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Mansfield Public Library 1901-2001
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Article: Mansfield Public Library 1901-2001
Township: Richmond, Tioga County PA-
Mansfield Borough
Article from Chester P. Bailey
Photographer -  Bates
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100 YEARS 1901 – 2001

Submitted by Chester P. Bailey

In 1901 a small group of Mansfield Citizens became interested in establishing a public library and the present library is the out growth of their efforts. They met with the School Board in June 1901.

The Mansfield Board of Education met for its organizational meeting on June 3, 1901. Elected officers and members were as follows: H. B. Taylor, President; Edward Doane, Secretary; R. W. Rose, Treasurer and members were U. S. Snover, E. G. Elliott, S. E. Coles.

It was this School Board, that after discussion with the following citizens, W. W. Allen, F. B. Van Kuren, E. A. Retan, Leon Channell, H. J. Van Norman, Prof. William Crockett, took action to start the library movement.

In accordance with an Act of 1885 of the General Assembly, the Board of Education of Mansfield Boro passed the following resolution: "That upon the raising of Four Hundred Dollars, ($400) by the Citizens, the Board would appropriate the sum of Two Hundred Dollars, ($200) and elect Nine Trustees, for the establishing and maintaining a Public Library.

A small notebook was made available at this very first meeting and those wishing to sign were given the opportunity. The first to sign and make a pledge were two teachers from the Normal Model School, Mrs. Jenks and Mrs. Boyce both pledged $25.00. Mr. Edward H. Ross, $25 and D. J. Butts, $25.00. Others followed making pledges of $10.00, including Edward Doane, W. W. Allen, F. B. Van Kuren, Leon Channell, J. S. Elliott, Joseph S. Hoard, W. R. Longstreet, H. J. Van Norman, R. S. Rose, and others.

The drive for subscribers continued throughout the entire school year. The pledges dropped from $10.00 to $5.00 and closed out with $1.00 donations. The committee worked hard and long to arouse interest and raise the necessary money. Both the students of the Borough School and those in the Normal Model School did fund raisers.

In the October 16, 1901 Mansfield Advertiser appeared the following personal item. "With the return of cool weather there is a revival of interest in the Free Public Library for Mansfield. The need of such an institution has been long felt and we believe that any intelligent, well-directed move to that end would meet with an immediate and hearty response from the people of the town. To accomplish the maximum amount of good it should be free. Let the matter be talked over, discussed in all of its bearings, and then let us get at it in earnest and establish such a library as shall be a credit to the village. We know of two book clubs that annually send about $40.00 out of town for book rent. This should not be. It should remain at home to help build up a good library of our own." (The term free did not seem to be an issue for it was adopted in later references.)

By the end of the school year, the receipts for the year ending June 1, 1902, were listed as follows:

Subscriptions $495.85
School Board $200.00
Sleigh Ride $ 1.30
Fines $ 8.39
Boro School Entertainment $ 27.57
Normal Model School $ 75.00
Total $808.11

Having met the requirements of the School Board in December 1901 the first books were purchased from a second hand Book Store in Philadelphia, by Prof. Crockett of the Normal School. Besides these books many very valuable books were donated by loyal friends.

The 1902 School Board members were F. C, Wood, F. A. Clark, H. B. Taylor, U. S. Snover, F. G. Elliott, and J. F. Howe. The first Trustees appointed by the board were Mr. Van Kuren, editor of the Mansfield Advertiser, Lawyer Leon A. Channell, Prof. H. J. Van Norman, J. A. Elliott and W. W. Allen. Mr. Allen was elected treasurer.

Plans were under way to open the library in the former Law Office building of the late Henry Allen on North Main Street. In recent years it was Garside’s Hobby Shop and taken down to make room for the Forest Furniture Store.

During the month of January 1902, the committee, trustees and friends built shelves, purchased equipment and worked long hours to prepare the books for use. 2000 to 3000 books were listed and classified in one month.

Stella Mae Allen (Mrs. Fred Ely) was asked to be the Librarian. She admitted that her love for books was her only qualification. She became the first Librarian and with the help from Mrs. Clayton Palmer, a graduate librarian and wife of a member of the Normal School faculty, got the new venture off to a good start.

Prof. William Day Crockett of the Normal School rendered valuable service in the selection and purchase of books.

On opening day, February 7, 1902, 150 books were borrowed. Miss Allen was librarian for over two years. When she asked for help Miss Mattie Bodine (Mrs. John Keeler) was elected Associate. After a few months both resigned and Mrs. Reed Hoard was chosen to succeed them. She resigned when she moved from Mansfield. In February 1905, Miss Mary Shepard was elected Librarian and served faithfully until 1923.

After six years in the N. Main Street building it became necessary to look for larger quarters.

The Mansfield Advertiser announced on January 22, 1908, that the

PUBLIC LIBRARY TO HAVE A NEW HOME – in a two column spread.

At the annual meeting of the trustees of the Mansfield Free Public Library, held on Tuesday evening, January 14, 1908, the old officers were re-elected. They are: President J. A. Elliott; Secretary, Leon S. Channell; Treasurer W. W. Allen.

The question of a new home for the Library, which has outgrown its present quarters, was fully discussed. That additional room is needed has for some time been a matter into which doubt does not enter. The large room directly in the rear of the offices of President Elliott and Secretary Channell, on the second floor of the Allen block, being available at a rental not in excess of that now paid, the proper committee was instructed to investigate and given power to act. That committee decided to make the change, and the new library has already been freshly papered and painted. The books, desks, shelving, etc., will be moved Monday next, and by Wednesday everything will be in readiness for business in the new location.

The new library is excellently lighted; and heated by reason of arrangements made with Strait and Retan, is secured at nominal cost.

At the meeting, the matter of a library catalogue was considered, and it was ultimately laid on the table for future consideration – at a time when the available funds shall be at higher ebb.

It was voted to provide the library with a new and up-to-date encyclopedia.

January 14, the Public Library received a new lot of magazines from the binder, including recent numbers of Harper’s and the Outlook.

On February 5, 1908, Librarian Mary Shepard in her WEEKLY NOTES from the Library noted:

The library is fully established in its new home and everybody is emphatic in acknowledging the benefit of the change. To a few persons the climbing of the stairs seems an obstacle to the use of the books; but, the stairs are easy to use with a handrail on either side, and at the top is a bright, cozy spacious room to rest in. Try them once, and you will find the change not as bad as you feared. Anyway, the change was a matter of necessity – the library had outgrown the old rooms, and the present place was the only one available.

The library opened its new quarters with 2,850 books on the shelves, besides from twenty-five to thirty current numbers of magazines, which were loaned the same as books. The library hours were given as open from 2 till 5 and 7 to 9 p.m. every Wednesday and Saturday. Patrons were asked to come early and leave promptly at 5 and 9 o’clock.

The Mansfield Free Public Library remained at the Allen block, at the corner of N. Main and E. Wellsboro Streets until 1911. The need for larger and better facilities were felt by 1910.

Again an active group including, H. J. Van Norman and J. A. Elliott members of the first trustees appointed in 1901 were ready to help. Mr. Elliott served as building committee chairman from 1910 to 1912. An appeal was made to Andrew Carnegie for a gift to erect a library building. The Boro had to agree to maintain a free library at a cost of $500 a year, and furnish a prepared site.

Mr. Carnegie said, "I do not think that the Community which is not willing to maintain a library had better process it. It is only the feeling that the library belongs to every citizen, richest and poorest alike, that gives it a soul, as it were. The library buildings that I am giving are the property of all the members of the community which maintain them." Mr. Carnegie’s approval of all proposed plans had to be secured and a voluminous correspondence took place. The citizens again responded, $1022.75 was raised for the purpose of purchasing and making the lot ready. The Carnegie grant of $5000 was received on April 5, 1911. 

On October 24, 1911, a cold Tuesday, but a crowd estimated at 750 persons gathered at the library site to witness the laying of the corner stone on the new library building, and all remained until the benediction was announced.

The following organizations and representatives of institutions and Fraternal Orders were invited to the Dedication program. All had played a part in establishing and filling the needs of the growing library.

Burgess and Boro Council of Mansfield, Board of Education of the Boro School, President of the Board of Trustees of the State Normal School, Clergy-Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, St. James Episcopal, Universalists. Officers Smythe Park Association, Master of Friendship Lodge No 247 Free and Accepted Masons, Noble Grand Mansfield Lodge No 526 Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Sachem Micco Hatke Tribe Improved Order of Red Men. Commander of Mansfield General Post No. 48 Grand Army of the Republic. President Ladies Literary Club, President Women’s Temperance Union, President Women’s Christian League Alliance, Noble Grand of the Lodge of Rebecca’s, President of the Women’s Relief Corps – G.A.R., Librarian of the Mansfield Normal School, Librarian Mansfield Free Public Library.

The program presented was as follows: The Mansfield Band played selections. Prayer was given by Rev. H. M. Hunsicker of the Baptist Church. The Model School sang. An address was given by Dr. Thomas Smith, President the State Normal School. He was introduced by Mr. J. A. Elliott, President of the Library Association. Dr. Smith whose address immediately riveted attention and held it to the finish. In part, the Doctor said:

"The occasion which brings us together today is one that is fraught with greater import than people in general will realize. To the superficial observer we are merely laying the corner-stone of a building constructed from brick and mortar; to the individual who gazes deep into the heart of things, today’s act will stand forth as a vital contribution to an improved neighborhood condition."

A Repository Box was placed in the corner stone by the trustees – Charles W. Early, President Mansfield School Board, Dr. L. C. Wood, Secretary, John P. Bates, Treasurer.

Items were placed into the box by Rev. R. W. Stanley, Methodist Church a ‘Bible’, J. A. Elliott a ‘Flag’, and information from organizations – I. H. Green, Veterans, H. B. Taylor – IOOF, W. W. Allen – F&AM, H. J. Van Norman, Librarian, Joe N. Geer, Boro Secretary – lists of Boro officers, Board of Health, the date of Incorporation of the Boro and a copy of the Mansfield Advertiser the Borough’s weekly history. Others placed copies of the Normal quarterlies the premium list of the 33 annual Mansfield Fair; an autobiography of the Rev. B. Bunning, Mansfield’s oldest resident; club year books; roster of General Mansfield Post, G.A.R. The cap was put on the stone followed by "America" sung by the students of the High and Model Schools, and the benediction was pronounced by the Rev. M. H. Ake rector of the St. James Episcopal Church.

The interest in the Mansfield Free Public Library on the part of the people of Mansfield drew praise from President Elliott in his opening remarks at the Laying of the corner-stone. He said in part:

With the opening of Library building about February 1, 1911, our tenth anniversary, the gift of $5,000 from Mr. Carnegie, the additional costs of the building $806; site and grading $1,000 and add a fair valuation of our present equipment, will all represent a plant costing $10,000 one half has been contributed by our citizens. There were 750 or more in attendance.

The new library was received with added enthusiasm. Mary Shepard continued as Librarian until 1923. Prof. H. J. Van Norman was elected and served until 1927, when his son Karl Van Norman took over.

It was during the 1930’s with increased cost that the financial difficulties again surfaced. Mrs. Eva Coles was Board President. It became necessary to close the library for two months. Rather than see the library closed, Mr. Van Norman gave volunteer service during this time and kept the doors open. He served until 1955 when failing health caused him to resign. Miss Helen Wood who had been his assistant was appointed Librarian.

Mrs. Coles turned to the Normal School for help and Dr. Straughn offered to see if the Normal School Trustees would accept the building as an addition to the schools library. She decided to ask the Borough Council and citizens to help by considering a borough tax. It was put on the ballot in 1938, and a one-mill tax was approved. Mrs. Coles served from 1930 to 1938.

The library has continued to serve the people of the community since then. Many changes have taken place as additional funds have become available. Among them was a bequest from Mr. Leon Channell who died in California. He was one of the first trustees appointed in 1901 by the Mansfield Boro School Board. Also funds from the Horace Packer Fund in Wellsboro were received. Memorial gifts of books and new glass door and hand rail on the steps.

Old books were on display during the Mansfield Centennial, July 4 – 7, 1957, at the Mansfield Public Library. Mrs. Howard Davis was in charge. All books were 100 years old or older. Many books were from citizens loaned for the display.

The citizens of the Mansfield area have continued to support and maintain the library on numerous occasions of special fund drives for the improvements in the library for such purposes as the Children’s Room and Pennsylvania section.

In 1964 the Mansfield Advertiser donated a cabinet to hold the files of the Mansfield Advertiser. The oldest of the Advertisers were put on film and may be viewed at the Mansfield University Library. This was arranged by Mrs. Clare Hill, Librarian. Mrs. Hill also started the "Friends of the Library" in 1971.

In 1992 the Mansfield Free Public Library was transferred from the Mansfield Borough School Board to the Board of Directors of the Mansfield Public Library.

For a number of years the American Legion has maintained a Veterans Memorial on the lawn in front of the library. In 2000 they removed the memorial and will place a new one in the Veteran Park they are building across the river from the high school. Grading and landscaping on the library grounds is planned for this year 2001.

During the year 2000, preparing for the 100th year a group of Friends formed the 1901 Society and in 2001 have announced that the Society has raised a total of five thousand four hundred and fifty dollars ($5,400.00).

The Mansfield Free Public Library is starting off a new century, and have renovated the Carnegie Library building from roof to basement. As the Board did in opening the library in the Allen Block in 1908 with a new encyclopedia the Board in 2001, using a bequest of Mary Kingsley, has placed the World Book encyclopedia on the shelves.

Mrs. Mary Sirgey is the present Librarian.

Miss Mary Shepard in a report written during her last year as librarian, said: "From what some people thought a questionable experience, the Mansfield Library has become an acknowledged factor of public education and enjoyment."

It is a fitting tribute to the memory of the determined efforts of the small group of far seeing men and women who have worked untiringly through the years to establish and maintain the Mansfield Free Public Library. 

Wellsboro Gazette
01 November 1911


For New Carnegie Library Building in Mansfield Last Tuesday.

The cornerstone of the new Carnegie library, being built at the corner of North Main and West Elmira streets, in Mansfield, was laid last week, Tuesday afternoon.  Andrew Carnegie contributed $5,000 toward the erection of the building, and the citizens of Mansfield raised a like amount.

The building is to be one story and basement of ivory colored pressed brick and will front on North Main street.  The present library has 4,000 volumes on its shelves, which number will be increased when it is moved to the new building.  The School Board has promised a good-sized sum annually for maintenance of the library.

The children of the model school and the high school pupils took part in Tuesday’s exercises, and Dr. Andrew Thomas Smith, principal of the Mansfield State Normal School, was orator-of-the-day.  The program follows:  Music, by Mansfield Band; prayer, Rev. R. M. Hunsicker, pastor of the Baptist church; singing, by model school pupils; brief history of library, by Judson A. Elliott; address, Dr. Smith; singing, High School pupils; placing of deposits; song, “America,”; benediction, Rev. Mr. Ake, rector of the Episcopal church.

Deposited in the cornerstone were these articles and records:  Bible, by Rev. Mr. Stanley, of the Methodist church; American flag, by Judson A. Elliott; list of borough officers and copy of Mansfield Advertiser, by Joe H. Geer, borough clerk; names of members of I.O.O.F. and Rebekah Lodges, by Harry B. Taylor; by-laws and roster of Friendship Lodge No. 247, F. & A. M., by W. W. Allen; roll of Presbyterian church, by Harvey J. VanNorman; names of school pupils, history and other data of State Normal School; autobiography of Rev. A. B. Brunning, Mansfield’s oldest resident; history of library and Andrew Carnegie, and a letter of tribute to Judson A. Elliott, who was a leading spirit in the raising of funds.

Charles W. Earley brought the exercises to a close by placing the can on the cornerstone.  He is president of the School Board. 

Wellsboro Gazette, 8 February 1978, p8
The Mansfield Library – Then and Now
Have you ever wondered how, when, where your library began? Perhaps you have noticed book plates in some of the older books which read “Free Public Library, organized December 6, 1901.” At that time, the School Board agreed to appropriate $200 if the citizens would raise $400. Townspeople signed the “little notebook” and made their contributions, usually a dollar to a high of ten dollars and finally the needed amount was raised.
The Library opened Feb. 8, 1902 with 1,275 volumes on the shelves of the Henry Allen offices, 12 North Main St., and later moved to the Allen block over Strait’s Hardware.
On April 5, 1911, the Andrew Carnegie Fund agreed to grant $5000 for building if the library association could raise $700 “for the purpose of purchasing a lot, grading and fitting up same.” Once again the “little notebook” recorded contributions and $1022.75 was raised by subscriptions – the Borough Council appropriated $500, and the present library building was the new building. Now the bookshelves hold almost 12,000 volumes; we need space and have outgrown the present building. Someday, maybe not too far distant, perhaps plans will get underway for a larger, more adequate library with special attention to the needs of the handicapped in order to meet Federal requirements for funds.

The History Center on Main Street, 83 N. Main Street, Mansfield PA 16933