Niles District Library celebrates 100th birthday

Published 7:47 am Saturday, November 13, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Happy 100th birthday to the Niles District Library!
The Niles District Library is holding a centennial celebration today which kicks off at noon, with proclamations marking the event delivered by Niles City Mayor Michael McCauslin and Niles Township Supervisor William Myers.
Following the proclamations, Niles District Library adult services librarian Conrad Rader will present a re-enactment of the speech given by J. J. VanRiper, then the president of the library board of trustees, at the opening of Niles Public Library in 1904.
A speech commemorating the centennial will be given by the current president of the library board of trustees, Rolla Baumgartner.
The contents of the time capsule buried in 1904, retrieved from the old library building on Tuesday, will be on display during the event.
Most of the contents of the time capsule did not survive, but two scraps of newspaper and a pencil will be on display.
Although the library celebrates its centennial this year, its history reaches back further than 1904.
In 1881, several ladies in the Niles community formed the "Ladies Library Association." The group formed the first library in Niles.
The library was set up in the upstairs room of a building near the corner of Second and Main streets and was open for two hours each Saturday afternoon.
In 1902, seeing the need for a larger library for the growing community, the ladies wrote a letter to Andrew Carnegie, a wealthy philanthropist famous for providing money to cities for the erection of public libraries, asking for $15,000 for a new library.
Carnegie agreed to donate the money to the city for the library.
In 1903, the city council passed a resolution stating "the public good of this City demands that there should be established and maintained, a public library and reading room for the use and benefit of the inhabitants of the City."
With the city council's blessing and Carnegie's gift, the Niles Public Library was opened in November of 1904, in the building which now houses the Niles Chamber of Commerce.
The library moved to its current location at 620 E. Main St., in 1961 when the collection housed in the library became too large for the nearly 60-year-old building.
That collection tripled in size within ten years of the move, necessitating the expansion of the library in 1974. That same year the library also became the Niles Community Library.
Another expansion came in 1999 and another name change came in May 2002, when the library became the Niles District Library.
Before the celebration begins, the Friends of the Niles District Library will hold its first meeting at 11 a.m. The group currently has a membership of 63 members and will be electing officers at the Saturday meeting.
Those wishing to join the Friends of the Niles District Library are invited to attend the meeting, where they can sign up, said library director Nancy Studebaker.
Refreshments and entertainment will be available throughout the day. David Machavariani, a cellist from Goshen College, will provide musical entertainment throughout the day.
A children's tea will be held at the Riverfront Cafe at 3 p.m. Twenty-five young girls will hold high tea at the cafe, some wearing formal dresses, others wearing 1904 period dresses.
The young girls have attended classes at the library, taught by Darlene Jackson, to learn proper etiquette for the event.
The preparations for the centennial have given Studebaker a unique perspective on the library, being a relative newcomer to her position in the library.