Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mentor at 50 -- 'No Dust on These Shelves'

Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post Writers Group wrote an editorial earlier in the year lamenting the passing of print.  Dust to Dust; paper to digital; printosaurs becoming extinct once and for-all.  Despite her mourning the soon-to-be loss of this historically rich medium, books and the old ways are still alive and well in Mentor.  In fact, Ben Franklin would be proud to celebrate the history of books and libraries when one examines the history of Mentor, Ohio.

February 22, 1819 began the rich history of books in what eventually became the City of Mentor. The Mentor Library Company was formed.  Six shareholders paid $2.50 a share to embrace the 79 volumes that comprised the first collection.  Each share purchased  allowed the owner the right to take out one book for a period of three months.  Popular books went to the highest bidder.  In 1875, the Mentor Library Association was formed and replaced the original enterprise.  Members paid $1.50 annually for the right to check out one of the 50 books for a fortnight.

Change occurred in 1890 as James R. Garfield became chairman of the library association, a post he held thru 1927.  The library, now housed in Mentor Village Hall grew from 298 books to 800 within a year.  Loans of two weeks became the norm.  A .50 mill levy in 1895 generated $160 annually and a free public library became a reality.  1899 became a pivotal year in the library history annals as a former Mentor Township resident Addison Goodall pledged $2000 for a building.  President Garfield's other son Abram Garfield lent his architectural hand to the project and the first library was built on the corner of Center and Nowlen Street.

Frances Cleveland was named librarian in 1906.  Continued growth became the norm in the years that followed.  In 1926 the Mentor School Board took over operation of the library (still in effect today) to take advantage of favorable laws and monetary support possibilities.  The library was named the Garfield Public Library, in honor of both men's contributions.  The current name of the library was chosen in 1950.  Since 1959 expansion and acquisition have been the norm.  The Headlands Branch of the Mentor Public Library was acquired in '59 from the Fairport Public Library holdings.  The Mentor-on-the-Lake Branch at Salida School occurred in 1966.  Expansion on the Headlands site took place in '85.  In 1991 the new main branch campus became a reality and in 2009 the 'Read House' (January blog) was acquired.

The passing of books and the imminent death of libraries forewarned by Parker have not placed their icy fingers on this Lake County landmark.  As Mentor celebrates its 50th in 2013, do drive down Center Street and witness the first book superstore or B&N in our county's early history.

Partial Sources - Washington Post and

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