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Library History
History of the Eccles-Lesher Memorial Library and it’s Founder:

Foundation:

The Eccles-Lesher Memorial Library was established in 1968 as a gift from Mr. Ralph M. Eccles for the communities located within Union School District. Mr. Eccles and his wife Ella were residents of Rimersburg working in 1915-1921 selling farm equipment, 1922- 1950 in the auto business, from 1950 -1967 growing evergreens and developing a nursery with over 200,000 Christmas trees, 17 million seedlings, and 5,000 shrubbery, and in 1954- 1955 owning the telephone companies in Rimersburg and Callensburg. Later he would sell the telephone companies to the Telephone Utilities of Export.

Mr. Eccles wanted to do something for his community of Rimersburg, so in 1957 he opened the Rimersburg Medical Center in memory of his wife, Ella Mae, who died in 1956. His sister, Margaret W. Lesher wanted to provide for the area also and after her death in 1963 the Margaret W. and Irwin W. Lesher Foundation was established to provide scholarships for high school graduates of Union High School. Mr. Eccles also had a deep affection for the young people of Rimersburg and participated with the scholarships for graduating seniors and post graduates of Union High School. Thousands of students have received scholarship aid from this foundation.

In 1967, Mr. Eccles wanted to continue his philanthropy for the community he loved. In talking to the local people he learned that a “library” would really be an advantage to the young people. When the property beside the local post office became available, his vision for having a new building was on the horizon. He then approached the Superintendent of the Union School District, Mr. B.G. Corliss about the idea of developing a library for the community. He wanted Mr. Corliss to spearhead the committee that would get the library building off the ground. The first library board of directors were B.G. Corliss, superintendent of the local school; Daniel M. Filetti, insurance broker; Gerald Snyder, office manager of the local bank; Ralph Youkers, auto dealer; and Donald Murphy, school teacher and mail carrier. The library became a reality in 1968 with the dedication on February 4th. The library was intended to be a memorial to Mr. Eccles, and to his sister, Margaret W. Eccles Lesher. Thus the name of the library became Eccles-Lesher Memorial Library. Mr. Eccles passed away on September, 1972, so he did get to enjoy spending time in the library observing the patrons using the library and its materials. The trust foundation, Ralph M. and Ella M. Eccles Foundation, was established at First Seneca Bank in Clarion with five members composed of two from the bank and three from Clarion County of which one should be the superintendent of schools in Union School District. The trust is now at National City Bank in Oil City with Stephen Kosak, Consultant to Charitable Trusts, managing the trust foundation.

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Description of Original Library:

The library facility had two floors with the main library collection on the first floor that included an office, an adult section, children’s section, two restrooms, and janitor’s room. The second floor had a community room with a kitchenette. There was a mechanical room attached and a parking lot in the rear of the building. In the front of the library there was a large lawn with trees, shrubbery, flag pole and walks leading to the front doors. The contractors who created the library were: Architect- Charles P. Grow, General Contractor- Ralph Switzer; Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning- Ralph Maxwell; Electrical- Thomas Kennedy.

After the dedication, the library building was just that a building with no stacks, office equipment or books.  Joanne Karpinski and Emily Luton, who were graduates of Union High School and Clarion State Teachers College with degrees in library science, were given the task of filling the library with the proper furniture, equipment, books and supplies. In September 16, 1968 the library opened in operation with Maxine Rumbaugh as the first librarian. The first year the library was open each evening from 7 - 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 – 4p.m. The library was open for 13 hours each week for 90 days a year. The collection contained 1,800 adult books, 200 children’s books and 38 periodicals. Maxine was assisted by volunteers from the Friends of the Library and was the only paid employee besides the janitor until November 1, 1975 when the Board of Trustees hired Julie Gatesman, who had just graduated with a Masters of Library Science from Clarion University. In 1978 The Board of Trustees established Julie Gatesman as Director of the Library and Maxine Rumbaugh as Librarian.

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Staffing:

The librarians and directors who followed Joanne Karpinski and Emily Luton were: Maxine Rumbaugh (1968-1994), Julie (Gatesman) Schill (1975-1995), Mary Ann Stewart (1995-1996), Joanne Hosey (1996-2006), Ginger McGiffin (2006-2007), and beginning November 5, 2007 Rachel Campbell.

The library began hiring staff in 1982 to help with the increasing collection and programs. Barbara Priester was the first staff to be hired, followed by Sue Burns, Sharon Custer, David Anthony, Patrick Belfield, Sherri Campbell, Linda Defibaugh, Bonnie DeFini, Nancy Shanafelt, Mary Elizabeth Hawk and Judy Bashline. At the present time there are three full time and two part time staff.

The first janitor was Dessie Bish followed by James & Frances Fowler, Williard Smith, Shirley Helsel, Jacqueline McCafferty, Bruce & June Campbell, Nancy Shanafelt, Mary Hawk, Edgar Hawk, and Kari Shanafelt. Presently the janitorial work is done by two part time persons.

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Trustees:

The first Board of Trustees consisted of five persons appointed for 5 year terms by Rimersburg Borough- 2, Union School District- 2, and the local bank- 1. The first trustees and those following were: B.G. Corliss, Donald Murphy, Ralph Youkers, Gerald Snyder, Daniel Filetti, Marion Filetti, Paul Barger, Jackie Stemmerich, Richard Prisuta, Rosie Kline, Don Hiwiller, Joseph Regis, Jr., Madeline Steltzer, Margaret Miller, E.H. Howard, Jr., Sara Cicciarelli, June Fox, Dorothy Holly, Joanne Hosey, Mary Gilfillan, David Davis, Roger Crick, Sally Mortimer, Pat Mortimer, Tom Curry, Mark Rummel, Deanna Carmichael, Susie Crick, Jeanie Grant, and Shirley King.

In 2004, the Constitution of the Library was changed and adopted to include: Trustees would represent each of the seven municipalities that the library serves. Rimersburg Borough- 2, Sligo Borough- 1, East Brady Borough- 1, Madison Township- 1, Toby Township- 1, and Piney Township- 1. Because Brady Township was so small, Rimersburg Borough was to appoint two trustees. The trustees would have terms three years or until their successors were appointed. The trustees should not serve more than two consecutive three year terms. After a one year leave of absence, a member may be reappointed.

In 1969 the Eccles-Lesher Memorial Library joined the state wide system of public libraries. The library is part of the Oil Creek Library District Center which is composed of 14 public libraries in Clarion, Venango, and Jefferson Counties. It is also a part of the Clarion County Library System composed of five libraries in Clarion County.

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Expansion:

A big change came to the library beginning in 1999, when Joanne Hosey was library director and the Board of Trustees- Don Hiwiller, Roger Crick, Sally Mortimer, Dorothy Holly, and Pat Mortimer- were asked by the Eccles Foundation if there was a project the library would like to pursue because the Foundation had extra money to give away. After much discussion, the library director and Board of Trustees decided to remodel and expand the library. The reason for the needed expansion of 2,500 square feet and remodeling was due to the addition of computers to the library creating an overcrowded library and no handicapped accessibility to the restrooms, community room and genealogy room. The expansion would permit the library to have all the services on the first floor of the library. The Board then acquired the services of Evans, Strickland & Best Architects in Cranberry.

With the architect plans prepared the Eccles Foundation granted the library $265,000 over three years to complete this project. The library would still need more money to make this dream a reality. As the money arrived, the board invested the three installments with INVEST in Harrisburg for municipalities and non profit groups. The next step was to apply for a Keystone Grant to match the money that the Eccles Foundation had donated.

The Keystone Grant required a library building consultant to review the plans and to verify that the arrangements, space and needs would meet all required state specifications and still provide room for growth. The library hired Albert Kamper from Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh. In 2000 the library applied for a Keystone Grant to match our $265,000 funds. In this first attempt, we were denied. The suggestions from the state committee who reviewed our grant application were that we needed to show more local support for the project and to have a more definite timeline in place for the project. They encouraged us by telling us not to give up, but to reapply next year.

In 2001, Informational Meetings at the library were held to create awareness, enthusiasm, and interest throughout the townships, boroughs, school and public sectors. We were awarded a grant from Pennsylvania Citizens for Better Libraries to conduct the Informational Meetings. We started a series of meetings to write a long range plan for the library involving citizens from all the municipalities. A concerted effort to raise more local support began with the staff holding fundraisers and building “Our Commemorative Wall”, which would provide local support for many years. The bricks for the Commemorative Wall would be a donation of $100 each and would have 13 spaces on each of three lines to honor or memorialize a person, class or organization. A bulk mailing was sent out to every boxholder in Rimersburg, Sligo and East Brady concerning the details on the Commemorative Wall.

Two large monetary donations were given to the library in 2001 also. Clayton Rhodes, a former resident and retired librarian and minister, gave $10,000 in memory of his parents, Agnes and Cecil Rhodes. Part of the money was to be used to install a display case in the library. Don and Mary Hiwiller donated $25,000 to be used toward the completion of the genealogy room, which the Board of Trustees named, “The Hiwiller Heritage Room”. With the funds acquired through fundraising and donations and the interest from the investment of the Eccles Foundation money and many letters of support from the public and municipalities, the library reapplied for the Keystone Grant in 2001. The news arrived in the late fall of 2001 that the library’s Keystone Grant was approved. We were on our way and the work had just begun.

The architects had to finalize the plans to get approval from the State Library to move forward. Bids were let and awarded to: General Contractor- Clark Construction Company of Titusville; Electrical- Fuellgraf Electric Company of Butler; Plumbing and HVAC – A & B Mechanical of New Castle. A Groundbreaking Ceremony was held on Thursday, June 27, 2002. The next plans were made as to how, when and where to relocate the library so construction could begin.

In the summer of 2002, we relocated the library to two buildings in the Filetti Building between the Pizza Shop and Laundromat on Main St. We closed the library the last two weeks of June and reopened July 1, 2002 in the relocated library. All of this was possible due to an army of volunteers working two full weeks alongside the staff and trustees. The entire existing library was moved or stored. What we could not get into the relocated library, we stored in a Filetti Building on West Back St. and in Carol Scott’s building across from the Rimersburg Cemetery.

Construction was to begin July 1, 2002 and end January 31, 2003. We operated the library from July 1, 2002 through February 28, 2003 from the relocated location. The winter weather was very severe and there were several construction delays and some change orders. The library closed March, 2003 to begin moving back into the newly remodeled and expanded library. Again it took an army of volunteers from the very young to the very old to move, books, computers, furniture and other library materials. The doors opened to the public on Monday, April 7, 2003 for business. A Dedication of the library was held on Friday, May 16, 2003 at 7 p.m.

During this span of time, 1999-2003, there were many decisions made, many meetings to attend, many high points, some low points, many tired bodies and weary minds, but the project was completed. The money was well spent. The plans were well developed and followed through. Our library community of Rimersburg, Sligo, and East Brady Boroughs; Madison, Toby, Piney and Brady Townships have received a modern new library that is accessible and welcoming for all the citizens and fully equipped for the 21st century by providing computer technology with the Internet, along with books, periodicals, audio-visual materials and programming for children through adults.

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In 1968 the land, building and equipment were valued at $141,075. In 2005 the new addition, renovation and contents of the library building were valued at $1,872,361 for cost of a new reproduction of the library.

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