History of the Leon Public Library
The Leon Public library probably dates back to 1881. It was in that year that the first Leon Library Association was formed. The first library was probably chiefly for the benefit of the teachers of Decatur County schools and was located in the office of the County Superintendent of schools, Miss Laura E. Dye.
When the courthouse burned on April 17, 1884, all of the books, except those in the hands of the borrowers were destroyed. The citizens quickly responded with donations to restore the library's collection.
In the period 1900 - 1901, a permanent Leon Library Association was organized by the prominent men and women of the community and in 1903, the proposal to levy a tax for the maintenance of a free public library was submitted to the voters and was adopted.
At about this time Andrew Carnegie, the great steel manufacturer, was making gifts of money to towns and cities for the establishment of free public libraries. In 1904, a committee from the library's board of trustees began corresponding with Mr. Carnegie with the object of obtaining such a gift for Leon. On April 20, 1905, the board was notified that a donation of $6,000 would be given by the Carnegie Foundation if the usual requirements were met.
From a clipping of the county paper of 1905 we quote: "The Carnegie library is assured. The committee appointed to solicit the funds for the purchase of a site as required have almost finished their labor, and the result shows that the people of Leon take a deep interest in the project, and it is expected that the actual work on the building will soon be commenced."
Mr. Carnegie's generous gift gave the people of the community a place to start, but did not cover the cost of finishing the interior of the building. The money for things like a furnace, wiring, light fixtures, furniture and even floors (more than $1,600) was raised by citizens of Leon. The building was finished, and on November 6, 1906, was dedicated.
In June 1978, the basement of the building was remodeled and a children's library was established by M.N. Viner, the library's first children's librarian.
After 100 years, the Leon Public Library still resides in the same building which was dedicated in 1906. The building itself has not changed much from the original, but the services provided to the community have greatly expanded. Users may still come to the library to check out books, as in the time of Miss Dye, but they are just as likely to come in to use a computer to get on the Internet and fill out a job application, check out an audio book to use on a long road trip, check out a video or DVD, research family history or participate on one of the pre-school programs. Some of the things that are currently available to library users are books, magazines, newspapers, audio books, videos and DVD's, puzzles, puppets, copy machine and four public access computers on each floor, Preschool Activity Time starting each fall, a summer reading program, and much more. The library is open six days a week, offers approximately 18,000 items for checkout(in a variety of formats) and has four knowledgeable well-trained staff members to help you find the information you need.
Funding come primarily from the City of Leon, with contributions from Decatur County, State of Iowa programs and private donations. An endowment fund has also been established in memory of M.N. Viner with South Central Iowa Community Foundation for the benefit of the library.
Miss Laura Dye 1881-1882
Miss Emma Mann 1882-
Miss Ida Brooks -1909
Mrs. Edmodean Jackson 1909-1910
Miss Sally Martin 1910-1911
Miss Ruth Chase 1911
Miss Cozad 1911
Miss Beck 1911-1913
Sada Stout 1913-1961
Mrs. Esther Snare 1962-1964
Miss Margaret Meek 1964-1969
Mrs. Thelma Karns 1969-1990
Rene Fierce 1990-2006
Darlene Richardson 2006-