The following text was researched and presented to the Library Board by Gayle C. Clair in 1997. It contains an overview of library history to that time. I have revised the contents only slightly. The history after 1997 is not included, though there have been many changes in the last decade as well. ~aw
The original library in the village of Clifton was founded in 1903. It was staffed by Miss Mamie Sanderson and was disbanded in the early 1960s. The books, with the exception of a few rare editions which still remain the present facility, were all given away. Even the building, which was located along Main Street, a bit south of where the Unit 4 Bus Garage is now located, was razed.
In the late 1960s, a group of mothers, under the leadership of Mrs. Glenn McKinley, who had just moved to Clifton, gathered to discuss the problem of the lack of reading material. Mrs. McKinley contacted the State Library in Springield, Illinois, and arranged for a collection of children's books to be sent to Clifton. For the next several summers, these books were housed in the Clifton Community Building.
In 1970, the State Library ended its summer program for any library not belonging to the Lincoln Trails Library System. Only tax-supported libraries could join Lincoln Trails, and the Clifton Public Library was not tax-supported.
To prevent another library from being closed, members of the Clifton Women's Clubs and several volunteers, under the leadership of Mrs. Lee Rushing, a second grade teacher at the Clifton Elementary School, organized and staffed a summer reading program. The Clifton Village Board again provided a space in the community building. Shelves were purchased from a local business closing its operations, and a child-sized table and chairs were borrowed.
In 1971, the Clifton Public Library began to operate on a year-round schedule, staying open one day a week during the winter months with a volunteer staff. Donations of books were made by residents in the community.
December 1972 was an eventful time for the future of the library. The Clifton Lions Club donated $1,000 for books and the Clifton Loyal-4-Leaf 4-H Club also donated books. It was late in December when the village board voted to purchase the Scheidecker Building to be used as a meeting place and a library. This is the oldest building in Clifton, and it once served as a harness shop and a newspaper office. It needed a major remodeling job which continued over the next few years.
The first step in the remodeling process was to hire someone to re-design the interior of the building. The village board hired Larry Mahoney in collaboration with Architecture 5 to make a board room on the top level, a children's library section at the balcony level, and the main library downstairs. This would include a table and chairs for reading or research, a desk for the librarian (and also for the village officers at the front), and sections for adult books and reference works.
Construction began in 1973, and a variety of events, including a dance held by the Junior Women's Club, helped raise the necessary funds for the project. The Clifton Woman's Club helped raise money to purchase the card catalogues and books, and many individuals assisted in stocking the shelves. Cataloguing began with Mrs. Betty Thompson and Mrs. Margaret Kershaw doing a major portion of the work. Volunteers, including members of the Woman's Club, were organized to complete the cataloguing and prepared for the move to the new quarters.
In October 1974, volunteers trucked boxed of books from the Community Building to the library's new location. The children of the Clifton Elementary School moved the books for the children's section down the street, each carrying two at a time. All books were promptly shelved.
On Sunday, March 2, 1975, an Open House for the NEW Clifton Public Library was held from 2:00 to 4:00 P.M. Mrs. Glenn McKinley, now of Chatsworth, IL, was the honored guest.
The library was opened with 32 volunteers working twice during an eight-hour period. They checked out books, magazines, and records, and kept the facility clean.
In March 1976, the first exhibit was presented. It featured decorative eggs created by Bertha Haley, Norma Meier, Mona Rasmussen, Donna Ross, and other local artists.
New books continued to be added and the First National Bank of Clifton donated 16 magazine subscriptions.
In August 1976, the library acquired a sculpture by local artist R. J. O'Connor, made from antique tools and scrap iron, and donated by the family members who were descended from 20 early settlers in the Clifton area.
Also during the summer of 1976, a story hour for pre-school children was held and a local history collection was established. A federal program made it possible to hire two librarians for the summer, Mrs. Rushing and Mr. Hyde. The library was open every afternoon, Monday through Saturday. In the fall the library returned to its volunteer status and the hours were shortened.
In the fall of 1977, the Library Board asked the Clifton Village Board if they would consider hiring a part-time librarian to replace the volunteer program. The village board granted their request, and Mrs. Lynn Lohnes of Ashkum, Illinois was hired to work for two days and one evening per week.
Mrs. Lohnes remained in that position until August of 1980 when she and her husband, Rev. Paul Lohnes, moved from the area. It was then that Ms. Gayle Clair of Clifton was hired.
The Clifton Public Library became a developmental member of Lincoln Trails Library System in 1996. In January 1997, the hours were expanded to 28 per week, and Ms. Dolores Stemke, Clifton, joined the staff.