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Great Falls Library celebrates 125th anniversary with reception on Wednesday

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“When I got my library card, that’s when my life began.”

Rita Mae Brown
Rita Mae Brown

That’s what American writer and feminist Rita Mae Brown said about the power the public library had on her.

Similarly, author Ray Bradbury once said, “Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future,” and journalist Norman Cousins opined, saying “A library is the delivery room for the birth of ideas, a place where history comes alive.”

Next week in Great Falls, our public library celebrates 125 years in the Electric City and you’re invited to come share your favorite stories about past local libraries, the Valeria Library and the Carnegie library, and the present-day Great Falls Public Library. The open reception takes place Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m.

Staff and supporters will show displays honoring the three buildings which include photos, stories and memorabilia from each location. People are encouraged to come share any personal tales you have about the library.

Some of the things on display include architectural drawings from McIver and Hess, the architects who designed the current library building in 1966, the only hummingbird display in Great Falls, and possibly Montana, assembled by librarian Robert S. Williams in 1890, which was on display at the Valeria Library.

keystoneAlso on display is stain glass windows from the Valeria Library and the keystone from that building, also, which is quite a sight to see.

The Great Falls Public Library
The Great Falls Public Library

Some important dates in the history of the public library in Great Falls include

  • 1911: The Children’s room opened in the basement of the library with Josephine Trigg serving as children’s librarian. The Great Falls Public Library was a pioneer in providing library service to children in Montana.
  • July 1, 1954: Alma Jacobs appointed librarian.During the early 1960s, Jacobs became a vocal advocate for the library and the need to replace the current building, which had been built in 1903. 
  • 1965: A $900,000 proposition finally passed and work began on the current GFPL building.
  • Aug. 1, 1973: Alma Jacobs resigned her post in Great Falls after 19 years to start working as the librarian of the Montana State Library in Helena.
  • Nov. 12, 1967: The new library opens.
  • 1988: Jim Heckel appointed director of the library
  • 2009: Heckel retires, construction of the Alma Jacobs Plaza completed. Kathy Mora becomes director of Great Falls Public Library.

For more information on the public reception, check out the Facebook event page here. And for more historic dates in the timeline of the Great Falls Public Library, see here.

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