West Lafayette Branch library celebrates anniversary

| September 27, 2021

Branch manager Andrea Smith organized the anniversary party for the library. (Marianne Austin)

The West Lafayette Branch Library will celebrate its 85th anniversary on Sunday, Oct. 10, but the occasion was marked early with a special event.

Jennifer Austin director of the Coshocton Public Library which includes the West Lafayette branch thanked everyone for coming out on a cold rainy evening to the West Lafayette Branch for a celebration of  85 years of service and recognized members of the library administration and board. Shelley Batchelor, president of the library board read and presented a proclamation to Austin from Senator Jay Hottinger honoring the West Lafayette Branch Library on their anniversary commending them for fostering education, culture and achievement by providing a variety of innovative and beneficial programs and service.

Boy Scout Troop 419 with Scoutmaster Jimmy Miller presented the colors and Keeley Carter from the Ridgewood High School choir sang the National Anthem. The choir sang “Stories of my Life” and performed “Irish Blessing” at the close  of the evening.

Branch manager Andrea Smith organized the event. She has served the community at the library for 34 years. “Let’s take a trip down memory lane,” she said. “The history of the library has been very rich. The library has always been on Main Street. It took the efforts of a committee of local citizens, consisting of Mrs. Russell Berlean, Mrs. Josephine Carr, Mrs. R.L. Rehard and Harold Pence, along with many community service organizations and individual volunteers working together to provide the funds and services needed to supply books and equipment for the library. Shelves and racks were built by the West Lafayette High School Industrial Arts class. The West Lafayette Branch opened Oct. 10, 1936 in a vacant, basement room in the West Lafayette School building on Main Street behind where the Dairy Hut is now.

Mrs. Jerry Newman was the first librarian, followed by Mrs. Elmer Kobel, Mrs. Carl Hawk, Mrs. Harvey Buker, Mrs. Walker Babcock, Nellie Guilliams, Margaret Lowe, Linda Yoder, and presently Andrea Schweitzer Smith. Nellie Guilliams served as branch manager for 42 years, with a total of 64 years of library service.”

In August 1946, when the basement classroom was needed by the school, the library moved to a rented room on the south side of Main Street in the Rehard Building, located at 117 East Main Street. The branch library stayed in that location for 29 years. The branch collection in 1946 included 3,000 volumes.

In October 1975, the library was relocated again to 108 East Main Street. At that time the library collection was increased to more than 7,000 books and the library broadened its materials to include books on cassette and videocassettes. The building provided space for story time sessions, which were and are still quite popular with local children.

Jane Ann Eickleberry shared memories of when she worked at the library. “When we were in the library, Glaziers barbershop was on the left, the library was on the right and when you walked in it was a long building in a bit of an L shape. At the time where Ridgewood General Store is now was Deals clothing, the diner was next and it is still there, next where the parking lot it was a grocery store, the rear building was the library, then a house and an alley and when I was a child I lived on Russell Avenue, so I was about a half a block away. I spent my childhood walking up and down that alley to go to the library. I was thrilled when I got a chance to be a page at the library. Diane Regula was the page before me. We all started in the 1960s and we all started out at 50 cents an hour. I was there through my high school years, graduated in 1973 and went on to Kent and have a degree in Library Science and a Masters in Library Information Science, after being there and working with Nellie, she is the heart and soul of the library.”

In 1975 the library relocated again to 108 East Main Street. Debbie Sheets a longstanding patron, supporter and retired educator shared her memories. “I remember going to the same library as Jane Ann. Being a little kid at that time I can still visualize the books and I read a lot in those days. When I went to college they were getting ready to move the library across the street. When I was in high school that building used to be a pizza shop across the street and that is where we went to hang out and listen to music. When my dad told me they were going to move all the books over to the pizza shop and that was going to be the library, I just could hardly believe it. But this building used to be the gas station and I had to rethink that. It has turned out lovely and I am a big fan of the library.”

The new library was to be housed in the former Apple’s Pennzoil Station at the corner of Main Street and State Route 93. The station was transformed into a pleasant library with a new interior, designed by Pamela Maxfield-Ontko and constructed by Carl Cognion Construction. The library staff, as well as members from the West Lafayette Rotary Club, West Lafayette Lions Club, and West Lafayette Junior Guild joined together to transport thousands of books to their new home. Members of the Junior Guild have assisted with each move. On July 15, 1991 the new West Lafayette Branch Library opened at its current site of 601 East Main Street.

Catherine Miller a Rotary member reflected on the Rotary’s involvement throughout  the years. “When I moved to West Lafayette the library became my second home. My husband was very involved with the Rotary, and this was his pride and joy. He would be very happy to see it used this way. I used to get books on tapes at the library all the time. If I didn’t get them back on time, Nellie wouldn’t fine me, she would say, that’s Ok, just get them back. We’re proud of the fact that the library still has a little bit of Rotary in it.”

In 2005  the West Lafayette Rotary Club built an outdoor reading shelter behind the Branch library as its Centennial project with seating provided by Eagle Scouts.

Andrea thanked the Rotarians for their help throughout the years and the Janusian Club for their outdoor seating in 2009.

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