History of Oconto Falls Community Library

History of the Cook Memorial Library

In 1979, Dianne Fossum wrote a Seminar paper on the history of Cook Memorial Library for her Master of Arts degree in Library Science at UW-Oshkosh. This information was taken from her paper.

French fur traders and missionaries are credited with being the first white men to travel through the area which is now Oconto Falls. Prior to 1670, the place was inhabited by Menominee Indians and was called ‘Nepeuspa Penino’ which means ‘where water falls’. John and Almira Volk were the first permanent white settlers arriving in 1846. They built a successful sawmill and lumber business and soon others began to arrive. A hotel, store and more homes were built and the first school was started in 1857.

History of Oconto Falls Community Library

In October 1985, library building consultant, Anders Dahlgren decided the old fire station was inadequate, and the present library was not sufficient for the community of Oconto Falls. City Council and the Library Board continued to seek alternatives.

First a raffle raised $86.00 for the expansion. Then Blue Bear took up residence on the desk, and raised $725.00 over the next few years.

In 1987, Women's Club held a cookbook sale and raised $4500.00. Then memorials from the families of Harry Boehler and Jim Lane were received. Since then the library has gotten other memorials.

Architectural firm, Stubenrauch and Associates Inc. of Sheboygan were hired by the Board.

Oconto Falls Community Library

The Methodist congregation was the first to build a church in 1889. The population continued to grow and in 1902, the first high school was built. Oconto Falls was incorporated as a city in 1919.

Many public libraries in the United States grew out of what is referred to as a social library. The desire for self improvement grew out of the social club idea. This social club which established the public library of Oconto Falls was known as the F.O.S. Club. F.O.S. stood for the words ‘Freedom of Speech’ and was later changed so that the letters meant ‘Fellowship of Study’. The first mention of a library took place on Oct. 18, 1904. A room was rented above the bank and the collection started.

On June 30, 1905, the library was transferred to the village. The first librarian hired was Emma Weed. The village paid her $12.00 a month.

In 1919, the library board purchased a lot on the corner of Washington Avenue and Manufacturers Street for a future library building. It was in 1922 that the Library Board received news that the estate of Charles and Anna Cook willed to the City of Oconto Falls $10,000 for the purpose of building a library. In 1925 the council resolved to proceed with the building and groundbreaking was on June 1, 1926. A crowd gathered. The Oconto Falls Band opened the program with music. The building was completed and the library moved in by Oct 9, 1926.

The library flourished for many decades. By 1970 the library had outgrown its building. In 1976 a grant was applied for building an addition unto the library, but the grant was denied. The 1980’s began with fundraising for a new building and in 1991 the present Oconto Falls Community Library was open for business.

There was a fund drive headed by Audrey O'Harrow and Dick Van Ark. A radio/telethon raised $105,000.00 in pledges and donations, and Scott Paper donated $50,000.00.

In May, 1991 bids were accepted, and ground was broken in June, 1991. Work was completed ahead of schedule.

The new Oconto Falls Community opened to the public on January 6th 1992, and was dedicated on May 23rd of the same year.
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