Cape Girardeau library turns 25 today

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Technology has changed a lot of things at the library since 1980.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the dedication of the current Cape Girardeau Public Library building. And the changes that have occurred over those years couldn't even have been conceived when the library opened in 1980.

Technology has eliminated card catalogs and bar-coded library cards, and has made computers available to the public.

"The library has changed dramatically in 25 years," said Betty Martin, the library's current executive director. "We couldn't have imagined the impact that computers have made."

And after a quarter-century, the library needs more room.

Since June 1980, programs for adults and children have been a regular feature at the library. But when Martin was first hired 11 years ago as adult services coordinator, only one adult program existed. Now there are four adult programs monthly, three storytimes a week, two to three programs a month and several school group visits including tours and homework assistance.

Martin said her dream is for the library to become "a destination library" -- meaning a place where seniors and families visit regularly. A destination library would have space for parents and children to share a book together, more comfortable seating areas and quiet spots.

She said the library is currently working on a building expansion program.

And it's not the first time the library has had to expand.

Cape Girardeau's Carnegie Library building, at Common Pleas Courthouse Park, had served the community since 1922. An addition to the building was constructed in 1959.

By 1967, it was decided a tax levy would be passed to fund a new library building.

Pledges and donations to fund equipment were received from students, civic groups, women's groups, Daughters of the American Revolution and even children at the library.

"I was personally excited about the prospect of this new asset for the community and satisfied with the response to fund-raising by the community," said David Hahs, chairman of one of the fund-raising committees at the time. "Our efforts were successful, and it was a grand day when we introduced the public with all the niceties of this new facility."

Ground on Clark Avenue was broken in March 1979.

Much of 1979 was spent assessing programs and services, developing goals and objectives and receiving bids for the 18,900-square-foot library, which is about double the size of the Carnegie Library building.

About 90,000 books, more than 3,000 records, more than 1,000 government documents, other materials and equipment were moved into the new library a week before the facility's opening.

The first book on the shelf was a large-print Bible, placed there by Dr. Harold O. Grauel.

On June 23, 1980, the library opened its doors.

An official dedication was held Sept. 22, 1980, with Missouri state librarian Charles O'Halloran giving the dedicatory address.

The total cost of the building, including the site, street and sidewalk work, furnishings and landscaping was $1,044,300, according to Martha Ann Maxwell, the administrative librarian at that time.

cpagano@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 133

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