"[History is] a cyclic poem written by time upon the memories of man." -Percy Bysshe Shelley

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Interview with Pauline Zeber

We'll kick off our first post with some history on how our library came to be. The following is excerpted from an interview with Pauline Zeber, the first director of the Frank B. Koller Memorial Library. The interview was conducted by Dr. Margaret Singer of Rhinelander, WI, on April 28, 1994.*

Mrs. Zeber, would you want to tell us about yourself a little bit first?
I was born in Bessemer, Michigan, and graduated from high school in Bessemer. I attended Gogebic Community College and the University of Michigan. That's where I got my Bachelors Degree. After I attended the University of Michigan I worked for five years as a meteorologist for the United States Weather Bureau in Cleveland, Ohio.  And then I went back to Bessemer.  The superintendent of schools came in and talked to me one day and said that if I was to go to Western Michigan University and take library classes, then I had a job at the school in the fall.  So I went and I eventually got my Masters in Library Science at Western Michigan University.  I was a high school librarian in Bessemer for thirty years.

Then I retired and in 1985 I came [to Manitowish Waters] to take care of my new grandson because his mom and dad both worked. ... I have been here ever since.

We have a little outline here. You list on April 9,1985 that a town committee was appointed. Do you want to take it from there and tell me about that?
At a regular annual town meeting on April 9, 1985, a committee was created and their charge was to look into a library.  The committee consisted of Reverend Hall, the chairman, Ellen Townsend, Betty Skrobot and Toby Hyland.  They decided that the charge involved a recommendation concerning the establishment and construction of a library.  On August 27, 1985, the committee recommended that a library, a new building, be built on the present site and that the Kollers had offered to help pay for the construction of that new library.

Frank and Betty Koller, of Manitowish Waters, owned Koller's Cranberry Company and Koller's Realty. They still live in the area. (ed.)

Do you know why the Kollers wanted to donate money to the library?
Betty told me that they came here with virtually nothing and that through hard work and so forth, this community helped them build what they had. They wanted to pay back to the community for what they earned here.  They worked very, very hard for what they have.  They had one son and the library has been named in his memory.
We were at April 9, 1985. The town committee had been appointed.  We mentioned the members and their duty was to explore the feasibility of building.  Why don't you continue.
They presented their recommendations to the board on August 27, 1985. They recommended that a new library, not a remodeled thing, but a new library be built on the site where we are now located. There was no library before. 

The next information I found was in a copy of an October 2, 1985 newspaper. ... The newspaper article reported that on Thursday night, October 2nd, in the town meeting with only 40 of 545 registered voters present, by a vote of twenty‑one no's, eighteen yes's and one abstaining they voted down the offer of the library the Kollers were offering to build.  It was a heated two hour meeting.  There were so few that voted for a $100,000.00 gift of a library building and then it was refused.  The library was voted down.  It was a very, very heated meeting.

Were you present?
I was not present.  I was very new here yet at that time.  The reporter from the paper asked questions, was recognized by the chair, and asked questions and someone in the audience objected to her asking questions because she was not a registered voter.  Then further along in the article, apparently for quite some time another young gentleman who lives here in the summer time but is not a registered voter went to great lengths explaining why he didn't think there should be a library here.  So it said the meeting kind of got out of hand.  They just didn't give the town chairman a chance to do anything.  When someone suggested there be a volunteer staff, someone in the audience said well who's going to do that.  And of course it has turned out that that's the way the library has been run with all volunteer help.  Then finally after two hours, one of the very vocal members, the article said, insisted that the vote be taken right then and there and he said to the chairman I've looked at you enough.  So the meeting must have been very heated.

I wonder what the objections were?
Well, it was going to cost too much money. ... They figured they would have to hire a librarian and they didn't want to do that at all.

So then in either March or April of 1986 there was another town meeting.  This one had good attendance.  A lot of people who were in favor of the library made it their business to attend.  The Kollers really did not intend to re‑offer the donation again, but at the last minute they did decide that they would once again make the offer of building that building.  After another long discussion meeting the resolution to establish a library was passed.  The Kollers again offered to build the library and it turned out that they built it completely.  The town didn't pay anything to the building of that building.

I understand that at that meeting the strong objection again was that they would have to pay a librarian and that my son‑in‑law got up and said well you don't have to my mother‑in‑law will be the librarian.

He offered my services at that time free of charge. ... I was not at the meeting, [and] I didn't have any idea about [being brought to service] but it was all right with me. I was willing to volunteer.

So it started out really with all volunteer help.  The entire thing.  There still were people that were very hesitant about it because it would mean heating, lights, paper supplies, new books.  Of course, we got around that.  So they didn't have to pay the big initial expense for new books.  When you open a new library your big expense really, once you have the building, your big expense is your first year for buying stock for your library.

So on July 22, 1986, the first library board was appointed by Bob Olsen, the town chairman.  Bob and Sue Patterson [town clerk] swore in that first board.  It consisted of Pauline Zeber, chairman, Maxine Hall, secretary, Robert Gunther, Toby Hyland and Sue Carlson.  We met monthly at the community building, often in the kitchen because it was too cold to meet out in the other room.  We worked with the Kollers and the architect formulating plans for a new library.

Who was the architect?
I think Folz from Minocqua if I remember exactly.  They had originally had plans from TriState [Mercer] the first time it was offered that's who would have built it.  But of course by this time TriState no longer existed.  So those floor plans were completely scrapped and new plans were made with consultation with the library board and what was to turn out to be the librarian.We spent our time formulating our policies, our circulation policies, privacy policies and all of those policies that go into a library.  On the December 22, 1986 library board meeting Pauline Zeber was appointed librarian, officially.

The ground breaking took place in September 26, 1986.  On April 27, 1987 the first board meeting was held in the Frank B. Koller Library.  We had to meet in the office.  We had a desk and chairs and we had no other furniture in the building but we met in the little office around the desk that was there.  This is the point at which we published the wish list.

to be continued...

*Edited for readability by Callie Bates.

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