Library History


By Myrtle C. Tierney, ed. by Paula S. Smutny

The Harmony Public Library had its roots in the organization of the Woman’s Club in 1916, one of the earliest accomplishments of which was the introduction of a “traveling library” service to the community. This service was continued until general withdrawal by the state in the early sixties.

The first consignment was housed by courtesy of Mr. A. E. Ray in his general store on the “Thundale Corner” now the site of the Harmony State Bank. Mr. Ray also served as librarian with the assistance of other volunteers. There is record of location a few months later (1917) in the “WCTU Rest Room” “in charge of Pernalla Tystad and Emma Thundale.” Emma (Mrs. T. M. Rostvold) identifies the spot as the building which sat on the bakery corner, remembered as an early post office and still earlier doctor’s office.

On January 5, 1920, plans toward a public library matured to the point of its founding under club auspices, with a name, Harmony Public Library, a nucleus of donated books, an initial appropriation of sixty dollars and, as yet, no home. Succeeding years brought a succession of fund raising activities.

Library board members were appointees of Club presidents from the membership. These were made responsible for choice, accessioning and housing of books. One of their numbers was named Librarian, and she served without salary, being responsible for book-buying, processing and mending. School girls and others were paid as assistants to supervise lending three hours each week (on Saturdays) and keep the records of borrowers. It is assumed that Mrs. Julius Johnson was Librarian from the beginning, as records were kept by her from 1925-1937. Her successors were Miss Edna Haugerud, Mrs. Oscar Peterson, Miss Evelyn Taraldson, Mrs. Oscar Peterson, Mrs. Orrie K. Palmer, and Mrs. Lester Trouten.

There were several successive sites of operation, but records are meager and most are not now readily identifiable. There is recollection of a hall over the Torgen Meat Market (recent site of Broadwater Plumbing). About 1924, an agreement between Club and Village Council established the “Perkins Barber Shop” building (109 N. Main) as a combined Rest Room and Library Center, with Mrs. Carrie Applen (mother of Mrs. Walter Jacobson) “in charge.” In 1935 a room in the new municipal building (on E. Center) was allotted and occupied until 1971 when a wing of the new Community Center was especially planned for Library occupancy.

Through those years of Club responsibility, a number of individuals and organizations contributed to funds, books and morale. The Club’s own fund-raising efforts were continuous, and a sister club, the Photozeteans, has been a consistent generous contributor, serving in a helpful capacity termed “Friends of the Library”. Other consistents have been the local Royal Neighbor Lodge with allocated memorial gifts, the American Legion Auxiliary with regular appropriations, Township and Village Community Chests, Firemen, and many individuals have cooperated. An early promoter of the service was Miss

Borghild Dahl, a Harmony High School teacher and member of the Club in the early twenties. Since becoming an author of note she has twice arranged for Club-sponsored local sales of her books, donating the net proceeds to the Club treasury.

As the years passed, the Club dwindled to a few members, and support also dwindled to about $600-$700 a year from the Village, Community Chest, and memorials and gifts. Enthusiasm waned and two members, Mrs. Trouten, who had served as Librarian for fifteen years, and Mrs. C. M. Tierney, who at the age of 85 was a one-woman Library Board, were managing the Library.

The Club disbanded and its Library sponsorship was concluded in the summer of 1968, at which time the Village Council assumed responsibility, appropriated funds and instituted a seven-member administrative board on September 5, 1968; to which the initial appointees were Mrs. Warren Hardy, Mrs. Garland Kotek, Mrs. Andrew Overby, Mrs. Roger Sikkink, Mrs. Michael Smutny, Mrs. Charles Tierney, and Mrs. Roderick Wolsted, who qualified and organized, electing Mrs. Smutny to be chairman, Mrs. Sikkink, vice-chairman, Mrs. Overby, secretary, and Mrs. Tierney, treasurer. Mrs. Trouten was retained as Librarian. The initial library budget undertaken by the Village was $2,000. Library hours at that time were Wednesday, 7-8 p.m., Friday, 7-9 p.m., and Saturday 2-5 p.m.

New services were added to the Library program; the first of these (on June 6, 1969) was the institution of a story hour for children ages 3-8. Mrs. Robert Rosedale was the first “storylady” assisted by other volunteers. Attendance was soon averaging 20-25 children. Mrs. Tilford Scrabeck succeeded her in November, 1970.

Book cart service to the Harmony Hospital/Nursing Home was also instituted in 1969. Gifts of Encyclopedia Britannica and 125 records from RCA served to increase the scope of services offered, and a visit by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ Artmobile, a special celebration of Children’s Book Week, participation in a cooperative library study of 13 southeast Minnesota counties, and formulation of some written library policies made the first “official” year an eventful one.

The year 1969 also began the planning by the Village Council and Library Board for a new Community Center to house the Clerk and Council chambers, public meeting and rest rooms and a new library.

Wayne Smith of W-Smith Architectural and Engineering Services in Winona was asked to prepare plans, and the Council requested a $95,000 bond issue which was approved by the voters an December 2. Outside funds were also sought and on August 29 Mrs. Smutny and Mrs. Trouten appeared before the Trustees of the Kinney-Lindstrom Foundation in Mason City, Iowa, to present a proposal. The Trustees voted a grant of $10,000 “for exclusive library purposes, building or equipment”. A bronze plaque was placed in the Library.

In 1970 the new services begun in the previous year were continued and the Library Board also carefully considered the building plans and proposals for furnishings and equipment. Construction of the building proceeded and the final inspection was held December 29. Interior design and furnishings were provided by Miss Paula Vesely of General Office Products in Minneapolis, with shelving from Remington Rand. The year also brought a dramatic 19.7% increase in total circulation over 1969– 8,971 compared to 7,448.

The first year in the new Library-Community Center began with the moving project on February 21 when the Harmony Lions Club and Troop 74 Boy Scouts, assisted by other volunteers, accomplished the job in less than two hours. By March 21 the building was ready for dedication, and a ceremony and open house featured music and speeches by Mayor Howard Wickett and Mrs. Charles Tierney. Mrs. Tierney and Mrs. Trouten were honored at that time as WCCO Radio “Good Neighbors” for their dedicated service to the Library.

The Librarian’s salary was increased to $1,200/year, and new hours were set as follows: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 3-5 and 7-9 p.m. and Saturday 9-11 a.m. and 2-5 p.m. Circulation increased dramatically, with the longer hours and interest in the new building, to a total of 13,189, a 47.0% increase. The Library received many gifts including the Community Chest surplus of $226.55, $100 from Dr. and Mrs. Sattler, histories of Fillmore County from Orrin Jacobson of Mason City, $749 from the Lions Club for the Librarian’s desk, memorials from Truman Quammen and Mr. and Mrs. Hulcher, and many other gifts of books and funds. Six magazine subscriptions, 1,463 books, and World Book and Childcraft were added and a summer reading program for grades 1-6 was begun. In November the Library was host to a meeting of Librarians and Trustees from the neighboring small libraries to foster cooperation and discuss common problems and ideas.

The existing programs continued into 1972 and the Library was fortunate to have student assistants through the federal government’s NYC program which began in 1971. Subject cards were added to the catalog and collections of jigsaw puzzles, vertical file material, and photographs relating to the history of the village were begun. Gifts of note included a collection of local history photos from Tollef Sanderson, a $351 memorial to Charles Smutny for the purchase of reference books, a cassette tape recorder in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Hanson, $66 in memory of Ethel Wolsted, $75 from Ch. 221 Eastern Star, and 174 books from the Mayo Clinic Libraries.

A large part of the year was taken up with the proposal for library service for all county residents, and subsequent regional library (SELCO) participation. Two proposals were made to the County, Commissioners, but neither was approved.

The year 1973 brought to a head the problem of county-wide participation in the regional system SELCO. The Commissioners’ decision against providing tax supported library service to the rural areas forced the libraries to adopt a non-resident fee, which was set at $6/year for each family. The decision was not a popular one but was necessary to prevent prosecution by the State and to continue growth.

The Library joined the regional system in June, as did several of the other county libraries, and Mrs. Jaime Hanson became the first Harmony representative on the Board of Directors of SELCO.

The year also brought the resignation of longtime Librarian, Minnie Trouten. She was replaced by Mrs. Rodney (Mary Ann) Johnson.

The Library expanded its interest in cultural activities in 1973 by hosting an exhibition of Currier and Ives prints lent by Travelers Insurance Co. through Mr. Browning at the Harmony State Agency. In October the Library cooperated with the school in sponsoring an exhibition of 20th Century paintings and photographs in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ Statewide Artmobile. The Photozetean Club assisted as hostesses.

Other additions in 1973 included new reference books, a gift plaque, magazine holders (purchased with a gift from the Harmony State Bank), and a special book truck for the book return.

The advantages of membership in a regional cooperative library system became apparent in 1973 and 1974 through participation in some of the SELCO programs; these included librarians’ meetings and workshops, advice on reference book selection, extensive weeding of obsolete books, cooperative book purchasing, a film circuit including both 8 and 16 mm, and extension of interlibrary loan service. In 1974 the Library received a $2,100 SELCO grant for purchase of new non-fiction (to replace those weeded).

The Library Board regretfully accepted the resignation as Treasurer of Myrtle Tierney in August of 1973 due to illness. She was recognized at the Minnesota Library Association’s Fall Conference as an outstanding Trustee, as follows:

“For faithfulness of service, understanding of library objectives, foresight and willingness to progress.”

Her death in December saddened all of the Library’s friends.

Other events of 1974 included an exhibit by local artists held for two weeks beginning on July 4. It was decided to make an exhibit of some kind of an annual event. The City Council purchased a copy machine which was installed in the Library; it is available for public as well as city and library use. A microform reader was also placed in the Library by the Minnesota Department of Manpower. Cards listing job opportunities throughout the state are available to all job seekers. The Storyhour was expanded to include some work with crafts.

Special gifts included a foreign currency collection from Tollef Sanderson, $100 from the bank, and an 8mm movie projector from Dr. and Mrs. Sattler. An open house was held in the Spring in honor of Mrs. Trouten’s long and devoted service to the Library. Two turntables were purchased on this occasion for display of new books.

In 1975 the Library sponsored a bus trip to the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre for a matinee performance of “A Little Night Music”. The annual July 4th art show featured early American crafts displayed and demonstrated by local artisans.

The Board members spent much of the year drafting and revising library policies regarding selection and use of library materials and rules to govern personnel.

The beginning of the Bicentennial year brought interest in the local celebration and plans for an exhibit of antique clothes during that event. Funds for the exhibit and the purchase of video-tapes of local Bicentennial events came from a SELCO grant of $125 for such purposes.

A new encyclopedia, Americana was purchased for student and adult use. Several SELCO workshops and meetings were held which proved very helpful. The current fiction collection was enlarged through a $100 gift from the Harmony State Bank.

In the sixty years since the founding of the Woman’s Club the Library in Harmony has grown and prospered. The changes in the functions of libraries have been reflected in the varied services which have been added as the years passed. The theme of the building campaign in 1969-70 was ALIVE-brary — it is hoped that this theme can continue to be realized in the years to come.