Martin Memorial Library History


On Saturday, May 13, 1948, the New Hartford Woman's club presented a public library to the community.  The club was 50 years old and the library project was to celebrate its Golden Anniversary.  It was located in Rev. Baskerville's study in the Wessel building.  It then moved to some shelves in the New Hartford Garage.  The library was open on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons and evenings with club members taking turns at being in charge.  There were 300 books, including many for children.

In March, 1949, the library was moved to a corner of Vink's grocery store.  In September, the club voted to make Ruth Grassley a regular librarian to be paid 50 cents per evening.  Club members gave several home talent shows such as 3 one-act plays and a minstrel show to raise money to buy books.

The library's next home was a corner room in the basement of the bank building.  In 1952, the library was open from 1 to 3 and 7 to 9 on Saturdays, and Marilyn Harken was the librarian, receiving 50 cents per hour.  Marvyleen Van Mill and Sharon North also served as librarians until Eva Nieman was hired in 1958.  She served until 1973.

In 1959, the library moved across the street to a 14 ft. by 14 ft. corner of City Hall.  The city assumed responsibility of the library.  Books were made available on loan from the Iowa State Traveling Library on a three month basis.  Eva Nieman retired and Jeanette Schmidt took her place in September, 1973.  The use of the library was steadily increasing and the collection of books growing. 

More crowded than ever, the need for a separate building became apparent.  The city purchased the 14 ft. x 36 ft. building at 506 Packwaukee St. in 1976.  With $1,000 in donations,  a $5,000 grant for furnishings from the Kinney-Lindstrom Foundation, and lots of volunteer work, the new building was ready to move into in January, 1977.  Jeanette Schmidt retired in 1986.  Linda Sandavol served as librarian for a short time, followed by Pam Hartema in September, 1988. 

The present home of the library at 406 Paukwaukee St. became available when the Butler County Mutual Insurance Company moved their office to Allison.  Their board of directors offered to sell us the building for $24,000.  The entire purchase price was donated by Roy Martin, president of Martin Brothers Distributing Co. in Cedar Falls, as a memorial to his late wife.  Elizabeth Rasmussen Martin was a New Hartford native and graduated from New Hartford High School in 1936.  The children's room of the library was furnished with funds from the McElroy Trust.

In December 7, 1988, the library closed for five days as the books were moved to the former insurance building. A formal Dedication Ceremony was held May 7, 1989, with guest speaker U.S. Senator Charles Grassley.  The New Hartford High School show choir and band performed.

The history of our library would not be complete without the mention of the flood of June, 2008.  Surging waters rose and fell quickly, but it was enough to destroy about a third of the library's 5,500 books and five computers that were new in 2007.  It soaked the entire card catalog. The children's room was hardest hit, as items sat lower and within reach for young readers.  A Des Moines 14-year-old Eagle Scout took on the task of raising money and collecting books for the children's room.

Volunteers locally and from far away helped, books were donated from individuals and other libraries, and even 5 year-old Parker Latwesen got on the ball and started a DVD drive to replace the movies that were lost.  New computers were purchased and allowed the library to go on-line with their catalog of books.  The library reopened in February, 2009.  It was a tremendous effect but the library is back and better than ever.

 Interested in more history?  Check out the Iowa Historical Society.