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Library Marks 100 Years Of Service

DALLAS -- As years go, 1912 was a busy one, especially around Dallas.

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The Dallas Public Library resided in the Carnegie Building on Court Street from 1912 until 1990.

DALLAS -- As years go, 1912 was a busy one, especially around Dallas.

Dallas High School graduated its first class, the Dallas Armory was built, women statewide were finally given the right to vote, and Dallas' first dedicated library -- The Carnegie Library -- was opened.

The Dallas Public Library is holding a 100-year anniversary celebration Saturday at 11 a.m. to mark the achievement.

Attendees will be able to see old photos and read new stories about the former library, now known as the Carnegie Building. Highlighting the event will be Dallas resident and library volunteer Gary Coville's presentation on the library's history. He retired recently, but worked and volunteered in both the Carnegie Library and the current Main Street location for more than 28 years.

Gary Coville

Coville said he remembers going to the Carnegie Library for the first time when he was 8 years old -- to get his first library card.

"I remember walking up the long set of stairs on the outside, walking across the lobby, and there was another imposing set of stairs," he recalled. "Every step I took was squeaking and echoing through the building."

Later, as part of the library staff, Coville remembers a local celebrity, Frank "Harpy" Bovard, making a daily visit to the library. He wasn't there to check out books, but to make sure everybody cleared out by closing time. A longtime fire department volunteer, Bovard could have been perceived as cantankerous at times, Coville noted.

"He was gruff on the outside, but if you got to know him he was a very kind and gentle soul," Coville said.

Late-staying library patrons were to be warned, however.

"Every day, four or five minutes before closing, you could hear him come clumping up the steps," Coville said.

When he arrived at the main library room, it was always with this announcement: "It's about time for you people to leave. These people (library staff) want to go home!"

Bovard was later persuaded to allow library employees to usher people out at the end of the day, but Coville remembers that fondly.

"Actually, it was rather appreciated by library staff," he said. "We didn't have to check people out. Harpy did it for us."

For all the fond memories it contained, toward the end of its days in use, the Carnegie Library was becoming increasingly inadequate. Not before nearly 80 years of service, though.

According to a history of the Dallas library compiled by Glenn Knight, Dallas resident Irene Gerlinger began gathering donations to form the city's first library in 1905. The library was opened the same year in the Firemen's Room of the old Dallas City Hall on the corner of Church and Court streets. The first librarian, Jenny Muscott, was hired in 1907. It quickly outgrew its space in the Firemen's Room, and Gerlinger wrote a letter imploring Andrew Carnegie for assistance. Carnegie helped build 1,679 public libraries in the United States between 1883 and 1929.

He agreed, and plans for a $10,000 building were approved, so long as the city agreed to pay $1,000 annually for library operations. The funding was secured in 1911 and construction began at the corner of Church and Court (the old city hall was moved) in 1912.

The building served as the library until 1990, when it was moved to its current site at 950 Main St.

Rosalyn McGarva, the current library's lead librarian, who also worked in the Carnegie Library, said she wished there could have been a way to upgrade the old building for continued use.

"I loved working there," she said. "The bottom floor opened to the lawn and we used to read children's stories out there. It was great."

Coville hopes the anniversary will inspire residents and the city, which still owns the building, to want to put the vacant former library back into use.

"It's a shame the building sits as it is," he said. "Maybe someday people will come up with ideas to preserve the library, the old building. We saw the old (Dallas) armory come down this year and it was constructed just months before the library. We lost one landmark. It would be a shame to see a second one go."

Still circulating after all these years ...

What:

Dallas Public Library 100-year celebration.

When:

Saturday, 11 a.m.

Where:

Dallas Public Library, 950 Main St.

For more information:

503-623-2633.

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