It began in December 1970 with a meeting of the Yankeetown Homemakers. Several members had acquired quite a few paperback books and wanted to share them. “How about starting a library?” someone asked.
A committee was formed and attended the next Village Board meeting. The board was glad to okay the idea and offered the use of the old Opera Hall cloak room, including shelves, but the club would have to paint them.
At the next club meeting, Feb. 17,1971, the room was cleaned out. Painting the shelves came next, with each painted a different primary color so the room would be cheery.
The books didn’t fill the shelves very well, but then there was a windfall! The Phoenix Foundation (a group which educated city people about farming nearby) had received a lot of discarded books from an Illinois library. They only wanted the non-fiction, and gave the rest to the new library. The shelves were now full!
The Open House at the new library was June 4, 1971. We were in business!
It must be mentioned that the library was completely staffed by volunteers and remained so for the next 20 years.
In just a few years, the little room in the Opera Hall became too crowded. About that time, Peterson Motors moved to Viroqua and the village acquired the building. The garage section was used for the fire engines and rescue squad. Next to the garage were the parts department and garage office. The village clerk moved into the office, and after a really amazing remodel, the parts department became the library.
The Southwest Library System had recently been formed, The Soldiers Grove Library was among the first of the seven county libraries to join. This was of enormous help because the library could buy books and get them processed through them. The technical help was also a boon, and still is today.
The library was doing well when the 1978 flood hit. About two-thirds of the books were lost! It was a gloomy time. There was a blackboard on the wall that didn’t get wet. Marie Shedd (a faithful volunteer) wrote, “Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining!”
SHE WAS RIGHT! The village decided to move and took the library with it. A $25,000 grant was received from the state for new books. The library temporarily moved back to the old water-washed spot, but by 1982 had moved into the space you all know in the new Solar Town development.
But once again, the library outgrew its space…
A True Fairy Tale—”The Little Library That Could”
Once upon a time, there was a little library that needed to expand (grow). People from the village and surrounding areas joined together to tackle the task of planning the new library space and raising the money to fund their dream. They knew they should, and they thought they could.
So, the village board, with the help of a generous villager, purchased the empty building that adjoined the library. Next, the architects and local building committee began to sketch out the uses of the new space—an enlarged children’s area, more public computer stations, quiet reading areas, increased shelf space, a mezzanine for local history and genealogy, and a renovation of the building’s solar heating system. The dream was taking shape on paper, but the reality was the price tag. It would take a mountain of money to make it all happen, but they hoped they would, and thought they could.
Now the fundraising committee joined the effort. They sought out “ground breaking” pledges and applied for grants far and wide. They sought out donations and placed buckets throughout the area to collect every “drop” possible. They danced, they sang, they served food, all with the help of the library community, all working to make the dream the reality, knowing they should, and hoping they could.
The climb up the mountain wasn’t easy. There were times when the price seemed too steep and the funds gathered too small. But, the “little library that could” stayed on track. And little by little they edged towards the top. With the assistance of friends near and far, known and anonymous, who donated time, money, and skills, the summit was reached. And the coast to completion lay ahead.
Step inside the new, enlarged village library. You can see the beauty and feel the sincere effort and love that went into this labor. From the re-glazed solar attic to the comfy kids’ area, it speaks volumes about the commitment to the dream.
They thought they could, and they did!