Moving Dirt to Expand Service


By Polly Horn - Myers Inn Museum Curator

Library patrons may take their local library for granted; they see it as a necessary part of any thriving and growing community’s infrastructure, but Sunbury did not always have its local library.

Efforts to create a Sunbury library were begun as early as 1823 when Lawrence Myers invited people to his home to start a library on December 25, 1823. We do not know if anything came of this effort, but a century later, in 1923, State Library of Ohio had a small lending library in the Gelston Bakery next door to the Myers Inn.

In 1944 the YWCA (Young Woman’s Christian Association), with Marian Whitney as president, held a Tea/Book Shower for local literary groups. Author Louis Bromfield was to be the guest speaker. Guests were to bring a book. Although Bromfield could not attend, Pearl Whitney presented a paper on Bromfield’s writing and experiments at Malabar Farm.

That YWCA event netted 200 books and $16 towards establishing a library. Sunbury Village Council rented space in the basement of the Kempton building at 44 S. Vernon Street. The Sunbury Lions Club provided $15 for bookshelves and the YWCA began collecting books for a community library.

Before the library could open, Don Perfect bought the Kempton building and moved the upper two floors to Morning Street just south east of Cherry Street where it became a two-family house; and he built the brick building for a garage and salesroom. This building later housed The Sunbury News.

Community Library rented the front room in the former meat market at 68 E. Cherry Street, eventually taking over both rooms. On March 19, 1945, the YWCA appointed the first Board of Trustees for Community Library: Rev. M.K. Lashley, D. C. Hoover, Norma Lenhardt, V. R. Howard, Grace Miller, H.P. Irwin, and Beatrice Hottle as YWCA representative.

When the national YWCA adopted an Interracial Charter in 1946, Mrs. Hottle felt she could no longer represent the group and resigned. Felice Patton was appointed by Marian Whitney to represent the YWCA. When Joseph McCarthy’s accusations of communism hit the national Y, the local YWCA stopped holding meetings and did not appoint a member to the library board of trustees, although they did continue to support Y-Teen programs in the Sunbury School. Community Library was led by librarians Magdalene Mahoney in 1944, Mary Kay McCool in 1946, and Maud Horlocker in 1948.

Community Library was open 1 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays, and 3 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. on Saturdays. Community Library’s budget for 1949 was $3,863. Mrs. Horlocker made $60 a month as librarian. In May of that year, an adult education program featured the latest invention – television.

In 1952, the library board asked Carleton Burrer if his wife would become the librarian. He accepted for her. Dorothy (Dilly) Burrer was the first trained librarian with a degree in Library Science, earned from Columbia University.

By 1954 the library had outgrown its headquarters, so Sunbury Council removed the jail cell and marshal’s office from Sunbury Town Hall, added a restroom on the first floor, and rented it to Community Library. Using a wagon towed by D.C. Hoover’s car and children with their wagons, 8,000 books were moved from Cherry Street into Town Hall. Growth continued as books were boxed and taken to school classrooms.

In 1966 the library expanded to the second floor of Town Hall. Mrs. Burrer retired in December 1974. Former pages Rachel Edwards and Polly Horn were hired to split Burrer’s job. Edwards was getting her Library of Science degree from Kent State and became the Library Director. Circulation and book collections grew and the third floor of Town Hall was added to the library.

When the nation celebrated its Bicentennial in 1976, the library became the headquarters for local activities. A Bicentennial Quilt was made in the library. The first of 10 annual Arts and Crafts Fairs were held on Sunbury Square. An International Fair brought a variety of other cultures to Sunbury.

Community Library Friends was formed in 1976. They sponsored a Tour of Homes, a Thrift Shop in the Hopkins House (which was given to the library by the McMillan’s in 1978), Saturday morning work-ins at the library, and Library Lovers Night.

In 1982, the library was moved across the street to the former drug store while the village added structural support to Town Hall, and businesses surrounding Village Square open with the library for the first Christmas-on-the-Square. When Community Library moved back into the Town Hall weight on the floors was limited so Edwards rented the former Clark Furniture Store on Hartford Road to be used as a warehouse for book overflow. When patrons wanted a stored book, they left a note and a staff member went to the warehouse daily to retrieve requested books.

Community Library was back to a “notes on a nail” system that was used before the first trained librarian, so it was time to move. There was no space available that fit the library’s growing needs so plans were begun to fund a new building. Edwards left the library in 1991 and Polly Horn became the interim director. Members of the community supported a library bond issue on its first vote. Horn became Community Library Director while working on plans for a new facility. The library failed to obtain a clear title to a small 10-foot by 15-foot piece of land behind the Hopkins House. Farm land was purchased from Russell Miller.

In 1994, the newly automated library moved into its first permanent home at 44 Burrer Drive. The file cabinets full of local history had become the Burrer Family Memorial Room of local history. Horn retired after 30 years, leaving the library with acreage for future expansion, and a rainy-day foundation fund of over $100,000. In 2005 with a Library of Science Degree, Chauncey Montgomery became the Library Director. Montgomery completed the transaction on the last section of vacant land Horn had not been able to acquire. Patronage has continued to grow as the community has grown. Technology continues to lead as needs change for residents.

By Polly Horn

Myers Inn Museum Curator