A library is defined as an organized collection of sources of information and similar resources, made accessible to a defined community for reference or borrowing. It provides physical or digital access to material, and may be a physical building or virtual space. This definition doesn’t give justice to what Mellinger Memorial Library is! This library is a vital part of our community. In these walls you can find part of your history, a story you can relate to, local history available for you to explore. In these walls, there is a magical world for all to transport to.
Let’s go back through some of the history.
Long before the internet, cell phones, and hand held cameras, Mrs. WE Sterett took charge and commanded the necessary leadership to bring library services in to action for the town of Morning Sun and surrounding vicinity. She secured the cooperation and representation from various civic organizations. On November 22, 1915 a meeting was held to put a course plan into action. Attending the meeting were Mrs. WR Sterett, Mrs. CW Talbot, Mrs. DY Graham, Miss Susie Kilpatrick, Miss Minnie Wilson, Mrs. RW McElhinney, Mrs. CP Pierce, Miss Lora Rock, Mrs. Winona Willson, IM Jamison, JK Latta, Dr. OF Boller, WJ Marshall, Mrs. William Beck, WA Thompson, and Mrs. HH Beck. Those people then selected nine members as Trustees. That board met on December 4, 1915 and added additional trustees. On December 6, they met again and elected offices. The original board included Mrs. WR Sterett, President; Mrs. DY Graham, Secretary; Mrs. Talbott; Mrs. McElhinney; Mr. Latta; Mrs. Graham; Mrs. CA Thompson; Bert McKinley; Mr. Marshall; Miss Lemma Beck; CH McClurkin; Dr. Boller; and Mrs. HC Brown. Three committees were appointed.
They remained in these offices until January 26, 1922 when Dr. Boller became President and CH McClurkin was made treasurer of what was then known as the Morning Sun Library Association.
Trustees voted to house the library in city hall on December 20, 1922. The city hall and library later went to separate buildings only to combine again years later. The first books in the library were gifts and there were only 120. The library became the Sorosis Club’s special project and gave $32.50 for the purchase of books. You might say “only $32.50?” Back then that went a very long way. More financial support came through the membership subscriptions, benefit programs, suppers, and donations. On January 28, 1916, there were 635 books housed in the library. Miss Lemma Beck volunteered her time to serve as the first librarian followed by Miss Annette McCoy.
In 1917, there was a proposal of a community building but there were no finances to support the idea. At that time nothing was done. On July 6, 1925 the city council voted to grant a tax for the library. The first tax money was received in April 1926. The city council appointed nine trustees to administer the fund. The board members appointed were Mrs. WR Sterett, JK Latta, Miss Lemma Beck, Bert McKinley, Mrs. CH McClurkin, Mrs. HH Beck, Dr. HM Griffin, Mrs. CA Thompson, and Mrs. LR Pierce. April 20, 1926 was the first meeting after the tax. Mrs. LR Pierce was elected chairman, Mrs. CH McClurkin-Secretary, Miss Lemma Beck-Treasurer. Miss Beck was also named librarian until 1927 when a new librarian was selected, Mrs. LM Samson. The highest daily circulation was in 1935 and was 305 books. There was great rejoicing in the hearts of the Morning Sun community when Mrs. Maude Mehaffy and Mr. and Mrs. OM Hensleigh gave the generous gift of a library building in memory of their brother, Edward Arthur Mellinger.
Edward Arthur Mellinger was born in 1874 near Morning Sun. He attended a one-room country school then graduated from Morning Sun High School. He enrolled at Iowa State College known to us now as Iowa State University in 1891. He earned a degree in Electrical Engineering.
Telephone communications was in infancy while he was doing academic work but he became particularly interested. This interest lead to a lifelong association with the telephone industry. He served as a skilled engineer who supervised the development, manufacture, and installation of telephone systems in many parts of the world. An effective salesman, he spent a portion of his career in sales.
E.A. Mellinger found time for experimental work which assisted him in obtaining 17 industry-related United States Patents.
Shortly before his passing in 1933, Mellinger established the Mellinger Investment Company. He hoped it would ultimately be the source of an endowment for educational purposes. When the stock market crashed in the early 1930s, he concluded there would not be enough for funding what he had in mind. He left what remained of the Mellinger Investment Company to his two sisters, Maude Luther Mehaffy and Inez A. Hensleigh. The current library and city hall where a memorial gift from his two sisters and was dedicated on May 30, 1937.
The Edward Arthur Mellinger Memorial Library was completed at a cost of $35,000. A one-story brick building built of gray brick, trimmed in white Bedford stone and surmounted by a tower where the clock was placed, became the home of the Morning Sun community library. The dedication service was on a Monday at 1:30 pm under the direction of Bert McKinley, program chairman. The invocation was given by Rev. HG Patterson following the singing of “America” by the group. Mrs. LR Pierce presented a history of the library followed by “Reminiscences of the library” by Mrs. WR Sterett. The principle address was given by the Honorary Oscar Hale, Wapello, Judge of the District Court. Mrs. OM Hensleigh presented the library and Bert McKinley, President of the Library Association, accepted the building. Music was provided by the Iowa Wesleyan Band and the high school quartet.
Previously stated the library building was built as a one story building. The building now houses the library on the top floor and city hall and the fireplace room on the lower floor.
Although, I can’t give you information about all the librarians following is some about some the librarians.
Darlene Caparoon list many things she was proud of at her retirement but the ones that stand out the most and continue today include delivering books to people unable to visit the library and creating the genealogy section. She made the genealogy section include family books and News-Heralds. The collection of papers and binding was demanding and rewarding.
Jacine Edwards was the next librarian. Her pride and joy was the children’s programs. She lead many story hours including ones entitled “Incredible Dream Machine” and “Adventure Hour”. A Junior Library Board was organized by Jacine and many children participated. She was also awarded a “Celebrate Literacy” award in 1987!
Following Jacine was Pamela Butler. Pamela was able to purchase new shelving for the adult room which is in use today and remains beautiful! She also oversaw donating many library owned Lora Rock paintings to the Community Betterment which are now in the Lora Rock museum. She made sure they were restored.
Amy Moser was only here for a short time but her biggest accomplishment was training the library board.
Alethea La Mar followed Amy. Alethea focused on the technology aspect of the library. During her years as librarian, she was able to switch the catalog and check out process over to an automated system. Also, during her time as librarian, all of the News-Heralds and Yearbooks the library owns were put into a digital system that is available online to you! She also enrolled the library in a state wide program to make eBooks and downloadable audiobooks available to patrons at no cost!
The library is now home to over 42,000 items including movies, magazines, nonfiction books, adult books, kids’ books, mystery books, romance books, inspirational books, historical books, biographies, large print books, western books, genealogy, and audio books.
In the beginning the library association worked to help fund the library by fundraisers and membership fees. This is what our Friends of Mellinger Library group does now. Members are needed and all are encouraged to join. There will be a member drive on November 21 during our celebration! If you wish to join now, forms are available for you to fill out at the library main desk!
The Board of Trustees is very much so active and contains 5 members and on city liaison. They are the governing factor of the library.