Niles library at 100: ‘Community met challenge – and then some’

Published 7:51 am Monday, November 15, 2004

By By JAN GRIFFEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES - The gentle sunshine and earth-tone colors of the perfect autumn day seemed a fitting backdrop for Nancy Studebaker as she stood inside the walls of glass in the Niles District Library Saturday and talked about the library's milestone.
Studebaker, who is director of the library, said more than two years ago, when she first walked into the library here, she knew "this was a community that shared my passion for libraries.
The ladies of Niles 100 years ago loved libraries so much they joined together in 1882 to form the Ladies' Library Association. In 1904, those and other Niles ladies from a variety of service organizations here raised $3,500 to purchase the site at Fourth and Main, which would become the library's first home, thanks also to a donation of $15,000 from Andrew Carnegie.
Carnegie gave donations in that era to communities all over the country to develop public libraries.
Dressed in clothing like those Niles ladies would have worn 100 years ago, Studebaker and her staff helped set the tone for the library's 100th birthday celebration.
Niles Mayor Mike McCauslin talked, too, about the importance of the library in our community.
McCauslin, quoting Carnegie, said, "There is not such a cradle of democracy on earth as a public library."
McCauslin read a city resolution proclaiming Saturday, Nov. 13, 2004, as Niles District Library Day.
Perhaps the most poignant part of Saturday's ceremony was the library's Conrad Rader, who re-enacted the speech from 100 years ago given by Niles' J.J. Van Riper, who was the library board's president at the time.
In his speech, Van Riper, in presenting the new library to the citizens of Niles, challenged the city council to "never fail to keep its solemn pledge to Andrew Carnegie, that it shall forever be supported free to all the people of this city, now and for all years to come."
Van Riper's counterpart of today, Rolla Baumgartner, referred to Van Riper's challenge when he said, "wouldn't he be surprised to see the library today? The citizens of the wider Niles communtiy have met your challenge, and then some."