Local History Collections

Collection ID: LH-283, LH-300
Location: LH-283, LH-300

(Description ID: 594390)

Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums

Birchard Public Library of Sandusky County

LH-283, LH-300

Agency History
Scope and Content

The records (LH-283 and LH-300) described below are those of the Birchard Public Library of Sandusky County, 423 Croghan Street, Fremont, Ohio. Other records at the Hayes Presidential Center that relate to the library's founding, development, and early activities can be found in the Sardis Birchard Collection and in the diaries and letters of President Rutherford B. Hayes for the years 1873 to 1892 and the Center's Local History Files. A small collection of photographs, taken in 1948 (63 black and white prints), is held in the Center's Local History Photograph Collection. The images pertain primarily to the library's extension service activities. Additionally, the proceedings and minutes of the Sandusky County Historical Society, held by this organization on Birchard Avenue in Fremont, provide an understanding of the library's role in the formation and development of the county historical society. History of Birchard Public Library and the Sandusky County Extension Services, an M.L.S. thesis by Richard Gooch (1957), is available on microfilm as well as in typed transcript form. Books associated with this collection were transferred to the Hayes Presidential Center's library.

Agency History
The Birchard Public Library of Sandusky County was founded and endowed by Sardis Birchard, early pioneer, prominent Fremont, Ohio, merchant, and uncle of President Rutherford B. Hayes. Though financed by Birchard, the institution was truly the vision of Hayes himself. He saw the library as a county cultural center, especially devoted to the sciences, visual arts, and history. He chose the historic site of Fort Stephenson to erect a functional building of understated elegance. On opening day in 1879, much of what Hayes had envisioned became a reality. Paintings, artifacts, and manuscripts found their place among the several thousand volumes of books and reference works. He presided over a seven-member Board of Trustees which served as the library's governing body. To it, fell the responsibility of setting administrative policies and making procedural decisions. Its Clerk Treasurer oversaw the library's fiscal operations.

Within two years, the library boasted over five thousand volumes. It ranked among Ohio's largest libraries, of which most were associated with universities or urban centers. A single librarian was employed to manage the daily operations. Hattie Gast held this position from 1879 until 1917. It was she who experimented with cataloging and circulation systems prior to the formation of the American Library Association. She worked closely with the schools and civic groups to educate the public in the use of the library's holdings.

Success soon brought problems. The demand for more space and books taxed the privately funded institution. The Sandusky County Historical Society's "museum" and its artifacts became a mere adjunct. In 1892, within a space of six months, the deaths of President Hayes and three of the original Trustees occurred. A financial crisis sent the newly appointed Board to the City Council in search of funds.

Lucy Keeler, cousin of the Hayes family, essayist, photographer, and naturalist, induced a former Fremonter to remember the library. This bequest temporarily solved the library's budgetary problems and provided a new reading room. In 1906, a small tax was secured from the city, but the Board realized the temporary nature of this revenue source. They sought to protect the library's operations with a Permanent Endowment Fund.

Miss Keeler, acting as the unofficial secretary of the Board of Birchard Public Library of Sandusky County Trustees, spear-headed a reorganization. She launched a personal public relations campaign through newspaper articles and talks before civic groups. The community soon began to understand the need for public support. Internally, additional trained staff was added, and new library methods were adopted. Efforts to reorganize the "museum" and catalog its contents began.

It was not until 1935, when the Ohio General Assembly provided for public libraries through the intangible tax that Birchard Public Library began operating on a sound financial basis. Increased staffing and a bookmobile soon followed. In 1940, the Board of Trustees used their Permanent Endowment Fund to finance the major expansion and remodeling it had proposed in 1911! An adult reading room and a "museum" area were added. The Board restricted future donations to the "museum" to Sandusky County local history artifacts. All objects were cataloged and displayed.

For the first time, the library began meeting the needs of the entire county through its extension service. Bookmobile stations and branches at Woodville, Gibsonburg, and Lindsey pushed the county-wide, annual circulation to nearly 60,000 by 1942. Over half were circulated through the Fremont school system. The branches operated in stores and schools in their respective villages. Residents provided support, but all books were processed and distributed from the main library. By 1950, the Board found it necessary to renovate the library's lower level to handle the extension service processing. A bookmobile garage followed in 1956.

On December 6, 1965, the Board of Trustees broke ground for a fourth expansion. Nearly $100,000 was raised through pledges, gifts, bequests, and the intangible tax. An additional 3000 square feet increased floor space by one third. Library-Director Hallie Grimes oversaw thirty employees. Five of these served at the three branch locations. The main library was organized into departments to handle reference, circulation, children's services, and the bookmobile. Increased meeting room space brought many civic groups to the main facility. Audio-visual materials became part of the library's resources.

A 1989 bond issue financed a fifth expansion that doubled the main library's size, restored the original structure, provided elevators and handicap access, increased parking, automated circulation, computerized the card catalog, and expanded the collection and audio-visual space. Today, a permanent museum area highlights Sandusky County's local history. The remaining artifacts were transferred to the Sandusky County Historical. Society's building on Birchard Avenue. Sardis Birchard's paintings" are prominently displayed throughout the library.

Scope and Content
The collection donated to the Hayes Presidential Center includes a variety of records dating from the library's formation in 1873 to 1980. They include by-laws, newsletters, a series of minutes of the Board of Trustees. The records of the library's earliest activities and services are preserved in five scrapbooks. (An additional twenty scrapbooks remain at the main library.) The scrapbooks are arranged chronologically and the articles appear chronologically within each album. Span dates for each scrapbook are given in the inventory. The scrapbooks (1873-1923) were compiled by Board Secretary Lucy Keeler, author, local historian, photographer, and cousin of President Rutherford B. Hayes. She preserved primary source documents concerning President Hayes and the library's initial holdings. The material provides an understanding of the role played by the library within the community during this period. The scrapbooks, used in conjunction with the four, earliest librarians' ledgers (1873-1916) serve as an invaluable source of primary material for documenting the library's formative years. Patrons' names, visitors, and circulating book titles are listed. Span dates for each are given in the inventory.

Ac. 5398

Box 1
By-laws, rules and regulations
Sardis Birchard
History of the Library
Record: Birchard Library, 1893
Diamond Jubilee Celebration, 1949
Expansion and Renovation, 1966
Centennial Celebration, 1974
Pamphlets, brochures
Newsletters, 1986-1987
Building and Grounds
Restoration of "Old Betsy"
Reading Programs
Book Mobile
   Board of Trustees
   Annual Reports

Trustee Meeting Minutes:

Monthly Financial Reports:

Trustee Meeting Minutes:

Monthly Financial Reports:

Box 2
Trustee Meeting Minutes:



   Landscaping Plans and Diagrams
   Drawing of the library and grounds, 1880

Ac. 5493
5 linear ft.

Box 1
Library Scrapbooks (compiled by Lucy E. Keeler):
Miscellaneous Correspondence and News Articles
Geological Surveys (Ohio counties, 1929)
Sandusky County, Ohio, maps, 1922, 1927

Box 2
Accession Ledger: 1885-1888
Accession Ledger: 1888-1904
Accession Ledger:1905-1915
Accession Ledger:1915
Inventory Ledger: July 1873-May 1874
Visitors Register: 1879-1900 (contains the signatures of RBH and Wm. T. Sherman)
Borrowers Register: 1874-1878
Librarians' Report: 1876-1879
Membership Register: 1909-1916

Transferred to the Biographical File:
Austin Birchard Taylor genealogy material