East Central Regional Library to Celebrate 50 Years

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009 at 9:08 am

East Central Regional Library will be celebrating the entire month of November.  It’s our 50th Anniversary and each of our 14 branch libraries will be having a celebration.  To kickoff the month long festivities, East Central Regional Library Headquarters and the Cambridge Public Library will be hosting an open house on Thursday, November 5 from 2:00 – 6:00 pm.  There will be music, refreshments and a short program at 4:00 pm with guest speaker, former ECRL director, Bill Asp and a presentation of ECRL’s 50 year history.  Patrons, local City and County officials are invited to join State Legislators, State Librarian, Suzanne Miller, and present and former library staff for this momentous occasion.

Celebrations will be held at each of ECRL’s branch libraries throughout the month.  Each celebration will also include refreshments and entertainment.  Stop by your local ECRL branch or visit www.ecrlib.org for a list of the dates and times for each celebration.

ECRL thanks community organizations and vendors for financial support of the anniversary celebrations.  Artist presentations are funded through the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund of the Legacy Amendment, approved by the Minnesota voters and the 2009 Minnesota legislature.

History of ECRL

ECRL was established in 1959 when county commissioners from three counties signed a tri-county library agreement.  Those original three counties included Isanti, Mille Lacs and Pine.  ECRL became the second multi-county library in Minnesota established under Minnesota’s regional library law and the Federal Library Services Act.  It received $58,150 under this congressional act to establish library services in rural areas of the country.

The original officers of the ECRL Board in 1959 consisted of Mrs. Frank Gudridge of Wahkon as president; Mrs. Anna Burk of Hinckley as vice-president; Mrs. R. B. Ernst of Cambridge as secretary; and Olvern Ericson of Isanti as treasurer.  A budget of $25,000 for books and other library materials was established.

The first task at hand was selecting a site for the headquarters building.  Three cities in the area, including Cambridge, Milaca and Princeton, entered the contest for the site.  In April 1959 a proposal to build a $40,000 building in Cambridge was accepted by the members of the ECRL board.  While the headquarters building was being built, the first regional library branch opened in Princeton in 1959.  Bookmobile service using a vehicle borrowed from the State Library began in the tri-county area on Tuesday, February 16, 1960.  However, in March 1960 a new bright yellow and green bookmobile costing $10, 775 began traveling the roads of Isanti, Mille Lacs and Pine counties.   Construction of the new ECRL headquarters building in Cambridge was completed and on the very first day of business, two hundred and ninety-two books were checked out!

East Central Regional Library grew from a tri-county system from 1959-1970.  Aitkin County joined in 1964, Kanabec County in 1967, and Chisago County in 1970.  The system now has 14 branch libraries (Aitkin, Cambridge, Chisago Lakes, Hinckley, McGregor, Milaca, Mille Lacs Lake (Isle), Mora, North Branch, Pine City, Princeton, Rush City, Sandstone and Wyoming.  Bookmobile service was discontinued in the spring of 2009 and replaced with an Outreach vehicle that services remote communities without branches.  Outreach also provided library services in link sites in Onamia and Isanti.

Marjorie Pomeroy became ECRL’s first director in August 1959 and remained in that position through 1966.  ECRL Directors since then are:  Bill Asp (1967-1970): Darro Wiley (1971-1975); Janet Alexander (1975-1977); Cheryl Bjoin (1978-1986); and Bob Boese (1986-2007).  Barbara Misselt began in September 2007.

One of the highlights of ECRL’s 40 years was winning the $5000 Dorothy Fisher Book of the Month Club award in 1964.  ECRL received national attention from the award.  Governor Karl Rolvaag and Senator Hubert Humphrey were speakers at the special program to present the award.  Another milestone in ECRL’s history was the completion of our very first automation system, IMPACK.  In April 1996 patrons were able to use our online computer system for the very first time.

Since 1959 ECRL has continued to grow.  It has gone from a book budget of $25,000 to a budget of $397,500.00 (including books, magazines, databases) and from circulating 292 books in one day to currently over 3100 library items in one day.  Filmstrips and 16mm films have been replaced with DVDs and books on CD.  120 computers now offer patrons access to email, the Internet, specialized databases and our catalog.

Over the past 50 years the library has experienced many changes.  From cards and pockets to barcodes and computers, accessing information has become easier and faster.  But the greatest and most important moments come from the thousands of patrons that have used East Central Regional Library services over the past 50 years.  It is the people that remain the heart and soul of the library.  Here’s to another 50 years ECRL!

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