History of the Library

According to Mrs. Betty French (former librarian, now deceased) in the Kalkaska County History 1871 – 1971, the library was started in 1934 as a community service project of the Academea Club (a local women’s club still actively contributing to the library).

Books were brought from members’ homes to a balcony in Strang’s Store on Cedar Street, in downtown Kalkaska. Gladys Fenton was the first librarian, and the members of the Academea Club volunteered their time to staff the library. To raise funds for new books the members gave card parties and held membership drives.

The library became a governmental agency in 1935 through a WPA project. It was named the Kalkaska County Demonstration Library. The funds from the WPA project enabled the library to have a paid librarian. Esther Peck held that position from December 1935 until October 1941. When the book collection outgrew Strang’s store balcony, the library moved to the front part of Mrs. Baumgarten’s Beauty Shop in the old bank building.

In 1938, the county’s Board of Supervisors legalized the newly named Kalkaska County Library by appointing the first Library Board of Directors, consisting of Blanche Lossing, Thelma Strahan, Vera Schneider, Margarethe Klumpp and Clayton Eckhardt. The County contributed $15.00 in order for the library to qualify for state aid of $299.22.

The library’s present home was constructed in 1939. It was designed as a community building and was constructed with local stone. Jim McLean did the stonework for the twenty-four feet by thirty-six feet facility which has a basement and public rest rooms. The library moved into a single room of the building on January 11, 1940 and shared the building with the Chamber of Commerce – which is now located in its own facility next to the Trout Fountain – and the library now fills the original building plus two additions, one of which was constructed in 1977 and the other in 1991.

Esther Peck left her position in 1942 and Mrs. Lillian Clymer took her place, followed by Mrs. Betty French from 1960 – 1982. Mrs. Lyrle Zemke followed Mrs. French, and with the exception of one year (1984 – Eric Grandstaff) managed the library until 1992. Kathleen M. Mosher was the library director from 1992 until 2010.

Bonnie Reed was appointed Interim Director from June 2010 until September 2010, when James Hibler was hired to be the director. Hibler served from September 2010 until March 2012, at which point Reed, and the former Youth Services/Technology Director Bradley Chaplin, served as Interim Co-Directors.

Bradley Chaplin was appointed Library Director in April 2012. Chaplin had served as the Youth Services Director and Technology Director in June 23, 2011. In June 2012, Rachael Birgy was hired to fill the vacant Youth Services Director position.