Mary L. Cook Public Library
381 Old Stage Road
In the early days of 1917, Dr. Mary L. Cook and several interested citizens met, and with the help of a library organizer from the State Library of Ohio, organized a Library Association. Dr. Mary, as she was usually referred to, was named President of the Association. . A seven-member board of trustees was appointed. Committees were formed to secure a location, books and supplies, and furniture. Other committees worked on writing a constitution and soliciting memberships to the Library Association
A one dollar membership fee was charged to residents of Wayne Township. Local citizens and civic groups donated books, furniture and money. The Wayne Township Library opened in the spring of 1917 in a room of the Miami House, located on the northeast corner of Main and North Streets. Miss May Wright, daughter of a prominent area family, was the first librarian. At first, funds were scarce, and Miss Wright worked without a salary.
In 1924 the Library Association Board, which was a private non-profit corporation, petitioned the Wayne Township School Board of Education to become a School District Library. (The library continues as a School District Library today. This allows the library, through the school board, to ask for public moneys through bond issues or tax levys. The school board also assists in the selection and appointment of the library board of trustees.) The original Library Association Board was officially dissolved by the Secretary of State, and a new library board was appointed, with Dr. Mary named president. She was to hold this position for over 40 years.
In 1925 Mrs. Ada Courtney was hired as librarian. Not only was she responsible for collection development and reader advisory, she also had to stoke the coal heating stove, carry fuel from the basement during the winter, and do other basic janitorial work in the library.
The library moved into the Harris building in 1935. Located on the southeast corner of North and Main Streets, the library was at this location until 1953, when it moved to the old Wayne Township Elementary School owned by the American Legion at Fourth and Miami Streets. The legion renovated and redecorated two schoolrooms on the south side of the first floor and rented them to the library.
During the 50's the library was open from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Later, limited evening hours were added, and the assistant librarian, Miss Elizabeth Chandler kept the library open.
In 1954 Mrs. Courtney retired and was succeeded by Mrs. Mary Current. During Mrs. Current's tenure as librarian, many new materials and services were added. For the first time, the entire collection was catalogued. High school pages were introduced to reshelve books and keep the collection in good order. The summer reading program for children was organized, and school class visits to the library were begun. Records and tape cassettes were added to the collection.
In July of 1961, the library was renamed the Mary L. Cook Public Library in honor of Dr. Mary Cook. Although in her 90's, Dr. Mary was present at the open house held in her honor.
The library also doubled its size during Mrs. Current's tenure. In 1961 the American Legion enclosed the buildings hall with glass partitions and renovated the floor's other two classrooms to become the children's department and workroom. Also that year central air conditioning was added. Eventually all of the rooms were carpeted and drapes added to the windows, courtesy of local service organizations.
In 1978, Mrs. Current retired, to be succeeded by Jacqueline Praeter, who had formally been the children's librarian. During her tenure, plastic library cards were introduced; prior to this, patrons simply signed the book card in the pocket in the back of the book. Pre-school story hour was begun, and the Ohioana Room came into being. Containing Ohio History, Local History, and genealogical resources, the Ohioana Room collection is the only one of its kind in any of the Warren County public libraries. Researchers from all over the country visit the library to use the room's resources, especially the information on Quaker migration to and through the Waynesville area.
Mrs. Praeter resigned in 1982 and was followed by library assistant Carol Ghearing who served during the interim time until the board of trustees hired Mrs. Inara Turkopuls in June of 1983.
By the mid 1980's the library had expanded to take up all 3000 square feet on the first floor of the legion building. At that time the Board of Trustees came to the realization that a library building of its own was necessary if the Mary L. Cook Public Library was to continue to meet the needs of a growing community. And so the search for a site for the new library began. They looked at the demographics and growth patterns of the area. They wanted to relocate in an area where the residents were predominantly young families with school aged children. They wanted to stay in town. Thirty-four years in the old school building, in a residential neighborhood, had convinced them that it was the best place to be. The library decided to purchase land on Old Stage Road. Voters approved a bond issue on the ballot to provide the necessary funds. That debt was retired in 1999.
The library moved to its new quarters in 1988. It is the only building the library has ever owned.
In 1991 Mrs. Patricia Lewis succeeded Mrs. Turkopuls. The automation of the card catalog, begun during Mrs. Turkopuls tenure, was completed. Computers became a commonplace fixture in the library. Electronic Encyclopedias and IRS documents and forms are among the resources offered via computerized databases. Internet access was introduced through OPLIN, the Ohio Public Library Information Network.
In 1998, Hennen's American Public Library Ranking rated the Mary L. Cook Public Library in the 99th percentile for libraries with a population under 10,000. In this first ever national ranking of American libraries, the survey examined a variety of factors including expenditures per capita, volumes per capita, circulation, patronage, and employee to patron ratios.
In 1999 Mrs. Lewis retired and was succeeded by Linda Swartzel, formerly the Reference/Genealogy Librarian in the Ohioana Room.
The community the library serves continues to grow, and the library has kept pace with the informational, educational and recreational needs and wants of the library patrons. DVD's and circulating CDROM software have been added to the collection. These materials plus entertainment and educational videos, music CD's, and books on tape vie for library space with the more traditional books and magazines. The library is once again strapped for space.
In 2000, the library board purchased two properties to the north of the present facility. Plans are being made for an addition to the library. The development of a green space area for use by the library and the public is also planned.
The library board and staff are dedicated to providing a level of service and materials not often found in small libraries, but a level of service that our patrons have come to expect.