NEW LONDON PUBLIC LIBRARY


The New London Library Association was organized in June 1874 with Dr. Anson Deering Skellenger serving as its first president. Their constitution permitted any person 12 years or older to pay a $3.00 share. For each share owned, 1 book could be borrowed for 30 days, with a fine of 10 cents per day thereafter. A spelling bee to raise funds was held at the Town Hall, with first prize going to William B. Thom, a local writer for the New York Sun, and second prize to Miss Elizabeth McConnell.

By the mid-1880's, the popularity of the new circulating library had dropped, and the books were removed from the Town Hall to the law offices of A.M. Beattie. In 1890, a short-lived Young Men's Reading & Chess Club was formed, with a collection of books in their room at the rear of City Hall [the current home of the New London Historical Society]. By 1898, the Women's Christian Temperance Union had acquired the services of the Ohio Free Circulating Library, but their reading room closed in 1900, due to lack of interest.

In 1908, Miss Elizabeth N. McConnell, the same girl who had won the spelling bee in 1874, was now in charge of the Orientalia Collection at the Cleveland Public Library. She attended the National Education Association conference in Cleveland that year, and heard an elderly woman from Connecticut tell about a library she had opened in her home for the local citizens. Miss McConnell was so impressed, that after some careful planning, she opened her home on Park Avenue in New London for use as a library. On 2 Jan 1910, the first of her 500 books were circulated, with membership charges of $2.00 per year, using tickets purchased at the Starbird Drug Store. W.H. Brett, head of Cleveland Public Library, provided the furniture. The local telephone company gave her free phone service, and she had the support of several businessmen.

Andrew Carnegie, the great philanthropist from Pittsburgh, offered $10,000 to New London for a library building in 1914. The local community was to meet that total, and pay an additional 10% each year for operating costs. Homer H. Johnson, the local motivator, failed to tell the village of this matching clause in the agreement, and paid the $10,000 himself. Trustees from both New London Village and New London Township voted to proceed May 4, 1914; pushed a 1/3 mill tax in December to raise the annual 10%, and set up the New London Public Library Association with trustees, H.H. Johnson, H.W. Townsend, Anna Ward Swanger, Fred Bigelow, and E.M. Palmer. The site chosen in Monument Park raised protests from village Civil War veterans, so Mr. Johnson purchased a lot to the north with just a small slice of land taken from the park, and Kirk Blakeslee of the local Grand Army of the Republic was the honored speaker at the opening of the new library.

The total cost of the building was $16,127.70. The architectural firm chosen was Bohnard & Parsson of Cleveland. Feick & Son of Sandusky did the general contracting; Van Ault Collings Co. did the lighting fixtures; R.E. Kelley handled the electrical wiring; George Fetterman installed the electric engine; and Schwegler & Co. provided the decorating and furniture. Work began 24 May 1915 with the drilling of a water well. Miss McConnell's collection of books had grown to 2500 volumes, and these were moved just in time for the grand opening, Saturday, July 15, 1916, at 3:30 p.m. Thousands attended the ceremony. A group of seven girls presented Miss McConnell with a chair, and Mr. Johnson with a basket of roses. The seven were: Alice Robinson, Alice Ward, Ruth Powley, Lois Morris, Jennirose O'Hara, Doris Nottage, and Catherine Burdue.

The library has continued to prosper since 1916. Fuel shortages in WWI forced the doors to close for a short time. In 1924, new laws permitted the creation of the New London School District Public Library to channel additional funds their way. An intangibles tax and federal revenue sharing funds supported the library as the school developed their own resource center in the early 1970's. In 1986, the library recieved a LSCA Grant of $104,714 after three years effort and two failed levies. At the same time, the intangibles tax funding was dropped for a percentage of the state income tax. John Copley of Jennings & Churella, New London, built on a plan developed by William Koster of Koster & Holzheimer, Architects, Cleveland, for a new addition to provide handicap access, a new circulation desk, a public meeting room, new rest rooms, and additional shelf space. Librarian Melissa Karnosh was present for groundbreaking ceremonies July 19, 1988, along with 70 village residents, including Jennirose O'Hara Marett and Alice Ward, two of the girls who were so much a part of the 1916 ceremony.

The New London Public Library continues its service to the New London community in its 80th year. The first Librarian, Elizabeth McConnell, was hired July 15, 1916 at $500 per year, with Helen Martin, Assistant Librarian, at $480 salary. Directors through the years have been: Elizabeth N. McConnell, 1916-1931; Marion Wood Koppler, 1931-1935; Christine Giles Bingham, 1935-1950; Marjory Peck French, 1950-1967; Virginia White, 1968- 1982; Margo Angelini, 1982-1985; Melissa Karnosh, 1985-1990; Carolyn Mench, 1990-1994; and Steven Musgrave, 1994-2001.

Tom Neel




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