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Chronology of Events Related to the Formation of the Clifton Public Library

by Betty Thompson

1960′s: The library was disbanded and all the books were given away. A library tax no longer appeared on the tax bills.

About 1970: Mrs. Glenn McKinley moved to Clifton. She was concerned that there was nowhere her children could get books for summer reading. She contacted the State Library and arranged for a collection of children’s books to be sent to the Clifton Community Building in the Clifton Village Park. These books were stored on crude board planks with no organization at all. This “summer library” existed for about two years. 


During the 1970′s, with no knowledge of the library’s previous (and technically still active) tax-based existence, a concerned group of citizens worked with the village to create a volunteer library. Ironically, records and notes from the 1970s to the 1990s show that library volunteers and trustees were investigating methods to become a taxing library, and all the while the Clifton Public Library was an established taxing body that had never been disbanded through public vote.

1971: The library began to operate year-round, staying open one day each week during the winter, using volunteers. Books were donated by people in the community.


Dec., 1972: The Clifton Lion’s Club donated $1,000 for books for the community building library, and the Clifton Loyal Four-Leaf 4-H Club   donated books. In late December, the Village Board purchased the Scheidecker Building to be used as a meeting hall and a library. The library was invited to help with the plans for remodeling and to move in to these new quarters. The Scheidecker Building was the oldest business building in Clifton, once serving as a harness shop and later as a newspaper office. It had been repaired to some extent, but a thorough remodeling was called for at this time.


1973: The Village Board hired Larry Mahoney in collaboration with Architecture 5 to design the interior of the building to make a board room on the top level, a children’s library section on the balcony level, and the main library downstairs.


1973 & 1974: Construction began and continued on the new library quarters. The Jr. Woman’s Club sponsored a dance and held other events to raise money to furnish and equip the new library. The Senior Woman’s Club donated money for card catalogs and books for the new library. The Lion’s Club donated money for books and individuals sent boxes of donated books to stock the shelves.


Winter, 1973: Preparations for cataloging all books began before they were moved. Betty Thompson spent much of the late winter and spring and summer preparing books for cataloging and processing paperbacks with Margaret Kershaw helping with the paperbacks. Preliminary information was marked on each book to be cataloged.

Fall, 1974: With remodeling completed, the Woman’s Clubs (Sr. and Jr.) and other volunteers organized to complete cataloging and processing of all hard cover books and to pack them to be moved to the new library. In October, volunteers trucked boxes of books to the new building where they were shelved by volunteers. In late October and early November, the school children of Clifton Elementary moved all the children’s books from the community building to the new library by carrying them, two at a time, from one library to the other. They were met by volunteers who shelved them in the children’s section. A modern mobile was acquired, created by art teacher Bill Petit and commissioned by the members of his high school class in memory of those members who were deceased.


March 2, 1975: Open House on Sunday from 2:00 to 4:00 Mrs. Glenn McKinley of Chatsworth was an honored guest. The library opened with thirty-two volunteers, each working twice during an eight-week period. They checked out, checked in, kept records, and cleaned the library.


The first library exhibit was an Egg Exhibit which featured decorative eggs created by Bertha Haley, Norma Meier, Mona Rasmussen, Donna Ross and others.


April 1975: New books were added in the children’s department and adult department. A display of paintings by Roger Shule were mounted. Bibles were donated by several churches, and sixteen magazine subscriptions were donated by a local bank and two by the Sr. Woman’s Club.


May, 1975: A Listening Room for recordings was established and a record-lending service begun. A Quilt Show was held and over 50 quilts and other quilted items were brought to the show, which was held between 3:30 and 8:30 pm.


June, 1975: A Model Show, featuring rockets, autos, ships and airplanes was held.


Summer, 1975: A federal program paid to hire two librarians for the summer. Mrs. Rushing and Mr. Hyde were the first summer librarians. The library was open every afternoon, Monday through Saturday, and Tuesday evenings.

July, 1975: Friday morning story hours for preschool kids were held. A local history collection was established. The librarians filed all the cards for the library’s books in the two card catalogs.


Fall, 1975: The library returned to volunteer librarians which shortened hours. A China Painting Exhibit was held.


Winter, 1975: Santa visited the library. For several years the library featured the magnificent doll houses created by Mr. Brenneisen of Chebanse.


Easter, 1976: Bunnies, baby chicks and a lamb visited the library.


May, 1976: The library entry took a first-place in the Bicentennial Parade. Kids decorated cardboard boxes to look like their favorite books and “wore” them in the parade.


Aug., 1976: The library acquired a welded sculpture by R. J. O’Connor, made from antique tools and scrap iron, donated by various families descended from twenty early settlers in the area.


Summer, 1977: New books were added to the teen collection (the last of the Sr. Woman’s Club $600 donation paid for them). A summer librarian (Janet Sauder) was employed by a federal program. Trooper Robert Mulvaney donated 3 textbooks he had authored which were used in KCC law-enforcement classes and Mr. & Mrs. Russell Brandt donated Abandon Ship, the story of the sinking of the Indianapolis in WWII. Mr. Brandt was one of the 316 men who survived.

Many more books were contributed by the Jr. Woman’s Club, the Senior Woman’s Club and by individuals.


Fall, 1977: The Library Board asked the Village Board to hire a part-time librarian to replace the volunteer program. The Board granted the request and hired Lynn Lohnes to work 2 hours on two days and one evening per week. The Board hired Gayle Clair when Mrs. Lohnes moved from this area.

A bit of bonus history may be found at:


Clifton Public Library Taxing History

The library operated with Gail Clair providing part-time library service for many years. In the 1990s, Mary Jane Thielman became a new member of the Library Board (representing the Clifton Woman’s Club). She was new to Clifton and new to the Library Board, and did not realize that libraries that were not tax-supported could not join Lincoln Trails. Her actions and a change in the Town-Board Secretary-ship, spurred the Library Board to seek once again, to be tax-supported, Armed with clues turned up by the new Town-Board Secretary (who was also a member of the Library Board), Betty Thompson combed the microfilm library at the Watseka Genealogy Department and found the Clifton Comet with the results of a referendum passed in 1903 that gave the actual vote-count which was favorable to the formation of a public library in Clifton. The referendum had passed. In a subsequent Comet of that same year, there was publication of the first tax levy for the Clifton Library. With this information, the Library Board appealed to the Village Board to reinstate the Library Tax for the purposes of supporting a full-time librarian. The Village Board did so, and thus the Clifton Library became eligible to join Lincoln Trails Libraries System and receive annual grants for books and supplies and all other privileges enjoyed by all libraries in the Lincoln Trails System. Among the most valuable privileges was the right to use a Clifton Library card in ANY LIBRARY in the Lincoln Trails System.

A brief explanation regarding the absence of the town of Clifton from the Central Citizens’ Library District is in order. Once the Clifton Library was tax-supported, no other library district could be established in the same area (State library law). On my advice, the Clifton Library Board, refused to disband our now-established library until it was sure there would BE a CCLD. Actually, the first referendum for CCLD failed, and Clifton Library was glad it had not disbanded. On CCLD’s second try, the referendum passed (without Clifton), and CCLD was established. At that time, I had to resign from the Clifton Library Board, because I lived in the country and not in the taxing district (Village of Clifton) for the new tax-supported Clifton Library. Upon leaving the Clifton Library Board, I recommended that the Clifton Library join CCLD (now that we were SURE it would exist). The Clifton Village Board opted to remain independent.


For a time, the library was staffed by two librarians who provided access for evenings and for Saturday mornings as well as every weekday afternoon. With tax support, funds were available for new books, videos, and a much broader variety of materials as well as programs of interest to the children and adults of the community.

During the 1970′s, with no knowledge of the library’s previous (and technically still active) tax-based existence, a concerned group of citizens worked with the village to create a volunteer library.

Ironically, records and notes from the 1970s to the 1990s show that library volunteers and trustees were investigating methods to become a taxing library, and all the while the Clifton Public Library was an established taxing body that had never been disbanded through public vote.

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