Hamilton County Library in Syracuse
Photo by Michele Boy
The heart of our cities, towns and counties: Libraries!
Hamilton County Library started as a book club
It started as a book club. In 1931, several ladies in the rural southwestern town of Syracuse formed the Junior Book Club. The daughters of the Women’s Literacy Club became the charter officers, created by-laws, recruited members, and began raising funds. In February of 1932, a George Washington tea was held, with books for admission. 175 books were donated. In March, each member gave a benefit luncheon and raised $64.00.
On May 31, 1932, the 550 book library was opened in a room above a shop on Main Street. Each of the Book Club members took turns manning the facility which was open for a couple of hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Benefit raffles, dinners, and donations kept the library going for more than 9 years.
A new courthouse was built, and in 1942, a room was given to the library. But the basement of the courthouse was restrictive and crowded. With 5,324 books, the room was literally bursting at the seams. But it would be 40 years before the Hamilton County Library would have its own building.
In 1979, a new 3,300 sq. ft. building located south of the school was erected specifically for the Hamilton County Library. Library Director Joyce Armstrong began her position in 1996. “We have grown so much since then. Our library has six public access computers, an online card catalog, interlibrary loan, books on CD, and Polycom. Polycom is a video and voice conferencing system allowing the community to take interactive classes.”
Armstrong takes a very active role in inviting the 2,500 person community to see the library as more than a book resource. The Hamilton County Library offers book signings, art shows, genealogy research, and even has a quilting room. The staff reaches out to the children and adults of the community with Summer Reading programs for all ages, bilingual reading programs, Mommy and me, and story time for children.
The library has 30,000 books, not including interlibrary loan. The library serves 1,913 patrons and check out an average of 3,000 items a month. From microfilm to mp3 players, the Hamilton County Library continues to serve the public’s needs and wants.
Armstrong feels the future of small town libraries is not a concern. “During tough economic times the library is a necessity. They borrow books instead of buying them. People without Internet or those who have Iinternet shut down come in to fill out job applications,” said Armstrong. “We are not going away at all.”