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Appleton City Public Library

Library Mission & History

The mission and history of The Appleton City Public Library

The mission of The Appleton City Public Library is to serve the citizens of St. Clair County with resources and services for learning and fun.

            In 1870, W.H. Appleton arrived in Arlington, Missouri by railroad. He was impressed by the town and proposed that it if it were to be renamed Appleton, he would donate a library to the city valued at $1,000.00. The proposition was accepted and hence the name of Appleton came to be. When the name was sent in to register, there was already an Appleton in Missouri so they just added the word “City” and that’s how Appleton City came to be.

            Another version of the story is that the president of the Tebo & Neosho Railroad named the depot in honor of W.H. Appleton and the Appleton Publishing Company of Boston. In gratitude for the honor, Appleton gave $300.00 to building a library building and sent about 500 books to stock it. Either way, a new library was established in 1871 (the exact date is unknown). This makes the Appleton City Public Library the third oldest operating library in the state of Missouri.

A white pine building was erected on the west side of the city park (now known as Forest Park). No librarian was employed but it was opened on Saturday afternoons by the City Clerk or someone substituting for him. No provision had been made for adding new books, so gradually, the library fell into disuse and before 1900, it was opened only by request.

            In 1923, the city’s council sold the library building for $20.00. This building has now been restored and is located across from Railroad Park and next to the old Ellett Hospital. The books were then moved to a new location at City Hall for storage. In May of 1924, the Appleton City Library Association was formed and a drive was done to collect books and money. By the later part of June that year, the library was re-opened. In 1937, the library was moved to upstairs over City Hall.

            In 1965, the city voted to make the library tax supported. Also in 1965, the Robert F. Kenney Memorial Fund was started in his memory by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ivan Kenney, and the first annual Bazaar was held. This was the start of the building fund.

            In 1967, Phillip Dingus offered the city the use of the building located at 105 West Fourth Street. The building was to be known as the “Charles Dingus Memorial Building” in memory of the former mayor and businessman of Appleton City. The donation was accepted and necessary alterations were made to make use of the building as a library. The library was moved to this location in April 1968. Since that time, many changes have been made to include DVDs, computers, a copy/fax machine, and free public Wi-Fi.

            The first librarian was Martha Baldwin; she served from 1924-1925. Other librarians include Ada Laney (1925-1940), Judith Baskerville (1940-1960), Mae Florence Flaherty (1960-1976), Bonnie Hesterburg (1976-1978), Zelma Chapin (1978-1993), Clara Dunham (1993-1996), Lucille Harleman (1996-1999), Barbara Franzone (1998-2001), Mechelle Stiffler (2001-2003), Ruth Robbins (2003-2006), Bee Culver (2007-2008), Dorie Scofield (2008-2009), Virginia Gilmore (2010-2018),  Kamber Grishow (2019-2020), Sandra Bain (2020-2021) and Karidi Hazell-Lesmeister (2021-current). The library has also had several assistant librarians and volunteers throughout the years.

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