The history of the Vermillion Library is in a very real sense the history of the Mutual Improvement Club, which was organized by a group of fine, public spirited women determined to provide cultural opportunities for a small community.
The Mutual Improvement Club was organized in the fall of 1903 at the Arnold home in Vermillion. Mrs. Carrie Arnold was elected temporary president and Mrs. Ella Acker Temporary secretary. A constitution was adopted which is till in force with very few changes. The following were charter members of the Club: the Mesdames Carrie Arnold, Ella Acker, Anna Dewalt, Mary Mayhew, Belle Warren, Maggie Warren, Sarah E. Stewart, Viva E. McWilliams, Lucy M. Curtis, Mattie Duffy, Phebe Havens, Edith Leonard, Una Arnold, and the Misses Ethel Ish, Rosa Ish, and Orrie Dille. Miss Dille, at the age of eighty in 1941, is still an active member of the club. The first regularly elected officers were President, Ella Acker; Vice President, Mary Mayhew; Secretary, Lucy M. Curtis; Treasurer, Viva E. McWilliams; Program Committee: Rosa B. Ish, Orrie E. Dille, and Viva E. McWilliams.
The object of the Cub was to promote intellectual development among its members and to establish and maintain a library in the city of Vermillion. To carry out the first of these objectives the program committee prepared a program on topics of current interest that was studied by members of the Club from October through April. This practice has been followed to the present time. The first step in accomplishment of the second of these objectives was an immediate campaign for books.
The library was started with very few books, donated by the members and others in the community. The first library consisted of a few books kept in a soap box and more adequate quarters were needed. In 1914 the city erected a city hall that included a room for the library. Since that time the library has grown until there are now about 1500 volumes. At one time the number of volumes exceeded 2000, but an invasion of termites made it necessary to destroy many of the books and start over.
The members of the Club have always taken turns attending to the duties of librarian. For a time the library was open two afternoons a week, but for several years it has just been open on Saturday afternoon.
The library was financed through club membership dues, the purchase of reading cards by non-members, entertainments of many kinds, and numerous gifts, the most generous of these being the sum of one hundred dollars given by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Chaddock of Vermillion. The entertainments for raising money have been varied; musical programs, plays, flower shows, and teas. For the past few years the Club has given a silver tea in the spring to which the general public is invited. At these teas the guests are privileged to enjoy a display of arts, crafts, antiques, and flowers. This tea is also the climax of the year’s study program.
One of the finest services performed by the Club and the library for the community was the work of the Extension Committee, which was created in 1915 and continued in operation until 1925. This committee was composed of three members, one from each of the three churches in the town. The first committee was Orrie E. Dille, Adeline Stewart, and Lizzie Weeks. Miss Dille served as the inspiring and hard working chairwoman of this committee throughout its ten years of existence.
The purpose of this committee was to place good reading material and pictures in homes that did not have good papers or magazines, and to keep the country school districts, touching Vermillion, in good reading material.
All of the literature used by this committee was donated. The Club members donated their old, used magazines. Mrs. C. W. Granger alone gave sixty books and several pictures to the committee. Then there were left over Sunday school papers in each of the three churches, which were given to this committee.
All the literature was brought to Miss Dille’s home where the committee met from time to time and made the papers into neat packages, well tied, for families and schools.
The country teachers were glad to come for a package, as were members of families. During the years from 1915 to 1925 the committee supplied eleven families and five school districts. In all it passed out eighty books, sixty-seven pictures, and many magazines that could be used in homes or schools.
The results of this committee’s work have been far-reaching. The books and papers formed a nucleus for several country school district libraries. Teachers found the papers and magazines helped in discipline and culture. Homes that had had no literature at all discovered the M. I. Club library and found they could read two books a week by purchasing a dollar card good for one year; hence they became constant library readers. Others living farther out in the country became so interested in reading good magazines that they subscribed for magazines for themselves. Thus the committee finally accomplished its real aim of providing people with sources of good reading and literally worked itself out of a job.
There is much more that could be told, but who can tell or measure the influence of the 18,508 copies of good literature passed out in those ten years.
The splendid work of these first club members in an inspiration and challenge to the present membership to continue their fine work in this community.
Mrs. Tressie Hybskmann, Club Secretary 1941