April 22, 2021

Gibson Memorial celebrates 90 years

The Matilda J. Gibson Memorial Library opened Apr. 7, 1931, but its history extends many years earlier.

In 1873, the library then known as the Creston Library ,was erected at the corner of Union and Maple with the backing of the Burlington Railroad. Although the Creston Library prospered, in its later years, it became mired in debt. When the high school opened, students were using their own library and although the library at the Junior High School was open to the public, the reading material available for Creston citizens began to dry up. After two failed attempts to establish a Carnegie library, things were looking dire.

On Jul. 14, 1902, Matilda J. Gibson died of cholera in the Philippines. Gibson’s daughter, Jane Phillips, husband to Frank Phillips of the Phillips Petroleum Company, gave $25,000 to Creston to build a library in honor of her late mother.

By the 1980s, it was clear that Gibson Memorial needed remodeling, to meet ADA compliance, and by 1999, the final remodeling was completed. Along with accommodations for the disabled, major changes to the building included adding the Children’s area to the main floor, an elevator on the top floor, and a genealogy room. The cost of these changes were between $700,000 to $800,000 which was funded by The City of Creston and in part by private donors.

Gibson Memorial has had nine librarians, with the first being Isabella J. Alderson, who carried over to the new library from the public library at the Junior High School. Today the reigns of the library are in the hands of Aric Bishop.

Over the course of its history, the local library has bounced around locations in Creston, which Bishop has lamented.

“I think as a community, we need to come together behind supporting our library,” Bishop said. “Because if anything, our history has shown that we have moved the library back and forth between different areas and we just haven’t had a lot of consistency for our library.”

The Capital Campaign Group was looking to raise funds for the 90th anniversary by asking for $90 in commemoration of the establishment. Bishop encourages individuals to join the Friends of the Library, which is a $10 membership for an individual or $20 for families.

The Friends of the Library have typically funded the Summer Reading Program, but this year most of the funding came from a DEKKO Foundation grant of $2,500, according to Bishop. Bishop also said the cost of the Summer Reading Program usually ranges up to $4,000 annually in an average year.

Support for the library can be shown in a variety of ways, not just monetary. One can also fill out an application to serve on the library board by contacting city clerk Lisa Williams.

“It would be nice now that we’re celebrating our 90th year, we continue to think about our vision and how we want our library to move into the future,” said Bishop, “I think that starts with having a lot of dialogue between community members and making sure that we’re investing in a library that will benefit future generations, too.”

Bishop added that investing in the future was the Jane Phillips’s purpose for founding the library.

In Bishop’s view, a community library deserves a community’s investment in the future.

“Now it is our chance to invest in future generations,” Bishop said. “So by coming together behind this Capital Campaign, we can really move this library forward to really benefit the future of our youth.”