History of the Library

Article printed in the Daily Democrat, 1904.

Laying of the Library Cornerstone

Carnegie's Munificence Makes Possible a Splendid Building for Institution Founded by Unselfish Women.

The laying of the cornerstone of the new Carnegie library building occurred today. The ceremonies began at 2:15 o'clock this afternoon. It is to be regretted that a high wind prevailed at the time. Notwithstanding this handicap a large crowd had congregated around the site, corner of First and Court streets, at the appointed hour. 

A temporary platform had been erected at the northeast corner of the foundation of the building. It was the intention to stretch a canvas covering over this platform, but the wind made it impracticable.

Grand Master Nutting and Grand Master Monroe, the speakers and the city and library trustees occupied the platform. The Woodland Band and a quartet consisting of Mrs. Le Pierce, Miss Minnie Prior, Dr. A. N. Dick and W. H. Browning, were stationed near the platform.

The Woodland Band opened the program with an overture, "Plantation Echoes," which was well rendered.

Hon. A. W. North, one of the library trustees, was introduced, and spoke as follows, his theme being "The Significance of the Occasion":

Most Worshipful Grand Master, Brother Masons, Fellow Trustees, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It may be stated almost as an axiom that he who early acquires the power to utilize his environments, and who sharpens his perceptive powers by observation and reading until, with unerring foresight, he can solve each new situation to his advantage, will, regardless of the surroundings into which the accident of birth may have cast him, arise most rapidly above his fellows. The child who has been born to luxury may have many tutors, and travel may be made easy for him, but the child of poverty who learns from his environments the lesson of "help thyself," and applies it truly, is making ...st of life un- ...dowed with greater endurance than his fellows. He may begin his education by analyzing the people about him; continuing, he may go to the common schools that are open to all alike throughout this wide land of ours; and, once possessed of the ability to read, he may seek the nearest library and there acquire the education of travel through the recorded observations of the greatest travelers, as set forth in their journals.

Time and place shall not limit him. He may study the programs of science and commerce, art and literature from the earliest dawn of civilization. He may follow the development and the uprising and the downfall of the nations which have made the history of the world, and he may delve in the biographies of the men who have made those nations. Whether his taste be for art or for literature or statesmanship or science or commerce, he may find recorded, in the manifold pages of history and of biography, the trials of those who have risen from obscurity for the success which he covets, and the paths which they have blazed in their onward course will lie plainly and invitingly before his eyes. With common schools within his reach and a goodly and well selected supply of books accessible to him, no child need be handicapped in education.

Something over 50 years ago a Scotch-American lad of 11 sought a beginning in business as a factory boy in Alleghany City, and he found it at the munificent salary of $1.20 per week. He studied business methods and industry by observing the successful men about him and by reading, during his evenings, in the nearest library, of the labors and methods of successful men in other fields. Perhaps that serious-faced boy perceived that life is but a succession of experiences and that, while experiences personally undergone are understood the most keenly, one may nevertheless prepare himself against the coming of the inevitable uncertainties of life by taking lessons from the experiences of others. Certainly he seems to have adopted as his rule the principle that he who accurately and most rapidly extracts the pith from each new experience will travel most readily and with the greatest facility toward the goal of his success. Time has demonstrated the correctness of his judgment, and has made of that lad the great philanthropist and captain of industry, Dr. Andrew Carnegie, the man who we honor, and today the city of Woodland is sharing with hundreds of other cities in the generous gifts, exceeding in all over fifty millions of dollars in coin, made by him who, half a century ago, was making $1.20 a week. Reflect upon it.

Usually those who have acquired vast fortunes by their own labors give nothing to the public, from whom their money came, but endeavor to carry it to the grave with them, and, failing, leave fortunes for their heirs, posthumour widows and attorneys to quarrel over. Fortunately for the public of America, Andrew Carnegie believes in the theory that "the test of a man is his manner of using means, not of acquiring them," and that "the saddest sight is that of an elderly man in comfortable circumstances trying to obtain yet more means." Years ago he enunciated the principle that "people never appreciate what is wholly given to them as much as that to which they themselves contribute," and in pursuance thereof, he only makes donations for library buildings to cities which have theretofore collected books and agreed to provide an annual income for the maintenace of a library, equivalent to 10 per cent of the amount of his gift.

There is a significance in this occasion. It is not merely that the municipality has received a $10,000 gift and is having erected in its midst a building which will be a credit to the city, not merely that the gift, coming from such a man as Andrew Carnegie, evidences that there is no limit to the power and wealth to which, unaided, an ambitious and industrious boy can attain in these United States; not merely that the gift coming from such a millionaire shows that wealth may be concentrated and yet return to the people by the free will of those who amassed it; not merely that the city of Woodland has made itself worthy of this gift; and when we consider that, even as long as thirty years ago, some of the good women of this town, such matrons as Mrs. Frank Baker, Mrs. P. C. Fenner, Mrs. E. Craft and Mrs. G. D. Fiske, freely and gladly gave their time and money to supply books for the perusal of those who lived about them; when we consider that in later years out of our citiznes, Mr. A.D. Porter generously doanted $500 for additional books for the library; when we consider that the municipality took upon its shoulders the library and added to it until today, with over 5000 books in its collection, the city of Woodland can boast of the fact that no city of its population within this state has a greater number of books; and when we consider that the citizens of this community have presented the municipality with presumably the largest building site possessed by any city library in the state, when we consider that civic spirit shown by our citizens in making this day successful, as has been evidenced by the generousity of Mr. Fred Haase in giving this great stone hewn from mother earth within the borders of our own county, for the cornerstone of this library, and as shown by the band and the vocalists in volunteering their services for the day, nor must I forget the courtesies of the press, when we consider all these matters, I say, we may feel that Woodland has been deserving and is appreciative of the gift made to her.

The broader significance of this occasion, however, lies in something deeper than these mere material facts recited. In our devotion to the lares and penates of our firesides, we beautify our residences according to our means; instilled with patriotism, we adorn with magnificence our state edifices; imbued with devotional fervor, we build temples for our religious observances; and in a corresponding frame of mind, and filled with love and respect for literature we have assembled here with the worthy grand master of that time-honored and ever respected order of Free and Accepted Masons, to assist in the laying of a cornerstone of the building which is to shelter the best books that this municipality can obtain for the diversion and development of its citizens and for the education of its youth.

If in the daily routine of life, that day by day monotony which often seems unbearable, we would find hope and escape despondency, we have but to reach to the ever-open book shelves and over the magic pages of some cheery author drift in pensive gladness to the fields of Asphodel. If our ambitions become sluggish, we have but to turn to the biographies of the successful, and be awakened as by a bugle call. And idle existence is a vain thing. An industrious life is the most satisfactory existence and he who can round out a busy day with a few hours of evening time devoted to the perusal of well-chosen books has attained most nearly to a perfect existence.

In its broadest sense, therefore, the significance of this occasion lies in the erection of the building which is to house our library: without such appreciation we would be derelict to our duty; with such keen appreciation, the community does honor to itself.

Mrs. W. P. Craig, president of the Women's Improvement Club, was the next speaker, and in behalf of that organization, she discussed, "Women's Work in the Foundation of Our Library," as follows:

'As president of the Women's Improvement Club of this City, I have been asked to perform the very pleasant duty of tracing the early history of the free library in Woodland. When we are reminded of the fact that the first library was started, and afterward maintained by the ladies, it seems fittingly appropriate that some representative of the Women's Improvement Club should direct your attention to the early history of the free library movement of the city of Woodland. The Library Association was organized just thirty years ago on the 22d day of this month. The library was formally opened to the public on the 4th day of July, 1874, in a building on the south side of Main Street between First and Second Streets. The library was organized by the efforts of the ladies of Woodland, and the entainments [sic] for the benefits were given under their auspices. The first volumes were donated and additional volumes were afterwards purchased with the proceeds from these various entertainments given for the benefits of the library. A librarian was in constant attendance, and the people were permitted not only to visit the library, but also to take books to their homes. Although the expense of maintaining a library was quite heavy, the association was able to add additional books each quarter; thus constantly making valuable and numerous additions to its collection of books. From 1874 to 1879 the ladies spared no pains and worked diligently to make the enterprise a success, but notwithstanding they did all in their power, they were unable to secure sufficient funds to maintain the library as first instituted. They gave many entertainments, but the decrease in membership, the neglect of many to pay their dues and other obstacles which they could not overcome compelled them to close the library in 1879. This step was reluctantly taken by the ladies after every effort was exhausted to secure sufficient funds to continue the good work.

In the fall of 1880, the association arranged to place the books in a mercantile establishment conducted by one of the directors under whose direction the people were once more permitted to enjoy the benefits of the library. New books were added from time to time. But again the location was changed and again they were unable to secure sufficient fudns to pay the expenses of maintaining and conducting the library. In about a year from that time, discouraged and by no means in a prosperous financial condition, they were compelled to box the books until such time as prospects seemed brighter. In 1881, undaughted by the experiences of the past, they rented rooms in the Thomas & Clanton Building and re-opened the library. They secured funds and completed and furnished the rooms, which were thrown open to the public three evenings and one afternoon of each week under the direction of one of the board of directors who tendered her services gratuitously.

In August 1888 the members of the association arranged with the Young Men's Christian Association to consolidate the two libraries. A library was maintained for the benefit of the public for some time. After about five months had elapsed, the association regretted t learn that the Y.M.C.A. library rooms, through lack of financial support, were not kept open or the books looked after properly. Owing to this situation, the directors in January 1889 took charge of the books and stored until May, 1891, when they were placed in the hands of the city board of library trustees of the city of Woodland.

From this history it will be seen the people of Woodland are indebted to these good ladies for their energies and gratuitous work, not only in organizing but in maintaining and supporting a free library until such time as municipal authorities became interested in the movement and