The expansion of Birchard Public Library’s main building in Fremont will help provide a facility that – like the rest of the world – has already grown to a far different place than it was in its beginning nearly 150 years ago.
Experience, education, technology and community support have all contributed to the changes.
The library opened June 2, 1874, on the second floor of Birchard Hall on the southeast corner of Front and State streets. It was opened 9 am-1pm and 7-9pm
A gift to the city Wilhelm: Remembering Sardis Birchard’s gift of a new library
Jessie McCulloch, a daughter of the chairman of the City Council, was the first librarian. She had studied the methods of Case Library and the public library in Cleveland.
According to “The History of Birchard Library,” written by Curtis Garrison, and published in 1941, the library was located “in a large room, 80 by 30 feet ‘covered with a neat matting and furnished with three fine tables for magazines, three desks surrounded with racks well filled with leading books of reference, ‘a fine newspaper reading stand and at the north end, the’ librarian’s counter. ‘”
The room included a desk that was used by Sardis Birchard – the library’s chief benefactor – for about three decades in his private office at what was The First National Bank of Fremont.
Ground is broke:Birchard Public Library breaks ground on new expansion project
Of course, the new library had to have proper controls
Garrison explained, “The rules of that time were simple and practical. Residents who wished to use the library had to be over 14 years of age and had to give a bond or deposit of $ 3 before they could have a card to draw books. Only one book could be drawn at a time except in the case of sets, under which conditions two books might be drawn. Books could be retained for two weeks; reference books could not leave the library and fines were five cents a day ‘up to the value of the book.’ ”
Library clients were not allowed to take books from the shelves. That was among the duties of the officers of the library.
One thing that the first library had in common with most libraries today: too much talking. Thus, there was this rule: “Noise or loud conversation is strictly prohibited – quiet must be maintained to give opportunity for reading and study. The library must not be used as a place of resort for meeting friends or visiting. ”
Interestingly, one year after it opened, the local library was one of only 13 public libraries in Ohio with 4,000 or more volumes. That year, according to Garrison, outside of New York City there were only eight public libraries with that many volumes in the state of New York.
The new library building was constructed on the site of Fort Stephenson in 1878. Given the work moving ahead on the latest addition, I was struck by the fact that when Rutherford B. Hayes was considering plans for the building, he was advised by a friend , General MF Force, that it should be “so constructed that future additions may seem to be a part of the original design.”
Roy Wilhelm started a 40-year career at The News-Messenger in 1965 as a reporter. Now retired, he writes a column for The News-Messenger and News Herald.