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Morris library to celebrate 100th birthday

MORRIS – One hundred years ago today the first Morris Area Public Library opened its doors to the public.

“We were actually one of the original Carnegie Libraries,” said Nancy Wilson, adult services manager at Morris Public Library. “On Jan. 12 of 1912, the library board acknowledged a gift from Andrew Carnegie of $12,500 to build a new building.”

To celebrate its 100th birthday, the library is holding a centennial celebration from 4 to 7 p.m. today. The celebration will include free cake and refreshments, a performance by the Remarkable Loon, drawings for books signed by authors and more.

“We hope people will come out and see the important role the library has played in this community over the years, a role that it will continue for years to come,” said Rosemary Nowak, teen services coordinator at the library and event organizer.

Nowak said the library has been planning for the celebration since last November and has had events throughout the year leading up to today’s event.

“We have held a vintage craft series, a few family genealogy workshops and some concerts throughout the year,” Wilson said.

In preparation for the event, Wilson, Nowak and historian Deby Steffes have gathered historical information about the library and will have that information on display at today’s event.

According to Wilson, the library’s heritage can be traced back to Feb. 15, 1873, when members of the Morris Eagle Hose Company Fire Department met to discuss the creation of a “reading room” inside Morris’ old City Hall building.

“Out of that meeting, the Morris Library Association was formed,” Wilson said.

After several years, members of the association pushed for the library to have its own building and in 1913 the Morris Public Library was constructed.

During today’s celebration, the library will have some of the original furniture from the 1913 library on display including a coat rack, bookcase, card catalogue and circulation desk.

“The desk has a really neat story behind it. It was actually sold to the Frankfort library years ago and we had to buy it back,” said Carol Hutchings, children’s librarian and event organizer.

The desk was made in 1913 by former library board member Judy Watters’ grandfather, a carpenter from Morris. Thanks to a donation from Helen Bowker Holderman, the desk was bought from the Frankfort library in October 2007. The desk now sits in the children’s library section.

An antique stereoscope also will be on display for attendees to try. The stereoscope is a old device that depicts three dimensional pictures.

The library also compiled a slideshow detailing the history of the library through old photos and newspaper clippings, Nowak said.

“Everything we found was interesting,” Nowak said. “It was exciting learning about the history of the building.”

Those who attend the celebration will be entered in several free drawings for books signed by famous authors.

“We wrote letters to tons of authors,” Nowak said. “I was surprised that we got any responses at all, but then to see how many we got was really exciting.”

More than 14 authors – including Robert Parker, Elizabeth Gilbert and Sue Grafton – sent signed copies of their latest books. Forty more authors sent birthday wishes and notes to library which will be on display.

“George [R.R.] Martin actually sent a signed photo,” Wilson said.

Martin’s, author of the “Game of Thrones” series, photo had this written on it: “A reader lives a thousand lives – the man who does not read lives only one.”

The photo will be among the items raffled at today’s celebration.

The festivities begin at 4 p.m. with free cake and refreshments. At 5 p.m. entertainer and juggler the Remarkable Loon will be performing in the library’s auditorium. There is no admission fee for the event or raffle entry.

“We just want everyone to have a good time and remember the importance of their local library,” Nowak said.

If You Go
What: 100th birthday celebration for Morris Public Library
When: 4 to 7 p.m. today
Where: Morris Public Library, 604 Liberty St, Morris
Know More: The celebration will include free cake and refreshments, a performance by the Remarkable Loon, drawings for books signed by authors and more.

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