History of the Columbia Branch Library

In 1935, the State Library Board designated Lorain Public Library as a County Extension Center. Service to Columbia Township began with monthly Bookmobile service provided through the Lorain Public Library. The Bookmobile made at least two stops, one at Kolwalski’s Store on the corner of Anderson and Station Rd. The women and children in the area would gather to visit and borrow new books. One humorous memory provided by a community member was that only one pregnant mother could come on board at a time as space was limited. The second stop was at the school during the school year. One of those school children fondly recalled being allowed to leave the school building to enter the Bookmobile.

By the 1950s, the Bookmobile was not sufficient for the needs of the community. The Acme Grange was active in community service, so the Grange formed a Library committee composed of Abel Carpenter, Calvin Furlong, and Gordon Bartter. Over two years, their conference with Miss Marion King, the Lorain Public Library Director, resulted in Lorain Library and the Grange applying to the Lorain County Budget Commission for additional funding. In December, 1954 they were notified that $4687.00 would be added to the County Library Fund for the establishment of a Library in Columbia. The money would not come in until July but the planning could start right away. The money was budgeted: Rent and light - $240, Books - $2500, Salary - $1.50 per hour and 3 days a week, heat - $25, and Supplies - $50. The Acme Grange was to remodel the room, furnish it with shelving, desk, tables and chairs and attempt to raise an additional $1000 for books. The Library Board leased from Frederick & Sarah Castle a 14’ x 26’ office room being the rear half of a frame structure located on the north-west corner of Station Rd. and Rt. 82. Mrs. Leo Slansky was the first librarian. The official open house was April 2, 1955. There were about 750 books available for lending. The hours were Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 5 p.m. and 6:30 to 9 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. That first year there was a circulation of 6,348 items. In four years the circulation grew to 14,818 items and the Library had clearly outgrown its one room. The shelves that had been built for 2,500 books now held 4,000.

Meanwhile, the Grange had actively carried on community service. They had won state honors but now Abel Carpenter, the Master, felt that the Grange should compete in a nationwide contest for the Sears Foundation award for Community Service. They were awarded $5000. Taking half the money, after much debate and knowing the one room Library would be inadequate the Grange purchased about 5 acres of land from Nettie Adams Myers (Sally Bronson’s great grandchild) on Royalton Rd. Then time was required for incorporation and negotiations for a lease agreement with Lorain Public Library and a loan to be obtained for construction of a new building. A contract was signed with Mr. Leon Smith of Capel Rd. to erect a 28’x 40’ cement block building complete and ready for the Library to occupy within 90 days for the sum of $9,477. He was a member of the Grange and did not take payment for his time. The Columbia Kiwanis Club bought the metal shelving and installed it. Mrs. Margarite Furlong was now the librarian. On January 28, 1959 the move began. By February 8, the shelves were in good enough order to have the grand opening. There were 960 registered borrowers. The Library was now open four days a week with evening hours on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 6:30 to 9 p.m. In 1959, the Summer Reading club was offered for students in the second through sixth grades. Children had to read 10 books and give an oral report to the librarian. Mrs. Furlong resigned on December 31, 1963. Mrs. Peggy Barber became the next branch librarian. January 1967 saw the rent increase to $100 per month.

Mrs. Marilyn Fetchet became the branch librarian on July 10, 1967. Under the heading of other duties as assigned, the librarian had to mow the lawn and shovel the snow. One of the special memories of the block building were summer nights when the windows were open and the bugs came in because there were no screens. Again the building became too small. The materials collection was up to 10,610 items with a circulation of 18,412 items. New items that could be borrowed were 8mm movies and 16mm movies that could be ordered from the Main Library in Lorain. In November of 1971, Columbia voted for a one-year, 2.5 mill levy for about $50,000 to build a new building on township land at 13824 West River Rd.

The new Library on West River Rd. was 72’ x 41’. The Dedication was held on April 8, 1973. The new building had a magazine section, record section and separate areas for children and adults. There were no windows, but the building had heat and air conditioning. Only the snow shovel had to come to the new building from the old facility. The township mowed the lawn.

On Wednesday of each week, the librarian took requests for books that were not in the Columbia Library to the Main Library in Lorain. There, she would fill the requests and bring them back to the Columbia Branch in boxes.

Not long after the move there was a new innovation. Patrons would no longer have to sign the card in the back of the book. A microfilm camera was used to take a picture of the patron’s Library card, the book card and the date due slip. By 1977, the collection reached 12,864 items with a circulation of 22,895 items. More progress came in the 1980s with the installation of a toll free 1-800 number. The Branch was able to call the Main Library and ask for books and information. The year 1987 saw a collection of 17,781 items in the Library. There were 16,779 visits by patrons. A delivery system was put in place so the Library staff from all the Lorain Public Library System Branches would not have to haul boxes of books every week. The delivery system was increased so that by the early 1990s, delivery was five days a week. The 8mm and 16mm films became outdated and were replaced with videos. Phonograph records were replaced with cassette tapes and CDs. The summer reading programs were being so well attended that the giving of oral reports was abandoned.

In 1991, a major change took place for the Lorain Public Library System. Computers came to the Library. Lorain Public Library System was the eighteenth Library system to join CLEVNET. A whole new world of books and information was starting to arrive on the Library’s doorstep. Also in 1991, Marilyn Fetchet retired after 24-1/2 years of service.

Sandra Mitchell became the next and current librarian. She saw the Library through a renovation in 1995.

In November 2000, a 10 year operating levy was passed with the hard work of a levy committee and the support of the community. The old building was bursting at the seams in 2002 with 31,216 items and circulation count of 70,864 and patron visits of 56,815.

To meet the growing demands the current building was expanded and renovated. This $1.2 million building project was funded through the Library and Local Government Support Fund (LLGSF), borrowing funds using LLGSF tax anticipation notes and through the Lorain Public Library System’s ability to set aside funds thanks to the passage of the 1.44 mill levy in 2000. The levy monies are used to operate the renovated and expanded Library building on West River Rd.

The Library moved to temporary quarters on Station Rd. for a little under one year then moved back in to the new building. The Grand Opening was November 9, 2003. The new building has larger areas for children, teens and adults and an adequate work area for the staff. There is a multipurpose room for programming and community meetings. It may be used as a quiet area for reading or use of a wireless laptop.

In May 2010, the community passed a five year 1.74 mill operating levy that provides monies to operate the Columbia Branch.