News

The County Library

Categories: 150 Years of Libraries

A Varied Diet

Photo of Louise Tefft

Louise Tefft, circa 1937

I believe we should provide residents of Jackson County
outside the city of Jackson the same benefit of library facilities
that are enjoyed by residents of the city. Books and papers bring
the world to our door. A healthy mind needs a variety in its
thought just as much as the properly nourished body
demands a varied diet. — Mrs. Louise Tefft: 1928 request to County Supervisor


Mrs. Tefft’s efforts in promoting the county library were recognized several years later when she received a letter from Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt congratulating her and extending best wishes. Mrs. Tefft, who started it all, said, “Books and papers bring the world to our door. A healthy mind needs a variety in its thought just as much as the properly nourished body demands a varied diet.”
Jackson Citizen Patriot: 1961

At the turn of the 20th Century, the state library established “traveling libraries,” which provided rural areas with books; these became so successful that people wanted permanent libraries in their own communities. Several varieties of libraries popped up in the county, from the private library that Miss Nellie Young operated out of her home in Brooklyn to a sprinkling of subscription libraries and free libraries in Springport, Concord, Parma, and Hanover. Thanks to the efforts of Hanover resident Louise Tefft, Jackson was one of two counties in Michigan chosen to start a county library program.

Hard Times

Miss Maud Grill – teacher, newspaper reporter, librarian – was more than qualified for the task. Most importantly, Miss Grill knew how to work with people and persevere in hard times. She was given an automobile and office space in the basement of the Carnegie building. One of her first tasks was to learn how to drive. Miss Grill traveled the county, establishing book stations and community libraries. She delivered books to schools, swapping out books at each station on a regular basis. Her personal diaries show how readily she racked up 3,000 miles a year. She recounted her efforts to get books out to county residents in her radio talk of 1929.

Photo of Maud Grill

Maud Grill, circa 1937

The first months have been very busy ones. Starting with absolutely no books at all, about 1800 books have been bought, 1000 books have been lent by the Michigan State Library. These 2800 books are now distributed to 19 stations in small town libraries, post offices, and oil stations where shoeboxes and canned good have been shifted to make shelf room. At one station, the task of placing books on shelves just vacated by tomato cans was suspended to charge the books out to interested patrons. At another, the children have greedily taken out easies and books like Peter Rabbit went out and came back three times a day. The country stations are reached by a very efficient Ford Coupe truck. So we do feel that it is true that “Michigan moves ahead.”
Miss Maud Grill: Radio Talk 1929

Worth Their Salt

pg_15-COUNTY-28---store-bookstation

Budgetary issues were always a worry. In 1933, just four years after the County Library opened; county-wide budget cuts were proposed. Once again it was Mrs. Louise Tefft of Hanover who approached the County Supervisors once again.

Dear Sir: Suppose a family’s budget for food looked like this: Meat per month $12; Milk per month, $5, Groceries per month $35; Salt per month .10. What would you think of the brains of the head of the house, if he said “Strict economy being necessary, let us cut down on SALT?” But to cut down on the relatively tiny amounts a community spends on its public library service is to cut down on the intellectual salt which gives savor to most of life; which brings out the flavor and the meaning of many of life’s happenings; which, in times of mental hardship and privation, can do more than any other one factor to make life palatable. Don’t cut the salt out of your budget.
Mrs. Louise Tefft: Oct. 2, 1933

 

The book budget at both public and county libraries suffered during this time, and often only one or two copies of popular books were in circulation. Protecting and reissuing books became a priority, so both systems employed Works Project Administration (or WPA) workers to rebind books. These workers collectively bound thousands of books and also served as librarians, researchers, and book truck drivers. While the WPA workers made wages just above the poverty level, city librarians made even less.

Miss Grill used this adversity to demonstrate the absolute necessity of the County Program. During the peak years of the Depression, the county circulated 12,000 books in one year. She claimed the increase was due to unemployed patrons reading escape literature. And in spite of the hard economic times, the county library expanded.
When she retired in 1952, it would take another talented strong woman, Miss Eudocia Stratton, to carry on. Despite her formal demeanor, Miss Stratton cared about her staff and encouraged them.

Photo of WPA County Library

WPA County Library circa 1935

to Top

Follow the rest of the story!

Author: The Jackson District Library

Leave a Reply

Translate »