The Library is turning 90 years old! On Saturday, April 23, 1932, the Wabasso Public Library opened for business, and at that time it was open to the public just two days a week – Wednesdays and Saturdays. We’ve come a long way since then, and we invite everyone to help us celebrate this milestone at our Open House on Saturday, April 23, 2022. This event will take place at the Library from 4:00 – 6:00 PM. Treats and refreshments will be served and we hope to see many stop in to visit and talk about their favorite memories of the Library.
Way back in 1932, the Progress Club of Wabasso sponsored the renovation of the City Council room at the old City Hall, which was standing where the patio of the Roadhouse Bar & Grill stands today. The deal between the Progress Club and the City was made on the condition that the City Council room was refitted and redecorated with bookshelves so that the first public lending library in Wabasso could be housed there.
Many local citizens donated books from their private home collections, and new books were also purchased by the Progress Club. On Saturday April 23, 1932, the Wabasso Public Library opened its doors for the first time.
Over the course of the next 10 years, the Library continued to be sponsored by the Progress Club, although it was eventually moved to the second story of Leistikow’s General Store on Main Street, which is where Salfer’s Food Center stands today.
Starting in late 1941, Charles O. Gilfillan sponsored the construction of a new building for the library. The site chosen was at the corner of North and Oak Streets, which was where the old village fire hall stood. Digging began in December 1941 and by the fall of 1942, the new brick and mortar building was completed. It was gifted to Wabasso by Gilfillan in memory of his mother, Fanny S. Gilfillan. The Wabasso Library Board of Trustees was established and appointed by the City Council that same year.
The old library collection was moved into the building alongside with more new books, and the Wabasso Public Library reopened in its new building in November of 1942 with a collection of about 1,000 items. At that time, it was able to be open 5 days a week. Gilfillan also gifted an 80-acre tract of land, with the proceeds of the rent going directly towards the needs of the Library.
Surprisingly, there have been only 5 head librarians over a 90 year time period. It is not known if there was a head librarian right at the beginning, but what is known is that Dorothy Starken was working as librarian while the library was still located in the grocery store in the late 1930s. She oversaw the Library’s transition into the new building, and held the position of Director until resigning in 1959.
Mrs. Lorenz Kratzke was voted in as librarian in 1960, and resigned in 1969.
Melanea Schueller became Director next. During that time, Wabasso joined the Plum Creek Library System, and suddenly the citizens of Wabasso not only had access to the collections of multiple libraries across seven other counties in southwest Minnesota. In 1985, Melanea resigned and Marilyn Daub became the Director. Daub oversaw what is likely the Library’s most dramatic changes, bringing the Library from the 20th into the 21st century.
In 1987, a Friends of the Library group was established for the primary functions of promotion and fundraising, and in 1988, construction began on a new addition to the building that doubled its space. Through an enormous amount of fundraising and grants, along with securing donations from local organizations, and many private donors, the new addition was completed in 1990. In 1995, the card catalog went digital with the purchase of the library’s first computer. The Internet came soon after in 1997, along with an amazing new service which we seriously underappreciate today: public computer terminals. In 2017, a wheelchair lift was built that allowed the library to extend its collection to the basement and create a new children’s area.
In 2018, Marilyn retired and Scott Sobocinski became the new (current) Director.
Today, the Library contains a bit more than when it first opened. The collection now stands at approximately 16,000 items, for example. The Plum Creek Library System now has 26 member libraries, giving the average library patron access to over 650,000 items, not to mention thousands of eBooks, and scores of digital resources ranging from historical records to instructional videos on oil painting. That also goes without mentioning the hundreds of programs the various librarians have worked to bring to the community over the decades. From Mother Goose on the Loose to Read-a-Thons to Escape Rooms, the librarians have seen a lot of action.
There continues to be strong support and need for the Wabasso Library, as it does not seem lost on the local residents that there are many towns in Minnesota of the same population level (or higher), but with no public library. This is also not lost on Scott, Joanne, or the Board of Trustees, who sincerely thank everyone who has supported this little library in Wabasso.