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‘Densue.net and public culture’

One of the many Creston area folks I’ve come to admire is Dennis Howard. Dennis is a former business manager for the city of Creston, and was born and raised here. His website, densue.net, has the outward appearance of a family history site, but scratch the surface (by clicking on the “forest” tab) and you reveal an unparalleled source of area history materials.

At densue.net, you will find a digital copy of every Creston yearbook known to exist between 1912 and 2011, and many Cromwell yearbooks. Dennis has been scanning and adding them to his collection for a decade now, and the outcome is a tremendous resource for the community. We have a good collection of Creston High yearbooks at the library, but nothing like densue.net, and it’s freely available to the public.

As your library director, with a special interest in area history, I value the contributions of Dennis and others who maintain our community heritage. At the Union County Historical Society, Linda James, Dick Anderson, Steve Francis, Wally Miller, Sharon Snodgrass, Brian Zachary, Arlen Biere and Ed Ritter are also keeping area history alive. We have a good collection of area directories and plat maps at the library, but nothing like they have at their McKinley Park facility.

This week at the library, we’re hosting Lori Vicker, who travels Iowa sharing her knowledge of the Orphan Train Movement in the United States, circa 1854-1929. Do you know, or know of, someone who arrived in Iowa on an orphan train? Orphan trains have inspired much fiction and non-fiction literature, and anyone who is interested in this period should not miss our program. It’s at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17.

As we wind down 2018, I’ll be making my own presentations on area history. At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, I’ll give a talk on the Creston, Winterset and Des Moines Railroad (1909-1919), and 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10, I’ll share what I’ve learned about Thomas Walsh, the first Union County law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty. I may also discuss the 1926 murder of Sheriff Newton Collings, the second Union County officer killed while on duty. They paid the ultimate price for their community service, and I see their stories as central to the public culture of our area.

If you visit our Genealogy Room, you may notice some changes. I’ve moved Iowa non-fiction materials there, and created an “Iowa Collection.” We’ll be adding new items in that genre, which complements our genealogy section. In addition, I’ve weeded and sorted our once-inaccessible mass of newspaper clippings into boxes that reflect their relevance to area history. You’ll find scrapbooks and clippings on Creston school history, natural disasters to hit the area, the Bluegrass Palace, Union County and southern Iowa, among others. Interested in the history of the Creston Arts Council, predecessor to today’s Creston: Arts? We’ve got you covered.

We have a new inside bulletin board for public announcements, and in the entryway, a spectacular new display for the building on our Legacy capital campaign. It features our attractive architectural design in detail, and acknowledges the range of community support for our plans to double the square-footage at our current location. Change can be good, but one thing is constant – at the Gibson Memorial Library, we’re determined to enhance the public culture of Creston and Union County!

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