By Nan Royce
HOWARD LAKE Howard Lake’s Friends of the Library group, while camera-shy, remain the library’s biggest supporters.
The current Friends have over a century of similar organizations from which to draw ideas and inspiration.
Friends of the Library formed in 2004. The Howard Lake Library and library support groups date back to March 1905.
History of help
Twenty Howard Lake citizens banded together in 1905, to form the Howard Lake Library & Improvement Association. The Association founded a “reading room” in the city council room of the new city hall.
(This “reading room” was located in what now is referred to as “historic city hall,” which is currently slated for period-accurate renovations, and currently houses the city’s municipal liquor store on its first floor.)
The Howard Lake Library & Improvement Association began with 80 books. By 1906, 988 books were in circulation.
In 1944, the Dewey Decimal system was implemented at the library.
By the library’s 50th anniversary in 1955, its location had been shuffled around within city hall numerous times. It is noted in Howard Lake’s centennial book from 1978, that “the club women had met the challenge of ‘making do,’ whatever the condition.”
The library, still in the city hall building, was upgraded in 1955 with assistance from the Howard Lake Lions Club. This library facelift included the addition of a children’s room, but did not solve the persistent issue that the library had no source of running water.
In 1970, the Howard Lake Library became a part of the Great River Regional Library System.
According to current Friends of the Library Secretary Treasurer Sue Claessen, the ‘60s were a tumultuous time, not only for the country, but for the Howard Lake Library, too.
“By the 1960s or so, the group had simply become known as the Library Club,” Claessen stated. “The Library Club was the impetus for the drive to build a new library building that culminated with the ground-breaking for the Library/Community Center in August 1979.”
Once construction of the new library was complete, the books from the former library location were moved into it in August 1980.
Records for the Library Club show it was active into the early ‘90s.
In 2004, a group of citizens wishing to associate itself with the history of community support for the library officially incorporated as Friends of the Howard Lake Library.
The group began by taking on some larger projects needed at the library. It’s this group that continues its strong support today.
Since 2004, some of the Friends of the Howard Lake Library have:
• purchased computers and internet equipment, and installed and upgraded as needed;
• began an annual tradition of pumpkin painting each October;
• built a float for the library’s centennial in 2005, which was a part of Howard Lake, Waverly and Winsted’s summer parades;
• obtained an official pictorial United States Postal Service cancellation, used to mark the library’s centennial;
• had wall murals painted;
• bought a “donation stoplight,” which still sits between the circulation desk and front door to collect donations;
• expanded the library entrance area from a sidewalk to a landscaped cement plaza with concrete benches;
• with the assistance of 4-H and FFA members, built a retaining wall and installed landscaping along the north side of the library;
• started the annual book sale, dubbed the Book-tique;
• purchased tables, chairs and floor rugs for the children’s area;
• began an annual trip to the library for local first-grade students;
• purchased new furniture for adults;
• purchased and installed a wall mural;
• purchased a book truck and shelving;
• hosted a summer reading program with activities, prizes and a closing party for local youngsters;
• provided startup supplies for a program which encourages parents to read 1,000 books to their child before the child starts kindergarten, and;
• cleaned upholstered furniture and rugs.
The Friends of the Howard Lake Library also continue to support a variety of special programming for adults and children; weekly summer story times; book and food sales during Howard Lake’s Good Neighbor Days; hosts a Valentine’s Make and Take event; and started a social media page for the library.
Meeting of the minds
Claessen reported the Friends of the Library group currently has 30 members, about half of whom are active.
The group meets the second Thursday of the month, February through November, at 6 p.m. at the library.
Membership information and forms are available at the library; annual Friends of the Howard Lake Library dues are $5.
The Friends of the Howard Lake Library do not make their membership list public; however, current officers are President Judy Forst; Vice President Diane Schaible; and Secretary/Treasurer Sue Claessen.