September – October issues in 1986.
Marie Moore, life-long resident and Heritage Association member and former Hominy Public Library employee, has compiled a history of the Hominy Public Library which began in the 1920's as a project of the Alpha Delphian club.
The Early History of the Hominy Public Library
By Marie Moore
The history of the Hominy Public Library is truly a history of the Alpha Delphian club.
A group of extraordinary housewives or Hominy decided to for a Delphian club to improve themselves and their community.
The organizational meeting was held March, 25, 1919 with 25 charter members. Mrs. J.W. Hogg was elected president, Mrs. H.M. Maker as vice president and Mrs. P.D. Lindsey as secretary.
Since the growing community of Hominy had many problems, the ladies became crusaders for it's physical and moral well being. Having once set a goal, they let no obstacle stand in their way.
Besides the regular cultural programs presented at their meetings, local needs were discussed and committees were appointed to see if the club could help.
The committees presented a petition to local merchants asking for home delivery of their merchandise.
Some replied that local streets were not in very good shape to deliver.
The ladies were persistent and met with all of the merchants again. This time some promised home delivery.
A censorship committee met with the managers of the local theaters asking “that a better class of moving pictures be shown.” Another group met with the city council asking for a city-wide cleanup campaign.
This prompted Mayor Hogg to publish a statement in the Hominy News, quoting “There are too many tough moving pictures, too many gamblers, too many tough rooming houses, too many easy pickings and too much general cussedness in this town.” Some of the vagrants and gamblers were asked to leave town.
Residents were also asked to clean up their yards and alleys and haul away all the debris from the construction sites.
In the 1920s the new president of the Delphians, Mrs. T.J. Colley, appointed a standing committee to beautify the local cemetery.
The city agreed to purchase the trees the ladies selected if they would supervise the planting in the cemetery. One hundred locust trees were planted that year with eighty-five surviving.
The club also supported the local school system, donating silverware to the “domestic science class” and the furniture to the high school restrooms.
They asked the city council for a park to “keep the children off the streets.”
P.D. Lindsey donated a small tract of land at the end of N. Pettit for this purpose.
The Delphians beautified the park, setting out plants and sewing flower seeds.
Until that time, the only library in Hominy was a lending library that had been in Bert Westbrook's Rexall Drug Store, since 1910.
Patrons would pay $1.00 a year and 10 cents a week for each book they borrowed. At the end of the year they would receive a free book.
To encourage reading, the Delphians took their old magazines to Burris Grocery to share with others.
When Marshall Smith, editor of the Hominy News, published an article in November 1920, asking what could be done to improve life in Hominy, Mrs. R.W. Arnold, a Delphian, wrote a letter suggesting a library. At the next meeting of the club, she put this challenge before the members. Quoting form the minutes of the meeting, “...that a committee be appointed to plan for a reeding room toward a library.”
The motion carried and the president, Mrs. Colley, appointed Mrs. Arnold, Mrs. G.I. Williams and Mrs. P.D. Lindsey to serve on the library committee. At the next meeting, just two weeks later, they reported that Mr. Westbrook would donate his lending library as a nucleus for the library and that the First Baptist Church would provide a reading room.
A food sale was held the following Saturday with a profit or $37.90 “to buy the best set of reference books money could buy.”
In 1921, the club started the new year by entertaining their husbands in the new dining room at the An'oberlyn Hotel.
This was a formal dinner-best on the menu costing $1.00 per plate.
It seems this might have been a lobbying effort on the ladies' part as most of the husbands were either in the city government or businessmen active in local civics clubs.
The new Delphian president, Mrs. Fred Page, made a short speech enlisting their help to find a more suitable place for the library as the church classroom was too small.
The new library committee, Mrs. T.J. Colley Mrs. Floyd McSpadden and Mrs. J.J. Fraley, met with the city council asking for space in the city hall.
There was no room however, as the city received rental income from two businesses downstairs.
They wrote the Andrew Carnegie Foundation requesting funds for a library, but to no avail.
The club moved the Westbrook library to the Baptist church dually noting in the minutes that an $1.00 drayage fee was paid.
Since they were operating on a small amount, the secretary-treasurer kept accurate records of all expenditures.
The library fund was kept separate from the club fund. At times, when one fund was low, they borrowed from the other and paid it back later.
At one time in 1921, both funds were listed as a zero balance. Some members made cash donations to keep solvent.
Using all local talent they presented a play, “A Woman's Honor” in the new Pettit Theatre in March . Mrs. Coe gave a speech asking for another place to open the library as the Baptist church classroom was too small.
The profit form the play, $210, was put into a savings certificate for six months. Mrs. Colley held an open house asking for books or cash – collecting 100 books and $45 in cash.
Mr. Smoth, in an editorial in the local paper supported the Delphian's efforts, but concerned about the public's morals stated, “It is assumed that the Delphians will act to censor all donated books. The establishment of a library will take away the lure of the streets for many.”
In the club's minutes it is simply stated, “The members voted to cull all donated books.”
The library at the church was never opened to the public, but the high school borrowed some books. Finally the General Telephone Co. located above the First National Bank, offered two rooms.
After Bill Riber and Louis Milor donated material and fitted the rooms with shelves, the ladies paid a drayage fee of $2.75 to get all of the books moved again.
Evidently, the rooms could not be locked when the library was closed. Two boy scouts offered to install locking doors on the bookshelves. The Alpha Delphian library opened to the public on May 6, 1922.
The first week was children's week, asking the parents to bring them to get acquainted with the librarian, Mrs. Hogg, and to fill out and sign library cards for all under 14 years of age.
The library's hours were 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm two afternoons a week. A Mrs. Lawyer and Miss Callie Cornett were library assistants.
The local citizens began to donate from their home libraries. Mr. Shelley gave 30 books of choice literature; a Mrs. Williamson gave works by Jack London and O. Henry; Grace Crowder gave a complete set of Britannica encyclopedia; the Sew and So Club gave 20 books. Other donors left 80 other books at the fire station.
The Delphians rehearsed and presented the play “The Convict's Daughter” at the Happy Hour Theatre. It ran for three nights earning $125 profit.
At the end of this year, 1922, when the savings certificate had matured, the club had enough money to buy $300 worth of needed books. The Petty Drugstore was able to get the books for them at wholesale prices.
The library borrowed 80 books every three weeks from the state library commission; paying only for the shipping charges. The new books were put on a pay shelf costing five cents per book per week.
This now seems like a very small fee but at that time, books only cost between forty-five cents and $1.45 each.
The librarian, Mrs. Hogg, said she was pleasantly surprised by the interest shown in the first months of operation, but since the library now contained 1,000 books, more space was needed.
The Alpha Delphians started 1923 with president Margaret Sutherland appointing a Board of Directors for the library.
It consisted of Mrs. C.D. Tanner, Mrs. Fred Page and Mrs. H.L. Moore. To raise more funds, the club sold advance tickets for Lyceum at the local theaters. Showing no favoritism, the money was divided into all three local banks.
Mr. C.D. Tanner, new owner of the Hominy News, wrote and editorial saying, “The establishment of a library on a small scale is a notable item of progress and the people of the city should deeply appreciate the efforts of the women who have brought the change. There is a disposition to broaden the scope of the library and get it going as a City institution. It is likely that the new administration will be asked to make room for the books and a reading room and to pay a librarian.”
Circulation increased so much in 1923 that the librarian asked for help on Saturdays. Mrs. Fred Page volunteered. It seems this year was a struggle for the Delphians to buy supplies, pay shipping costs on borrowed materials form the state and keep the library running smoothly.
A highlight of this year was a second place National Achievement Award of $35, which was presented to Mrs. J.W. Hogg at the National Convention of the Delphians, held in Enid, Oklahoma.
This award recognized the club's accomplishments since being federated in 1920.
At some of their meetings the members discussed asking again for space in City Hall as the city was planning to build an addition for the police and fire station. In February 1924, the library board appeared before Mayor Max Westbrook and his city council asking for two rooms. They voted unanimously to give them two rooms upstairs.
Then the board went to the Chamber of Commerce asking them for help.
They agreed to pay the salary of a full-time librarian for the next year. Mrs. Helen Kitchell was hired as the first salaried librarian in Hominy.
The new Delphian president, Mrs. Hogg, appointed a soliciting committee of Mrs. C.D. Tanner, Mrs. Margaret Sutherland and Mrs. Paul Crowder to canvas the town to raise money to buy furnishings and supplies for the new library.
The minutes of the meeting said “Mrs. Crowder reported they had collected about $85 in one afternoon – the work is not finished yet.” By the end of March, the donations totaled $250. New curtains, ten wooden chairs, a desk and a large oak table were purchased.
Bookshelves were built and floors were varnished.
The treasurer's report includes $157.00 for furniture, $1.85 for a door lock, $4.00 for light bulbs, $4.00 for the drayage fee, 90 cents for a broom and to Leander Hall $12.67 for a year's insurance.
The library planned a “Give A Book Day” for the opening of the library on May 27, 1924.
Mothers were invited to a get acquainted tea in the newly decorated reading room.
The library's hours had now expanded to three afternoons a week, from 2:30-5:30 on Monday, Thursday and Saturday.
The circulation had increased so much that a school girl, Georgia Smith, was hired during the summer and was paid $1.00 an hour by the club.
An editorial in the Hominy News stated, “The library is no longer just a club interest. It seeks to be the interest of every citizen of Hominy and it is hoped that ere long the city can take it and make a real city library of it.
They feel that they made a great step forward when the city let them move there. The club's funds are inadequate to operate it in a credible manner. They will appreciate any donations.”
At almost every meeting in 1924 and early 1925, the ladies discussed asking the city to take over the library. Mrs. Tanner was appointed to ask the council to do this. They agreed and only appropriated $200 for the next fiscal year, but the records show the city paid out $200 for employees, $100 sundry expense ad $200 for equipment in 1925.
The council appointed a library board consisting of President Mrs. C.D. Tanner, Vice-President Mrs. T. J. Colley, Secretary Mr. Oscar Petty and members Mrs. G.K. (Margaret) Sutherland, Mrs. Fred Page and Miss Pearl Scales.
“The library will virtually remain under the auspices of the Delphian Society,” stated the local paper. The club bought new books for the pay shelf and raised the fee to 10 cents a week. They also bought two small pictures to decorate the walls.
In the minutes of 1926, the library is only mentioned once quoting, “As the Delphian Club is still mothering the library, the members helped Mrs. Tanner and Mrs. Sutherland make out a list of new books. City will pay for same.”
This list of books chosen are still among Mr. Petty's papers found in the library.
The ladies still donated at each meeting to a book fund.
The new library board was well chosen. The President Vera Tanner, had worked as a ticket agent for the MKT Railroad and was helping her husband as a reporter for the Hominy News. Later on she served as the postmistress at the Hominy Postoffice.
Oscar Petty came to Hominy from Tennessee in 1903 and was associated with Woods and Fraley Merchandisers. He had many business interests here in the 1920s. He served as the President of the Hominy Chamber of Commerce for several years. Since his Chamber office was across the hall from the library, he even substituted as the librarian when necessary.
Mrs. Tanner and Mr. Petty were very astute in their dealings with the book companies.
They would send book lists to three different companies asking for the lowest prices and discounts, if any. Then they would choose the lowest prices, making out three different orders. Books cost from $1.35 to $3.00 in 1927.
In order to choose the best literature, the library board write to the Oklahoma Library Commission for copies of “The Best Books for Home Reading” and “Reading for Jr. and Sr. High.” By 1928 the library was occupying four rooms on the west side of the City Hall with Elva Kirkendall as librarian. The Board decided to accession, classify and catalog all of the books. The Oklahoma Library Commission sent a Miss Elaine Boylan to help.
There are several letters between Mr. Petty and Miss Boylan.
She would come for three days, for just expenses.
She sent a list of needed supplies. The catalog cards did not arrive so her coming had to be postponed. Finally Miss Boyle arrived by bus April 29, 1929. The library closed for the month of May to get the cataloging done. Miss Boylan taught the accessioning and cataloging to her helpers so they could finish the task.
Wile in Hominy, Miss Boylan found time to speak at the Rotary meeting saying, “A library reflects the interest that the community has in it and can be a vital force for much good. You have a very good beginning for a large and useful library.”
Later that year she was awarded a full Carnegie Scholarship for her work with small town libraries. She attended Columbia University working on her Master's degree.
Two thousand and fifty four books were accessioned that month. The first book to be cataloged was Ardiane's “More Than Conquerors.”
The first week in July the library reopened for four hours each day except Sunday.
The yearly report from July 1928 to July 1929 shows that Hominy had a population of 5,000 with a tax valuation of $1,966,679.
The library appropriation was $1,821.50; over $1,000 of that was spent on books.
Since the great “crash” came in the fall of that year, money was scarce for the next several years.
In the early 1930's the library board consisted of Mrs. Margaret Sutherland, Mrs. Vera Tanner Moreland, Mrs. C.K. Logan, Mrs. H.W. Newman and Mr. Oscar Petty. Since this was the depression era the appropriations were cut drastically, the board had to stretch their budget.
Donations were asked from the public. A Reverend Hildebrand was quoted in the local paper, “Give your books to the local library instead of the street beggars.” Mr. Petty wrote a letter to the former city clerk who had moved away and left a box of books in the city hall. “The library would appreciate your generosity should you care to donate the lot for its use, but I would be glad to pack and ship them to you, (as any old friend would do for another.)”
Another interesting letter that was a reflection of the times was written to a book publisher. It seems the books had shipped to the Hominy Post Office, even though the board had not placed an order.
The emphatic letter reads, “I refused this shipment a year ago and your saleslady picked them up at the post office. We did not place an order for books of any kind. We do not have your encyclopedias. Furthermore, we do not have any money to purchase them.”
The librarians changed several times in the thirties and some of the board members changed, but Vera Moor and Oscar Petty remained. Mrs. Elva Kirkendall Hale resigned in 1934. Then came Janice Drummond, Frances Treadway Kerrigan, Orville Bumpus and Myrtle Coe.
In 1931 the library board urged all citizens to write their legislators to support House Bill 555, an amendment to sec. 6347 relating to public libraries. This bill guaranteed an appropriation of at least a half mill levy each year based on the tax evaluation of the community. The board and all civic clubs sent telegrams to the State Senator H.M. Curnutt urging its passage. It passed by a large margin.
During the Nation Book Week in November 1931, the Alpha Delphians bought 1,000 bookmark tags publicizing the library. Twenty-five Boy Scouts hung them on every door knob in he community. The Chamber of Commerce invited Mrs. Colley and Mrs. Tanner to lunch to compliment their club on founding the library. The club's minutes read, “Mrs. Colley then told of the Delphian's ten years of work for the local library, but that it was only possible after a great deal of work, time and perseverance, but that we were pleased and proud to have done so worthy a deed.”
The club held open house at the library all week asking for donations of books. The accession book of 1931 lists 150 books given that week.
Since the appropriations for the last two years barely covered the librarian's salary with not allowance for books, the library board in May 1935 met with the city council presenting resolutions passed by all the civic clubs asking for a two mill levy for 1935-1936. Mr. Petty also brought a list of 13 small town libraries citing that Hominy's funding was the smallest.
The resolution passed by the board read, “Since circulation as decreased by 4,184 volumes the past year and since juvenile and adult books are beyond repair, it is the board's recommendation that the library be closed until such time as money is available to purchase books and put the library in usable shape.” The council compromised by passing a one mill levy.
The library had some painting and repairing done, installed the first telephone, purchased a new oak card file, bought 455 new books and even hired a part time janitor at $1.50 a month.
From this year on the city has appropriated funds for the operation of the library. In 1946 rooms were redecorated and the library was moved downstairs in the city hall for the patron's convenience. Mrs. Myrtle Coe was librarian for a number of years, then came Mrs. Crossley, Rosalie Sparks, Frances Watson and JoAnn Kellogg who was librarian for twenty years from 1970 to 1990. When JoAnn passed in 1990, Kathryn Ramsay became librarian, seeing the library grow into an age of technology and into the new millennium.
Kathryn retired in 2001 and Tiffany Watkins became librarian for a short time.
In 2003, Jimmie Ratliff became the current librarian.
The Hominy Public Library stands today as a monument to the Alpha Delphians. As Mrs. Colley so aptly put it, they have done “a worthy deed.”