Library Anniversary pays tribute to founder

Lois Anderson ~ June 14, 1884-April, 29,1956

 

By Glynis Crawford Smith

The Highlander

In celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Marble Falls Library at 101 Main Street, organizers will be looking even farther back in history almost 70 years.

During a whole week of events, Oct. 1-7, visitors will pass a picture of Mrs. H.R. (Lois) Anderson (June 14, 1884-April, 29,1956).

The year 1948 was is the date historical accounts credit as the beginning of one woman with pushing forward a dream of a library in Marble Falls.

Anderson had already been rallying support with the local Parent Teacher Association when plans were announced that year by the Burnet County Library Board of Directors to incorporate branches in Marble Falls, Bertram and Briggs. The news that PTA, Federated Clubs and Home Demonstration Clubs would get behind the idea of donating books, set Anderson on a search for a location.

“She eyed a corner in the pool hall, the Cox Barber Shop, the tiny out-of-the way city office, and she even thought about the calaboose,” says a tribute to Anderson written later by Kate Wood. “Finally, she did find a place...among piles of boxes and shipping crates in the back of the Boxell and Hartzell Department store.

“She light-heartedly went about filling her bookcase with 50 books she personally picked up from the head library in Burnet and hauled to the 'Marble Falls Library.'

Wood's account, entitled “And So....She Began,” reports that by spring, Anderson had conscripted Mrs. G.L. (Jeanette) Jones to serve as supervisor and the two began to deal with the challenges of shelves open to the public any time the story was open.

Although they set a late fee of 2 cents per day a book was late, the open invitation was “Come one, come all, and enjoy good, wholesome reading.”

Early in 1951, L.H. Watson offered to clear out the balcony over his office in the Barnes Lumber Company (today's location of Old Oak Square) and to have shelves built. Various volunteers gave what time they could, but when a ranchers wife, Mrs. Rubin (Marie) Houy (1951-1967) began to look like a prospect for a permanent librarian, it looked as if money would be needed.

“I'll have a pie and cake sale Saturday,” Anderson is reported to have said. “I don't mind asking friends to bake, but I wouldn't ask any of them for funds.”

That first sale was a termed a “howling success” by Wood: “She need not have been afraid. It was no trouble to get subscriptions from the Lions Club, chamber of commerce and private individuals to underwrite a librarian's salary of $10 a month!”

It was Anderson, again in 1953, who negotiated for a new, larger home for the library on the ground floor of the with the Masonic Lodge (still standing at the corner of Third Street and US 281).

Although Anderson died in April 1956, Mrs. Houy had by then achieved her own dream of a curating an historical collection in The Lois Anderson Memorial Library – Museum.

Wood's account closed with the words: “Those of us who knew her can see her brown eyes sparkle were she here today to tell, 'Friends, 3,000 of the books are our very own. You gave them. Over 500 books are checked out of the library every month, and over 300 of those are children's books. Think of it! 6,000 books a year are being read by our patrons.”

Anderson's achievements had taken the work of volunteers who grew in number as the library grew. Friends of the Marble Falls Library picked up the torch to construct a modern new library at the corner of Fourth and Main Streets that opened in 1975. The library and museum had occupied 1,300 square feet and the new library took that to 4,500 square feet, housing 15,000 volumes.

The city love it.

Patrons per day had grown from 54 per day to 244 per day in 1989, when the Friends had already begun their decade of fundraising for an even larger Marble Falls Public Library—the one at 101 Main Street.

The “Apple Tree” mural in the library, which now also recognizes long-time volunteers, was begun as a fund-raising campaign that added apples for pledges of 27 cents per day, about $100 per year.

When $750,000 had been raised, the city rose to the occasion, selling and additional $750,000 in certificates of obligation to be repaid over 20 years. The groundbreaking on the 15,200 square foot library was held Nov. 7, 1996.

On Oct. 4, 1997 a two-block long “Book Brigade” of more than 600 patrons transferred books up Main Street.

Now, practically on the even of the 20th Anniversary Celebration, the library will be closed Sept. 21-29 for renovation.

In June the Marble Falls City Council approved a request from the Friends to partner in the remodel, providing up to $5,000 toward the $45,000 project.

It will include an air conditioner replacement, an upgrade to the meeting room kitchenette, lighting repair and improvement to the restrooms and grounds.

Today, if Lois Anderson is looking down from her resting place in the Marble Falls Cemetery, she can see her worries of bake sales are over.

Through an interlocal agreement with Burnet County, the city provides janitorial services, maintenance, insurance, equipment and furnishings additions of books and materials. The county manages and oversees operations. The Friends organization pays for much of library operations and additions to collections that exceed what the city and county are able to budget.

The Internet has opened access to a world of research and reading and patrons can connect with it all from computers right inside the library. Three full-time and one part-time employee serve some 300 patrons each day who visit the library to check out books, audio books and videos number 100,000.

Anderson's friend Jones likened the founders work to lamplighters of old whose path could be discerned by the line of street lamps they left glowing: “We know which way she has gone by the lights she has left behind her.”

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