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

Friday, September 24, 2010

lift high the roofbeam, carpenters -- the library opens

The Koller Library opened on June 22, 1987. Although Pauline and her volunteers did not even enter the building until the beginning of May, they managed to open the library in under six weeks. "That shows the effort of all those volunteers," Pauline reminisces. "I really can't remember all the things that happened that day. We were busy right from the beginning. Of course, we had to register borrowers because we had none. ... Right away people started signing out books. [The library] was used from the very first day."

Dr. Singer asks what the library's goals were, other than the obvious.

"We were really working in the blind," Pauline answers:

After the fiasco of being refused and everything we didn't know where we were headed.  We often wondered what in the world were we going to have, as a board.  And at the same time we were aiming at the point that we figured that we were going to be accepted.

"Did you feel there might be hostility?"

We didn't know, it's pretty hard to tell, because we had some very adamant people [who said] they were not going to have a library, and they were not going to support one.  And so we really didn't know where we were headed but we just went ahead and did everything we could to win over everybody we could.

By Sunday, July 19, 1987, we were ready for a formal dedication of the library. Erv Teichmiller was the master of ceremonies, and Tom Schroeder was the soloist.  The program was held out on the lawn.  There were about seventy‑five people there.  It was a nice sunny, warm day.

The population is 680.

And that would have been the population back then also?

Around that yes, it's grown a little bit but not much.  That's a winter population, the regular residents.  It's much bigger in the summertime.  Then after that coffee was served in the community room.  We were very pleased it was a very successful day.

We were almost one month into business and we started to expand.  ... we had a small budget from the town. ... I think it was around eight thousand dollars but I'm not sure. The money would have been for the first of the year.  The budget runs from January first.  So it would have been for that year.  ... We had asked for more but they cut it.  So we operated on what we had.  We didn't know if we'd get shelves on all the walls or not but we just started and put together what we could put together.

Did you have any steady volunteers at this point?

When we opened, we started with a regular schedule.  We were open twenty hours a week  in the winter time, more in the summer.  They worked, when we started, three hour shifts.  So we had about twenty‑four people and they worked twice a month.  We made a regular schedule, we knew that on Monday morning this week so and so was going to work and that same person would be there Monday morning two weeks later. I still was going fifty, sixty hours a week, opening and closing the building.  And then I worked Sundays.  We had one gal here, she's deceased now, Joan Sennet, who gave huge quantities of things.  She would call me up on Sunday morning, "Let's go to the library," and so she and I would go to the library.  She would look for things to buy.  She's the one that convinced me that we should get the plastic covers for the books.  I prefer them but I felt we couldn't afford them.  So she said, "Buy a thousand and I'll pay for them."  We'd go around and she'd say you should have this magazine and I'd say yes but Joan we have no money to buy it. "Well, that's all right -- you order it and I'll pay for it."  Then she and I went to Wausau and we went to two bookstores down there.  She said,"We'll separate and you go around and pick out what you want and I'll go around and pick out what I want and we'll put them all here on the counter." So we did that.  We spent the morning in one and the afternoon in another one and we picked new books and she paid for all of it.  She bought just loads and loads and loads. She was a real reader. She was trained in the fine arts so she knew art very well.  She wanted to make a community contribution in some way and that's the way she found to do it.  We got to be fairly good friends.

And then, before we started to get books, Toby Hyland, Sue Carlson, Betty Koller and I went to Wisconsin Rapids.  They had weeded their library and they had all the books they had weeded stacked in a corridor in a lower part of the library where they worked where they did the cataloging.  Sue and Toby took a truck and Betty and I went in the car and we went to Wisconsin Rapids Public Library.  We went down and they told us they told us we could take I don't know how many boxes full eleven, twelve boxes which was a truckload.  So we went through them and picked all these books.  We started our large print edition that way.  They had discarded.  They needed room and they had multiple copies so they had weeded the extra copies out.  Well, those were perfect for us to start a large print edition section. 

We started expanding pretty fast once we got going.  The copy machine was added in September of '87.  That was donated by Mr. Potter from Wisconsin Rapids.  He has a cranberry marsh down there.  Then on October 26, it was voted to purchase a computer and printer and this was also donated by Mr. Potter.  So that got us started in both.  Our flag pole in the front yard was from a cranberry company down state in Wisconsin. They all are friends of Betty and Frank and just came through with all that.

All the expansion that we were able to do was due to community support in monetary gifts, by the community use of the library.  If it hadn't been used just getting all this stuff would have been worthless, and the volunteers who worked in the library.

By November 7 and 8, 1987, we had six thousand six hundred and sixty‑eight cataloged books.  In July of '88 we had seven hundred and sixty‑two registered borrowers.  Because we are part of the system, anybody within Vilas county is entitled to use our library at no charge.  You will see a little later that we have really increased the number of people that have used it.  By December 1990, we had nine thousand seven hundred and seventy books and we circulated, that was the circulation nine thousand seven hundred and seventy‑seven.  We had thirteen thousand four hundred and seventy‑five volumes on the shelf.  Then by December of 1993, we had fifteen thousand six hundred and eighty‑two books, two hundred and thirty‑three books on tape, five hundred and eleven videos, and forty‑seven magazines and newspapers.  In addition we have some thirty puzzles and twenty‑five or thirty kits which are all subject kits.  We have two thousand one hundred card holders. Our circulation in '93 was eighteen thousand nine hundred and sixty‑nine.  Ten thousand one hundred and ninety‑eight people have used the library proper in '93.   That's the number of things that were checked out.  And ten thousand one hundred and ninety‑eight people used the library itself.  About sixteen hundred and I think that's a little bit low, but about sixteen hundred people used the community room for meetings and so forth.

Why do you need to report to the state?

We're  part of the system we're part of the system, Northern Waters Library System, which is funded by the state.  We have certain regulations that we must agree to when we become part of that and we reaffirm those every year.  We get interlibrary loan through that.  We get a circulating system, they bring in about two hundred two hundred and fifty books, adult and children, and about a dozen videos.  They exchange those every five weeks.  It's a rotating stock that we do not count in our stuff at all.  We count circulation but not the actual things. Then we also get grants from the system.  Like last year we got a one thousand dollar grant for building your collection.  Adding new books.  The grants are made out to cover certain things and of course they get those through the state and then disburse them through the system.  We got seven hundred dollars for material for young adults on social problems.  And the kids as a committee, [the new librarian] went into the school, into the health class and social problems classes with the junior high kids and had them select what was to be purchased.  We went through and made a possible list and then they picked from that.  

You mentioned the acquisition and how it immediately expanded.  How were you paying for all of these books?

With some budgeted money from the community but the rest is from gifts.  We have memoriams, people send in twenty‑five dollars, a hundred dollars, two hundred dollars.  We've had some gifts in memory of for five thousand dollars all for young adult books.  We've had one for almost two thousand dollars for reference books.  Another five hundred dollar one for reference books.  Whatever the people desire.  A lot of people send money in memory of someone instead of sending flowers.  Then we send a note to that family that we have received a gift from so and so in memory of so and so.  I'm truly amazed considering the early history of trying to get the library at the response of the community.  And at the response both response to our needs as well as the usage of the library.

It's really gratifying for you?

Yes, it's truly used, it's busy.  An example, about two weeks ago a man came in, we were very busy, he said no wonder there's nobody in town everbody in town's over here.  [laughter] That's the case, there wasn't a car in town but we had five or six at the library right there.

Pauline goes on to describe an addition built to the library.

On January 15, 1988, Bob Sullivan presented the blueprint for an additional meeting room as a memorial to his father Willis G. Sullivan.  On April 26, it was reported to the town board or to our board that the addition had been approved by the electorate.  Then the construction began on May 23, 1988 and on August 22nd the Sullivan Room, completely furnished, was turned over to the library board by Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan.  That has served as a board room -- the Lioness, the library board, Friends of the Library have meetings in there, we have had library system meetings, several, for a while they had all their meetings there because they liked that room so much.  It has a fireplace in it and everything.  It has a long meeting table, which seats about twenty people.  It was built over in Presque Isle.  We have a big copper kettle to hold wood for the fireplace.  It's just a beautiful room.  It was completed and turned over to the library in August of 1988.

Then on February 22, 1988, the bylaws of the new Friends of the Library were presented to the board.  Sue Rasey was the first president.  They have presented programs to the public during the evening in the summertime we have programs at the library for adults.  We've had programs on wildlife, we've had programs on history in this area, we've had on logging in this area. Well attended, we've had some where we've had standing room only.  That room can by jamming in seats get about seventy‑five seats in there and we've had people standing in the hall out in the back even. The friends of the library have really been active.  They have a book sale and a money making thing every summer.  Up til last year they had a fashion show luncheon at Little Bohemia.  Last year they had a cocktail party at the Highland Club.  That money all goes to library to buy various materials.  This past year they had a drive for donations for book plates for books.  The book plates could be either just in memory of or just a gift from sort of thing.  They gave some twenty‑five dollars some two hundred dollars for book plates in the books.  And so the Friends of the Library have been very very active and I think that's important because they contributed a great deal.

Then  in September of 1988 the board joined the retired seniors volunteer program.  So now the volunteers who are age sixty who desire to be enrolled in this program can collect mileage to and from work and their car is also covered by insurance while they are enroute to and from work. It's at the library and that's all covered by the senior volunteer program which comes out of Rhinelander.  Belonging to that program is up to each individual whether they want to sign up.  Some do, some don't, and annually they have a banquet and they are invited to come to the banquet.

So you continue to staff the library with volunteers.

Oh yes, until July 1st 1991, we operated entirely on volunteer basis.  The only paid employee we had was the gal to clean the building whowe paid.  The town did not pay for that -- we paid it. The library board paid for that.  We get donations and from donations we have managed to.  We get also we get a fund of money from the county and that county money is what we have used to pay for the janitress.

OK, let's go back to July of '91.

July 1st '91 was the first time we had a paid librarian.  We had six applicants for the job.  We published it in the paper.  And we hired Janelle Kohl from Woodruff.  She has served in that capacity since.  I have helped, I still go in every Monday.  I still work on the book orders, we work together on it.  Whoever gets the reviewing agent on it first either makes a list or checks what we think and then the other one goes through and sees what we should buy.  One may do it first or the other may do it first, it doesn't matter.

How many hours were you putting in, in July of '91?

I was still putting in those long hours. I was seventy‑two years old.  And this is a lot of hours to be putting in and I had had a couple bouts with pneumonia.  I just decided that at that point I would have had to have either completed so many more hours of credit or attended so many workshops, which I had attended the workshops, in order to get a new certificate.  Because in Wisconsin you must renew your certificate every five years even if you have a masters. Continuing education kind of thing.  I had attended all the workshops so I could have gotten it without too much trouble but I figured the time had come that I had put in almost five years, four years it was of long hours and that it was time to turn it over to somebody else.  So we had to go to the town board, town meeting, annual meeting and sell it to the community.  We did have a few people in the audience who really objected to the fact that we were going to start paying a librarian.  I explained to them that if they had not paid for my thirty years experience, had only paid minimum wage for a person with a masters degree that they had had ah what did I figure twenty‑five thousand, a hundred thousand dollars of free labor and that was not accounting for any experience.  And that it was time that they start paying.  We had a up and growing highly used piece of business there and it should be paid for.  Well, this one man objected strenuously.  I explained that for a fifty thousand dollar valuation it would cost less than the price of two postage stamps, additional.  Valuation on a house.  That what that extra was going to cost him was less, because it was 43 or something cents for every fifty thousand dollars.  So it would cost him less than the price of two postage stamps. To pay a librarian.

By June of '93 we had managed to complete the inventory, book by book inventory of the entire library.  And then by November of '93 we had completed the task of retroconversion which is putting information about every single book in the library on computer.  This would go on the state wide computer which is called WISCAT.  And so through inter library loan we will be having a CD ROM and we will be able to borrow from any library that is on WISCAT.  All we have to do is go to the computer and see where it is. So that's the stage at which we are at the present time.

What motivated you all these years to put in those long hours?

I can see so much value to a library that I think it's important to have one. And I thought the job was important to do.  And I had nothing really to occupy my time other than taking care of the house and so forth.  But I felt it was something constructive to do and I had the know how to do it and it would be a shame to not use that knowledge as long as I was still alert and physically able to do it.  There was no reason not to do it.

Do you hear from people, their gratitude for what you have done?

Oh, yes.

We are all undoubtedly grateful to Pauline for surmounting pneumonia attacks, advanced age and, perhaps, a justified desire for retirement, to help make the Koller Library what it is.
How big is Manitowish Waters?

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