History on the Page: Mansfield Memorial Library Board Bookplates, designed by Louis Lamoreux

This week’s blog post is inspired by a piece of history found within the pages of a book in the history section of the library.

Donations to libraries have often been designated in honor of the donor or in honor of a person chosen by the donor by placing a bookplate inside the book. One such bookplate used in books in the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library in the past bears this image:

Black and white image of a scanned woodcut bookplate, with a central image of the Mansfield Public Library. The words "Free Public Library" are easily visible under the pediment. Under the image are the words "Ex LIbris" and around the image are the words "Mansfield Memorial Library Board."
Bookplate

“Ex libris” is a common phrase on bookplates, especially in personal libraries, as it is Latin for “from the books” or “from the library,” usually followed by the name of the individual or organization that owns the book.

This bookplate indicates that the book was donated to the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library by the Mansfield Memorial Library Board.

As previously discussed in this blog, the Memorial Library Association (or Board, later) was the originator of the public library in Mansfield. The membership of the Memorial Library Association was, from its foundation, female, although men could become honorary members. The organization was founded in 1887 and first had its library in the Memorial Building, also known as the Soldiers and Soldiers Hall, on Park Avenue West.

Memorial Building, Mansfield, Ohio. From the Sherman Room Digital Archives.

However, when the Carnegie library on West Third was built (what is now the Main Library), the Memorial Library Association was replaced in its oversight role by a board of trustees appointed by the city. Instead, the Memorial Library Association carried on its work in supporting the library by hosting lectures, fundraising, and donating materials to the library. This is where our bookplate comes onto the scene, placed into books that were donated to the library, especially when the books were donated in memory of someone.

While the Memorial Library Association had been supporting and donating materials to the library since it opened in 1908, this particular bookplate was used beginning in about 1941. In the Mansfield News Journal from April 27th, 1941, the bookplate made its public debut, and is cited as having been designed by Louis Lamoreux, a local architect best known for designing the “Big House” at Louis Bromfield’s Malabar Farm, now Malabar Farm State Park [Mansfield News Journal, 27 April 1941, page 14]. Some of the early books to bear this bookplate were North American Wildflowers, which was donated in memory of Mrs. Frank Black, and Flowers and Fruit Prints of the Early 18th and 19th Centuries, donated in memory of Mrs. Henry Weaver. Both women were past presidents of the Memorial Library Board.

Have you come across anything seemingly inconspicuous that was hiding years of history lately?

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1928: The First Summer Library Program

In 1928 newly hired children’s librarian, Miss Helen Keating, created a program to keep children interested in reading throughout the summer.  This would be recognized as the first Summer Reading Program offered by the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library.  The theme was travel and the program consisted of reading books that correspond to twelve different countries.  Miss Keating, who married Louis Ott in 1930,[1] had an interest in librarianship her entire life.  After obtaining her degree in library science from Case Western University, she became the first children’s librarian at the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library.  She would later serve four terms as president of the library board and serve as librarian of the First United Presbyterian Church for the last 19 years of her life, where she was recognized for her hard work in 1977 by being awarded the distinguished service award by the national Church and Synagogue Library Association.  In addition to this, she continued her work in encouraging children to read by publishing a bibliography called “Helping Children Through Books,” in 1974.[2] On April 22, 1982, the children’s room of the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library was dedicated in her memory.

Mrs. Helen Keating Ott

The program began May 28, 1928 and children were encouraged to pick up their “ticket” at the library.  They were required to read one of four books to begin their journey: either “Friend in Strange Garments” by Upjohn, “Peeps at the World’s Children,”  “Young Folk’s Books of Other Lands,” or “Little Lucy’s Wonderful Globe.”  After that they would travel onto England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Tyrol, Italy, Spain, and Russia.  After children would read a book for a country, they would have to report back to the librarian to have their ticket punched.  Once completed they would receive a certificate bearing their name and school.[3]

Mrs. Ott in the Children’s Room, around 1928.

On July 4, 1928, it was announced that a first grade school student completed the tour. His name was Robert Emmer, a 10-year-old from Western Avenue School.  The following week, Agnes Contra of St. Peter’s Perochial School became the first girl to complete the tour.  This was followed by Ruth Roesch, Anna Menrath, Evalyn Gross, and Mary and Helen Baughman by the end of July.  Thirty Children completed the tour when in ended on October 1, 1928, each having read 15 books.  The program proved successful and the following year the theme of “treasure hunt” was selected.  Each child received a folder with thirty treasures listed and clues led to certain books where the treasure might be found.  Forty-eight children found fifteen treasures and seventeen of these children had completed the travel tour the year before.

Children gathered around the circulation desk, date unknown.

The Summer Library Program looks different today.  It is not only open to children, but now adults can join in the fun and the prizes are much larger.  MRCPL’s Summer Library Program starts Monday, June 7, for more information check out the library website at https://www.mrcpl.org/visit/slp2021/.


[1] Mansfield News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio). 09 Oct 1930, p. 14.

[2] Helen Keating Ott. Mansfield News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio). 06 Aug 1979, p. 12.

[3] Mansfield News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio). 28 May 1928, p. 16.

The Quarantine of 1918

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the first instance the library had to close due to public health concerns. In late 1918, Spanish Influenza was quickly spreading across the country. The pandemic spread worldwide and was estimated to have killed at least 50 million people, 675,000 of them in the United States. It was a unique pandemic, as young and old alike were at risk. The city health board reported that not one case of Spanish influenza had been reported in Mansfield by Oct. 4, 1918, but they insisted measures still be taken to reduce risk.i The following day, 25 cases were reported to the health board, one being considered serious. Dr. G. T. Goodman, the city health official, didn’t think it was necessary at the time to take stringent action, but asked citizens to take caution.ii On October 8, 1918, a quarantine went into effect closing schools, churches, lodge houses, and the public library.iii The disease continued to grow and, on October 9, 1918, 30 more cases were reported and the first death was reported: Mrs. Millie Hays Sigler, the 42-year-old wife of Curtis C. Sigler.iv It was also reported that the Mansfield General Hospital could only care for four patients at a time in their isolation ward.v

library

Before the quarantine order, the library was already being used to help victims.  In September, the basement was being used as a hospital supplies room and office for the Red Cross.vi Soon more deaths happened in the city.  33-year-old Mansfield police patrolman, Henry Miller, died on October 12, as did 24-year-old Ralph Sites, who passed away during his mother’s funeral, who also succumbed to influenza.vii In the next two days, there would be 50 new cases with 8 deaths and a familiar warning was issued to citizens by Dr. Goodman: “stay at home and take care of yourself.”viii By October 18, 43 people had succumbed to the sickness.ix

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The Mansfield News, October 16, 1918

By November, the daily cases reported began to decrease but the health board still decided to increased the ban and ordered all businesses to close by 7 o’clock each night.x On November 6, Dr. Goodman reported for the first time in a month that no new cases of Spanish Influenza were reported and talks began about lifting the ban.xi On November 11, 1918, the library reopened and, on the following day, experienced one of its busiest days ever. The Mansfield News reported that there seemed to be a new appreciation for the library, shown by many of the remarks given by patrons.xii The library had been closed for over a month. Mansfield’s other businesses quickly returned to normal as well.  Six places, including the library, were reported to have been robbed on the night of November 14. Ora Baldwin, his brother Harry, and Clifford Bartrum reportedly first robbed the Buckeye Bakery, getting $1.50 and a flashlight.  They next went to Calvert Laundry where they got another flashlight. Armed with the two flashlights, they made their way to the public library where they were arrested.xiii

Sources:

i The Mansfield News, 04 OCT 1918 p2
ii The Mansfield News, 05 OCT 1918 p4
iii The Mansfield News, 08 OCT 1918 p2
iv The Mansfield News, 09 OCT 1918 p4
v The Mansfield News, 09 OCT 1918 p2
vi The Mansfield News, 21 SEP 1918 p8
vii The Mansfield News, 12 OCT 1918 p4
viii The Mansfield News, 14 OCT
1918 p4
ix The Mansfield News, 18 OCT 1918 p4
x The Mansfield News, 01 NOV 1918 p7
xi The Mansfield News, 06 NOV 1918 p7
xii The Mansfield News, 13 NOV 1918 p10
xiiiThe Mansfield News, 15 NOV 1918 p4

Mansfield Bookmobiles Throughout the Years

On March 31, 1989, the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library discontinued the use of their bookmobile. In a February 2, 1989, Mansfield News Journal article, then library director, Ed Kieczyowski noted the renovated main library, upgraded branches, and new branches in Ontario and Madison as a few reasons for the decline in bookmobile circulation. Thirty-Two years later, MRCPL has a new bookmobile allowing the library to reach more residents throughout Richland County. The library has utilized bookmobiles since 1931, below is a list of the bookmobiles used in the last 90 years.

bookmobile

The Mansfield/Richland County Public Library received its first book truck in 1931.  The cost of the book truck, a 1931 Reo, was $1,010.03 and began operation on October 12, 1931.  In those first few months, according to the 1931 Annual Report, it cost $31.03 to house and operate the book truck and librarians circulated 14,295 books.  In its first three months, the book truck traveled almost 1500 miles throughout Richland County.

bookmobile002

In 1937 the library purchased a new book truck to replace the “old Reo.”  The new truck was a 1937 Dodge Humpback.  In 1937 the book truck circulated 36,486 books.

bookmobile003

In 1948 the library purchased its first true bookmobile, a 1948 Ford truck.  This was a big improvement.  Instead of traveling to a school and unloading a collection and reloading it, the bookmobile could simply stop and begin circulating materials.  From June 15 – December 16 of 1948, the bookmobile traveled 3,105 miles, made 216 scheduled stops, 17 trips to branches, and circulated 17,658 books.  The cost of operation was $137.26.  During the summer, the bookmobile averaged 8 to 9 miles per gallon and 5 to 6 miles per gallon in the winter when the heaters were in use.

bookmobile005

On July 6, 1959, a Suburban Branchmobile was introduced.  This was a $15,000 trailer converted to a library on wheels and parked at various locations throughout the city.   The first sites chosen were West Park Shopping Center, Johnny Appleseed Shopping Center, and the Davis Grocery on North Bowman Street.  The “branchmobile” had a circulation of 8,688 in its first six months.

bookmobile004

On September 19, 1960, a new bookmobile was put into service.  The new bookmobile could hold 3,500 books and was much roomier than the previous one.  The staff was especially grateful for the efficient LPG heater.  The bookmobile circulated 96,250 books in 1960, an increase of 3,865 over the previous year.

bookmobile006

In 1979 a new bookmobile was purchased and dubbed the “Green Apple.” The Friends of the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library ran a contest to name the new bookmobile, which was entered by 650 students from 13 schools served by the bookmobile.  The winning entry was from Linda Bumpus, a Mifflin School sixth-grader.

Photo by Laurel Bocka Pollock

The library’s most recent bookmobile began service on March 22, 2021. Check out https://www.mrcpl.org/bookmobile/ for the most updated information.

Updated on May 28, 2021.