History of Mt. Angel Public Library

By Willard KEITH Teem

1946 Tuesday, September 3: Miss Mary Anne Toner opened The Mt. Angel Rental Library in rooms formerly used by Dr. Ebner above the present Happy Garden Restaurant and Lounge at 125 N. Main.   She rented the books from her private collection at a rate of three cents per day.  Some books were for sale and she provided books from the state library.  Shortly after the Library was opened, the City opted to pay rent for the rooms. Miss Toner incurred all other expenses.  Two years later the City began paying for lights and heat.

1950 Thursday, May 11: Miss Toner and her library were moved to the Kloft Building at the northwest corner of Railroad Ave. and Charles Street.  With the help of Mayor Willie Bean, the City Council members, other citizens and a large flatbed truck provided by the City Attorney’s son, the entire move was made in an hour and a half.  The City elected to pay rent, lights and heating at the new facility.  About this time, Miss Toner stated her intention to pass the library, books, furniture and furnishing to the City of Mt. Angel at a future date.  That event took place shortly afterwards.   Miss Toner retired as librarian and Mrs. Agnes Annen was hired as the first City Librarian.  Mayor Bean appointed the first Library Board with chairman, Ivo B Bauman, Beth Ferrell, Marilyn Kruse, Mamie Ebner, Zeta Baronti and Don Anderson. 

1958: Mrs Ruby Olsavsky became City Librarian. 

1963: Library records show a city population of 1,712, a book inventory of 1,949 volumes and  624 hours of operation annually.  Miss Toner died March 23, 1964 at age 85.  The Library remained in the Kloft Building until the structure and many of the books were extensively damaged by fire in 1966.  The Library worked around this setback while efforts were made to find it a new home. 

1968: population–1,925, book inventory–2,243 volumes, operating hours–832 annually. 

1969 June 16: The Library moved to the new Upper Elementary School Library on Marquam Ave. with Sister Renee Foster as librarian assisted by Sister Annella Gaeden. 

1973: population–2,195, volumes–2,353, annual operating hours expanded to 1,040 hours.  Use by the public put a decided strain on the school facility so an effort was made to find new accommodations. 

1974: A feasibility study for growth of the City Library was made at the suggestion of the Planning Commission.  They requested a long range plan for the future of the City Library.  Sister Annella Gaeden with the help of Sister Renee Foster wrote funding grant requests.  With some federal funding, assistance of Oktoberfest Inc., formation of Friends of the Library and support from the community, renovation of a portion of the old Mt. Angel Creamery building on Church Street was begun as the new home for the Library. 

The Friends of the Library were vital to the success of the new Library and the move to its new location.  Formed in March of 1974, The Friends, assembled a core of ambitious members whose primary objective was to improve the Mt. Angel Public Library.   They provided décor planning, book selections, manpower for clerical work, wood cabinet finishing and bookshelves, developed a pre-school awareness center and provided most of the muscle for moving to the new site.  The Friends provided monies to assist in purchasing a vacuum cleaner and book shelving.  They also purchased a 12-drawer card file and provided $225 for new books.  All of this resulted in a brand new City Library with Sister Annella Gaeden as librarian, assisted by Mrs. Donna Sullivan.  The Open House on October 20, 1974 drew about 100 guests.  By end of the year 1974, The Friends numbered 64 individuals, three businesses and two organizations as charter members.

1976:  population–2,540, volumes–5,419, operating hours–1,040 annually.  Sister Annella retired in February 1980, replaced by Mrs. Sharon Flakser.

From the fall of 1974 through January 2005, the Mt. Angel Public Library occupying the old Mt. Angel Creamery building, had established a Children’s Reading Program, developed a great children’s reading and entertainment area, expanded to a second section of the building and obtained the works of several local artists.  The Friends of the Library had been instrumental in establishing the preceding as well as providing a number of remodels of workspaces and book shelving.  The generous support of the community and individuals, both physically and monetarily, and moving into the computer age, provided a library with access to an inventory of books and information that Miss Mary Anne Toner could not have imagined.

2003: Due to 1993 earthquake damage, the Library, located in the old Mt. Angel Creamery building, was deemed no longer insurable as a public facility.

2004-5: With no funds available to repair and bring the structure up to code it was necessary to move the Library to another location.  In November 2004, after securing agreement with the Mt. Angel School District for use of the old St. Mary’s gym basement, improvement of that facility began.  By the end of January 2005, the improvements to meet code for public occupation were completed and the move began.  This was a major undertaking involving the removal of all items from the shelves, moving the shelves to the new location, setting them up, moving the entire inventory of books and supplies and restoring them to the shelves.  Also, the entire reception desk and associated cabinetry was disassembled and adapted to the space available at the gym.  The first three weeks of February were used for the move.  The City Maintenance personnel, the Civil Air Patrol cadets, the library staff and numerous volunteers from Friends of the Library and throughout the community made the move without any major problems.  Besides moving the entire collection and circulation desk, nine computers and two telephones were wired and installed.  Due to the construction of the gym building, it was necessary innovatively secure all items against any possible earthquake movement.  The main entrance featured a double switchback handicap access maze that was quite interesting.  The gym site began operation on February 22, 2005 and officially opened on February 24, 2005.  Basketball practice and games in the gym above, along with a very noisy heating system, made conducting library business almost impossible at times.  Much credit goes to the fortitude of the library staff and volunteers.

In June, 2005, Sharon Flakser retired.  Assistant librarian Collette Decock was appointed City Librarian, with Marilyn Clauser as assistant.

Due to several incidents of vandalism, the Friends of the Library and Library Board members purchased and installed closed circuit cameras and wide-angle mirrors at strategic places outside and inside the Library.  There were no further major incidents.

2006-2007: The plan to demolish the old Library and procure funding for a new structure on that site was thwarted by the fact that the site was condemned because of tanks containing hazardous materials buried under the west end of the building.  The cost of removing the material would have been considerable and compromised any funding the City might acquire for construction of a new facility.  The property was deemed unsuitable for a public building.  This instigated a search for a new Library site, which brought about the formation of a Library Building Committee. After researching several possible sites around the City, the most practical one immediately available was determined to be the Engelberg Centennial Park site.  Its proximity to the City’s core area and the fact that it was City owned were the main deciding factors. 

With a known site available, it was possible to apply for a number of grants.  That resulted in the City receiving a $500,000 CDB grant.  Coupled with nearly $300,000 that the City had set aside over a period of time for future Library construction, it was determined that about $200,000 more would be needed to complete the new Library project.  Using the non-profit status of the City of Mt. Angel and the Mt. Angel Community Foundation, an intense drive was started in December 2005, to raise the $200,000.  By May 2006, when the build/design was approved and The Grant Co. selected as the contractor, about $20,000 was raised.  However, the contractor’s cost estimate, due to ever increasing materials and labor costs, was in excess of the original $1,000,000.  The contractor then revised the construction design and eliminated or set aside enough items to bring the cost back to a manageable amount.  In August 2006, an anonymous challenge grant was offered.  For each three dollars raised the grantor would give one dollar to a maximum of $25,000.  The grant would only be offered through December 2006, so we set a goal of $75,000 trying to obtain the full amount of the grant.  Through numerous donations and several fund-raisers, we finished the year with almost $80,000.  The $25,000 grant was received from Mt. Angel Telephone Corporation for an annual total of over $104,000.  The drive continued and by the time any of the funding was needed, it had exceeded $120,000.  These funds purchased all the furnishings for the Library and paid for a few unforeseen minor construction costs. 

Groundbreaking took place in mid-December 2006 with 98% completion by 1 Nov. 2007.  On August 15, 2007 a $120,000 grant from the Meyer Trust completed payment for the remaining construction costs of building, the outdoor learning facility and the surrounding park setting.  With the exception of a few minor items, the structure and surroundings were completed by the second week of November.  Most of the furnishings were delivered, assembled and installed by volunteers, from mid-October to mid-November. 

Saturday Nov. 17, 2007, with the help of a bevy of volunteers, the books were boxed and moved from the old gymnasium basement to the NEW LIBRARY!  Some furnishings, adjustable chairs, large armchairs and shelving for storage were moved to different areas of use in the new Library.  All was in preparation for opening the Library prior to Saturday, December 1st.  A Community Open House, planned to coincide with the Chamber of Commerce’s Shop and Stroll, the lighting of the town Christmas tree and the Kris Kringle events, took place on that date.

It was decided to have the official dedication of the new facility on Friday, January 25, 2008. While advancing into the twenty-first century, we have managed to retain the sense of our small community and the heritage that goes with it.  WELCOME to the Mt. Angel Public Library!

 2008: population–3,755, volumes–34,000+.  The formation of Chemeketa Cooperative Regional Library Service in 1973, of which Mt. Angel Public Library is a member, allowed Mt. Angel patrons to access the holdings of numerous libraries from a three county area, as well as databases and e-resources. Today, the Library provides its patrons access to a number and variety of books and services that in 1946, patrons could not have even dreamed of.  Future technical advancements will only improve these services.

2010: In order to comply with ADA accessibility requirements, the main doors were equipped with electronic operated openers.  This has eased the access of all who had difficulties opening the original doors.  The replacement of older and worn books is ongoing, as is the acquisition of new books.

A grant from The Bill and Linda Gates Foundation has provided updated computers and servicing that will continue for a number of years.  With the able assistance and capabilities of CCRLS staff, technical difficulties are kept to a minimum.

The profusion of flowers and their care throughout the planter boxes is provided by members of The Friends of the Library.

            Our latest project was replacing the original wood sign with an all metal one which will eliminate a lot of maintenance and should last for many years.  Future projects are a new copy machine and a few small upgrades for some of the furnishings.   

This information was compiled from news articles, city and library records kept by previous library staff over the past 62 years, by Pepper Teem for the past thirty or more years, and from my personal involvement and experiences.  I have tried to include all that has been pertinent to the establishment, development and history of the Mt. Angel Public Library.  I welcome any and all additional information or corrections to this record from anyone in the community.

2014: Library Director: Carrie Caster, Library Assistant: Marilyn Clauser, Youth Services Librarian: Stephanie Laing, Volunteer: Pepper Teem, and many others.

2017: Library Director: Jackie Mills (Oct.), Youth Services Coordinator: Hannah Bostrom (Dec.), Library Assistant: Marilyn Clauser (retired on Dec. 31, 2017).

2020: Library Director: Jackie Mills, Youth Services Coordinator: Ellie Arnett (through Oct.) and Hilary Tsukakoshi (beginning in Oct.), Library Assistant: Cecile Baker.