Historical Details

Niobrara County Library History, part 5 by Debbie Sturman

Courtesy of Library Archives, 12/31/2004


History of the Niobrara County Library

Twenty years has passed since the library history has been updated and in that time the passing of a century as well. Some of the history of this time period is incomplete but it is the hope that with time it can be completed.

A brief narration of staff begins in 1984 when the library director was Geraldine Tollman with Shirley Chavers as the Assistant Librarian and Wanda Brown served as the Children's Librarian. Serving as pages during the time through 1987 were Tina Weeks, Billie Jo Nunamaker, Deeanna Stanley and Traci Hales. Part-time substitutes included Helen Heminger and Vlasta (Paula) Weymouth. The library was open on Saturdays and until 8 p.m. in the evening Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and until 6 p.m. on Friday. Statistics for that time showed annual circulation at 23,365 and annual patronage of 10,033.

Shirley Chavers left the library in 1985 and May Ellen Smith assumed the role of Assistant Librarian in 1985. Children's Librarian, Wanda Brown left the library in 1987 and Debbie Sturman assumed that position.

Various community members that served on the Board of Trustees during the late 80's were Jerry Walsh, Evan Worley, Jo Templeton, Joy Kaltenheuser, Nellie Kratzer, Ross Diercks, and Liz Kaltenheuser.

In 1987 a severe budget cut left the library in a lurch and resulted in the loss of the Assistant Librarian and the Page position. Library hours were changed to 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday with no weekend hours. Library services continued; however staffing remained at two full-time positions until 1991 when another drastic budget cut resulted in the retirement of director, Geraldine Tollman. Debbie Sturman assumed the position of Director along with children's library duties with May Ellen Smith working around 15 hours per week to cover programming. During this time period the Friends of the Library reorganized and became active and assisted with programming at the library. Latch-key Afterschool programs were held in addition to regular Storyhours and Summer reading. A part-time children's librarian position was added in 1992 and Patti Miller held that position before being replaced by Zoe Kalber.

Board members serving in the early 90's were Ann Pfister, Tom Dooper, Jerry Walsh, Cathy Meier, Kathy Heine, Carol Denny, Rose Kremers and Dory Pfister.

Debbie Sturman left the library in December of 1992 and Tania Hajjar became the director. Zoe Kalber continued as the Children's Librarian. Assistant Librarian, May Ellen Smith resigned in 1993. Carolyn Eaton filled the part-time assistant librarian position.

Tania Hajjar left the library in September 1994 and Zoe Kalber became the director. Trava Ruiz joined the staff as the children's librarian. Zoe Kalber resigned as librarian in 1996 and Debbie Sturman resumed the role of director in May of that year. Trava Ruiz was replaced by Sharlyn Peterson as the part-time Children's Librarian in 1996 and Carolyn Eaton also left the library with May Ellen Smith returning in the part-time Assistant Librarian. Sharlyn Peterson left the employ of the library in 1997 and the children's librarian position remained unfilled for a time, lack of funding and hours available made it difficult to fill this demanding position. A part-time aide position was created in 1998 with Dee Krejci filling this role.

In 1986 the Niobrara County Library Foundation was established as an avenue for gift giving. The organization became very active in the 90's and continues to be active today.

The Lusk Woman's Club had been interested in assuring that the library was accessible for the handicapped for many years. In the late 1980's they began an annual Ice Cream Social fundraiser that was held during Alumni Weekend. This interest had also been a dream of librarians and board members for many years and in the early 1990's a study was done on the best way to create access with some possible plans also developed. It was when the Niobrara County Fair Board with the County Commissioners began seeking funding for improvements to the fairgrounds that the possibility of funding an addition to the library became viable. In 1995 the voters voted and $150,000 through a Capital Facilities Tax was made available for an accessible addition to the library. In May of 1996 a Design/Build contract was signed, however it was soon after that the realization was made that the project just made the building accessible, not any of the collection. Much discussion was held and it was decided to abandon the design/build contract and begin searching for additional funds that would allow access to not only the building but the collections.

The Niobrara County Library construction project for a handicapped accessible addition was funded through federal, state, local (county) government monies and donations. The receipt breakdown is as follows:

Federal: LSCA $ 49,085.00

State: WY Farm Loan Board $ 171,158.81

Local: 1% Bond/Capital Facilities Tax $ 143,378.09

Donations: Lusk Woman's Club & NCL Foundation $ 23,263.61

TOTAL $386,885.51

The contract was signed with Ron Morrrison, Legacy Construction, Inc. of Casper, Wyoming on July 21, 1998 and a Ground-Breaking Ceremony was held on Wednesday, July 29, 1998. Construction equipment was on-site the week of August 10, 1998 and construction began on August 17, 1998. A Certificate of Substantial Completion was issued March 19, 1999 with the effective date being March 17, 1999. The project was completed almost two months prior to the anticipated completion date of May 22, 1999.

Volunteer crews assisted library staff with shelving installation, moving and painting of the existing structure during the week of April 5, 1999 and the new addition was ready for business on Monday, April 12, 1999. The library closed again the week of April 19, 1999 for installation of carpet in the existing structure and to relocate the children's library to the upper portion of the library. An open house and volunteer appreciation was held on Thursday, July 16, 1999 with over 100 people in attendance through-out the day.

The expenditure break down is as follows:

Architectural Fees: $ 21,343.30

Construction, together with Change orders: $ 323,925.00

Miscellaneous Costs, provided by Owner: $ 41,617.21

Total: $ 386,885.42

Landscaping was not a part of the actual construction project; however through a grant with the Niobrara Conservation District the dead and dying trees were replaced with new trees, stumps were ground, and new sod laid. A new sprinkler system was also installed as well as bushes, perennial plants and landscaping rock, both large and small. Some monies were available from the Foundation's allotment for this project as well.

Some other renovations that were able to be accomplished during the course of the construction included a new roof on the existing structure, exterior concrete repair on the building, painting of the windows and eves on the existing structure. Inside, matching lights were installed in the upper portion of the library and matching wooden blinds were hung on all of the upper windows. The entire library interior was painted and re-carpeted. Through the donation of concrete by Peterson Construction and CCI Ready Mix a new sidewalk was laid as well as curb repair to the 5th Street curb.

Several other accessories have been added, they include two heavy, rock-paneled waste receptacles for the outside. These were donated through funding from the Friends of the Niobrara County Library and through the Bob Bramlet Memorial Fund. The Jim Thompson's of Lusk donated four new wooden chairs to be used at the computer tables. The Bob Bramlet Memorial also purchased an oversized leather chair to be placed in the "Wyoming" area. Floor lamps and coat trees were also purchased from the Bramlet Memorial and the Lorraine Wasserburger Memorial. Rebel & Shelley Coffey purchased two large area rugs to be used in the Children's Programming area and several people "adopted" small chairs for the children's area as well as four large adjustable height tables. The Niobrara County Library Foundation purchased 24 adult chairs to be used for programming. Raymond & May Ellen Smith donated a chair rack for those chairs.

Russ & Mary Jo Thompson donated an old "telegraph" ladder to our library, which is currently on display. Originally it was thought to use the ladder to access the 12-foot high shelving, however adequate floor space was not available.

The process of library automation began in the late 1980's. For one hour per week library staff was able to access GEAC, first state-wide online catalog for interlibrary loan. Staff began adding their holdings a bit at a time around 1992. By 1997 all of the holdings had been added to the statewide database, WyLD (Wyoming Library Database) and live circulation began in April of 1997. This marked a new era for patrons and library staff alike and it has taken many years for this to be a process that is smooth for all involved.

Public access computers made their debut with an online computer in 1996 and all patrons now had access to the internet. This has grown to now include four public access machines as well as one dedicated to the online catalog. In 2004 a long-time dream became reality with the library hosting their website. This is a project that continues and includes full-text databases of local obituaries and histories.

Retired librarian, Gerry Tollman joined the library staff in a position compensated through by the Federal Green Thumb program in 1998 and continues to work in 2004.

Judy Himes joined the library staff as Children's Librarian in November of 2001 and remained until July 2003. Yvonne Jensen assumed the position and remains today. The Children's Library is extremely busy and offers programs on a continual basis. During fiscal year 2003-2004 170 programs were held for children with 2735 children participating.

The Friends of the Library remain very active in library activities and provide funding and sponsorship for the federal Reading is Fundamental Program which has been held for the past 4 years. The Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) at the Niobrara County High School have also provided volunteer support for this project. The Friends of the Library raise funding and community support through their annual Fundraising Drive, the annual Bake Sale and the collection of Decker receipts. The Friends also sponsor the annual Book Sale and Ice Cream Social originally started by the Lusk Woman's Club. The Friends of the Library assist year-round by volunteering and financially with many of the library programs and NCL Foundation fundraising as well. Board members serving in 2004 are Karen Titchener, President; Mary Anne Foreman, Secretary; Traci Bruegger, Treasurer; Joan Lenz and Jeanine Larson as board members and Linda Decker, Liaison.

The library budget through the years has had many unstable moments. Through the tenacity of library board members and staff the library has remained open and continues to provide service even during difficult times. During fiscal year, 2002-2003 the budget was such that library hours were cut to 32 per week, closing on Friday. Staff members experienced salary and hour cuts but remained dedicated to library service in the community. Fiscal year 2003-2004 brought more money in the budget and Friday hours were resumed.

Library funding primarily comes from County revenues but also includes grant funds from the Niobrara County School District Recreation District, the Town of Lusk and other sources.

Library Board members serving from the mid-90's to today are: Keni Cundall, Leslie Hammond, Bev Haynes, Jeraldine Hineman, Wanda Lorenzen, Lynn Carlson, Lisa Pischel, Linda Decker, Carol Kilmer, Pat Bruch and Liz Kaltenheuser. Officers during the 2004-2005 fiscal year are Lisa Pischel, Chairman; Carol Kilmer, Secretary; Linda Decker, Treasurer and board members Pat Bruch and Liz Kaltenheuser.

After the completion of the handicapped accessible addition in 1999 the Niobrara County Library Foundation created an endowment fund with the hope of being able to provide a stable financial foundation for many years of library service. The Foundation was one of 23 partners selected state-wide to participate in the Partnership to Raise Community Capital with the Wyoming Community Foundation and the Kresge Foundation. The goal selected for this program is $250,000 and once the balance is achieved by December 31, 2004 the endowment will receive $83,333. As of August 31, 2004 a total of $155,536.24 has been raised in cash and pledges and efforts are underway to complete the balance. The ultimate goal of the Endowment is 1.5 million by the year 2015. Leslie Hammond serves as the Chairman of the Foundation with Lisa Pischel as Treasurer and Bev Haynes as Secretary. Other board members are long-time supporter and past president Idy Bramlet, Keni Cundall, Jeri Hineman, Lynn Carlson as well as current library board members Carol Kilmer, Linda Decker, Liz Kaltenheuser and Pat Bruch.

Library programs now include a book discussion series for adults as well as a newly introduced "Evening of Cinema," an evening with a showing of an independent film on a monthly basis.

Images & Attachments

There are no attachments for this record.

Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Lorenzen, Wanda (04/30/1929 - 12/27/2003) View Record
Obituary Wasserburger, Lorraine (11/02/1931 - 01/04/1999) View Record
Obituary Worley, Evan (10/20/1913 - 04/22/1990) View Record
Obituary Hiatt, Ellen (02/15/1918 - 07/02/2009) View Record
Obituary Tollman, Geraldine (02/28/1930 - 04/12/2012) View Record
Obituary Hineman, Jeraldine (08/03/1943 - 10/02/2018) View Record
Obituary Kratzer, Nellie (04/13/1917 - 02/11/2019) View Record