Remsen Public Library: 50 years and going strong

Thursday, April 6, 2017

REMSEN -- Fresh off their Business of the Year award, staff at the Remsen Public Library are gearing up for another celebration.

2017 marks 50 years for the library in its current building, 211 Fulton St.

The official recognition of the library's 50th year will be Wednesday, April 12, but celebrations will take place throughout the week, as April 9-15 also serves as National Library Week.

"We'll begin the week celebrating on Monday afternoon. We're going to have a speaker, Dan Kaercher, who is a former editor of Midwest Living Magazine and he's a retired Iowa Public Television celebrity," Library Director Janeene Klein said. "He's going to give a presentation to kids grades second through fifth from both schools over at city hall. In the evening, Dan will be giving a presentation in the library at 7 p.m. on Iowa's Hidden Treasures."

"We usually always do a chamber coffee on the Wednesday of that week. We'll have chamber coffee in the morning from 8-10:30 a.m. We're going to have a free luncheon for the public from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., so we'll serve sandwiches, chips, a cupcake, and a drink," Klein continued.

Before it moved to the current location, the library was previously located in the basement of the former city hall, according to Klein.

"That was just a little area," Klein said. "It appears the board at that time and the director decided the library needed more room."

Though the building has remained largely the same throughout the years, the same can't be said for the material inside.

"It's exactly the same space. The furnishings you see, the chairs, the tables, they are all the originals," Klein said. "They've lasted 50 years and we'll continue to use them as long as they last. I began here in 1989, and I believe our first computer we bought was in 1993. The two public computer rooms used to be reading rooms. Computers have changed the look of the library a little bit, but we've got a good solid building."

While the general space has stayed the same, the use of that space has evolved.

"The face of a library has changed over the years. It used to be just books, just print materials that you typically would have a quiet environment," Klein said. "Now we have puzzles, we have games, and we have the computers. There is so much more than silence in a library."

Library employee Peg Arens, who along with Alicia Hoffman makes up the dedicated three person staff, agreed wholeheartedly.

Both Arens and Klein think of the library as a sort of community center, where everyone is welcome.

"It's a place where everyone is welcome and everyone seems to enjoy coming into the library. We do our best to serve Remsen," Klein said. "For something to be able to sustain itself for 50 years, and still be a vital part of the community. I think that says something about how important the establishment is to the community and how important it is to keep it going."

The generosity shown by library staff is returned in kind by community members.

"The community is very generous. We receive a lot of monetary donations," Klein said. "The traffic through the doors has increased. You go back and look at circulation over the years and it just keeps creeping up."

Klein said her goal for the future is to simply keep the strong relationship between the library and community going.

"Remsen is very fortunate to have a public library. Out of the 900 and some incorporated towns and cities, there are approximately 500 public libraries. For a small town of 1,600 to be able to have a library and to be able to support it, we're very fortunate," Klein said. "We want to just keep supporting the community and having them support us. We have many, many readers in Remsen."