Fayette’s Normal Memorial Library passed a milestone in 2007: More than half of its existence has been spent in the building on Eagle Street.
The building is now 40 years old and an open house is planned Saturday in celebration.
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. during the Fall Festival, the library will welcome guests to stop in for refreshments and commemorative gifts during a birthday celebration.
A library was started in 1931 as a memorial to the former college, Fayette Normal University. Alumni of the school donated $2,000 to buy books and Normal Memorial Library was formed.
It first operated as a “free association library,” meaning there was no connection with any governmental unit. That lasted for a few years, but uncertain finances led the board to align the organization with the state library system and receive funds through tax receipts.
At that time—the early 1940s—the library became a school district public library, a designation the facility still has today. From its inception, the library was housed inside the school.
In 1964, Fayette citizens endorsed a plan to build a library separate from the school. Voters approved a five-year 1.25-mill levy to raise $50,000 for a new structure. An individual pledged $10,000 and planning began. In May 1965, the library board learned that a federal grant of nearly $37,000 was approved, enabling a larger design costing $84,000.
The Eagle Street property just down the street from the school was purchased from Franklin Roosa and construction got underway for a facility that would include a main reading room, a work room, a community room and a small kitchen facility.
The facility was dedicated Jan. 8, 1967.
The first major change to the building came after about 20 years, said library director Sue Schaffner. The community room proved popular with residents, but the library was experiencing growth.
“As usage grew, we needed more room,” she said.
The timing was right to convert the community room into a children’s library because the Fayette Opera House had recently been restored and space was available there for community events.
This paved the way for the start of story hour and special programs for youngsters, both after school, in the evenings and during the summer.
The next big change for library operations came in 1996 when the circulation process switched from stamping cards in the back of books to an automated system.
Other service changes include delivery of materials to homebound residents, alignment with the State Library of Ohio’s Know It Now homework assistance program, and the availability of video, audio and DVD materials.
Registered patrons number 1,688 adults and 1,200 juveniles. Circulation reached about 67,000 last year.