Rockford’s Krause Memorial Library celebrates 80 years

Krause Memorial Library, downtown Rockford. Located at 140 E Bridge St NE. The public is invited to come to the Library and share cake and memories on Saturday, November 18th from 11 a.m. -2 p.m.

The public is invited to come to the Library and share cake and memories on Saturday, November 18th  from 11 a.m. -2 p.m as we Celebrate our Library.

Never underestimate the power of a good idea…or the ability of a dedicated few to change their community for the better. As our beloved Krause Memorial Library building celebrates it’s 80th birthday this fall we should look back and remember that the efforts of the Tuesday Club ladies launched our current public library in 1928 when they appointed Dorothea Krause, Edna Haner, and Minnie Forrest to promote the project.

Homer Burch’s book, From Sawmill to City, is a wonderful source of information for the history of our town and for this article. Throughout the history of Laphamville, later renamed Rockford, there had been private book collections, several public reading rooms, but no real public library after the 1878 fire burned down the first one, established on Courtland Street in the 1870’s. The women of the Tuesday Club wanted more for their community. They worked with the village to acquire space in the new municipal building, convinced local citizens to contribute both books and money, and opened a Public Library in 1929.

As with any great idea, growth followed. By 1935 the library had outgrown it’s space. G.A. Krause, founder of the Hirth-Krause Company, now Wolverine World Wide, financed the construction of the core part of the current library as a memorial to his wife Elizabeth and his daughter Dorothea. The original building, dedicated in 1937, held 3400 books and included a 28 x45 foot auditorium. In 1963 Mr and Mrs Adolph K. Krause donated an addition on the east end, adding 1200 square feet to the building. A second addition, funded through both private donations and a Citywide bond issue, was added in 1989 , resulting in the building we see today.

Even as we celebrate it’s 80th birthday, knowing that Krause Library has become central to life in Rockford over the years, we once again find that the growth in Rockford is out-stripping the ability of the current library building to meet our needs. The Krause Memorial Library Board recently asked Kent District Library to undertake a Needs Study of the building. The study organizers held a number of public meetings, talked to many users of the library, met with the employees and Library Board, and looked at the City’s projected population growth.

The study concluded that our current building is significantly undersized right now, and that the Krause Memorial Library has less than half of the room it will need over the next twenty years. We knew we were overcrowded, but we just didn’t know how much we needed to do. As it turns out, we need to do a lot! We need more space for our wonderful kids programs, study areas, book club meeting rooms, quiet reading areas, wider aisles for easier wheelchair access, and the myriad of materials and resources that our community library provides for us all. One of the things which was pretty clear in the study is that everyone loves the current library. Everyone wants the library to stay in downtown. Library Board members are asking library users to start a conversation with us. Do we look at the possibility of a multi-story addition on the current site? Do we look for a new location? How do you think we should proceed with planning a building that meets all of our needs?

Please, think about what our library means to you. This is our resource, vital to the strength of our community. We are starting down a long road towards the future of our library, and we’d like your input as the planning discussions begin. We’ve heard what you want from the Library, now we need ideas and suggestions on how to provide for those requests. We’d love to have you fill out an “idea” or a “volunteer to help” slip at the party.

But for now, let’s eat cake and celebrate our wonderful Library! See you Saturday, November 18th.