to the Children's Library.
In August 2005, Robin Westphal came to the Livingston County Library from Olathe, Kansas. She attended Kansas State University and has a Master of Library Science degree from Emporia State University. Robin has done many programs throughout the community highlighting the value of the Library to all of the citizens of Livingston County. Programming for teens has increased and plans are being made to renovate the Library.

Partial List of Former Board Members
Judy Baker, Lena Bowen, Pat Cooke, James Eden, Ben Wood Jones, Anne Koziell, Orlo Shroyer, Kay Somerville, Grace Stone, Bruce Brodmerkle, Rebecca Franke, Pat Henry, Marion Harter, Barbara French and Scott Huddleston
(This history of the Livingston County Library history was written in the early 1970's by Earle S. Teegarden Sr. It was updated by Pat Nichols (library volunteer), during the seventy-fifth anniversary of the library in August, 1996 and updated by Library staff in 2007). 





  Livingston County Library I 450 Locust Street, Chillicothe, MO 64601 I Phone: 660.646.0547 I Fax: 660.646.5504 I Children's Services: 660.646.0563 I email


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