Library Stop: Red Cloud, Nebraska


Auld Public Library
537 North Webster
Red Cloud, Nebraska 68970

Date opened: March 8, 1918
Cost: $20,000
Holdings: 10,000+ books, movies, audiobooks
Date visited: March 11, 2011

The library was a gift from local businessman William T. Auld.  The town had received a Carnegie proposal that wasn’t accepted.  Auld’s proposal followed the Carnegie plan and the town accepted the conditions, which required it to provide $1,000 annually for upkeep and maintenance.

The $20,000 that Auld provided covered the cost of construction, furniture, and books.

Construction started in the summer of 1917 and the library opened its doors on March 8, 1918. The builders were Fiske & Meginnis of Lincoln and the general contractor was William N. Gedney.

I’ve made the pilgrimage to Willa Cather’s Red Cloud several times, but this was the first time I visited the town library.  In the past, I was always in such a rush to get to the Cather stuff.  I also probably drove into town coming from the east on US Route 136 (when I lived in Lincoln, NE) but on this visit I’d spent the night in Hastings, NE, which is about 40 miles north of Red Cloud, so I came into town on US Highway 281.

Unfortunately, the librarian wasn’t in and the woman who was filling in didn’t know the history of the library, but it’s easy enough to find some basic info online.  However, I was hoping for a little gossipy history about the library and Willa Cather. Did she frequent the library on trips home to visit the family? Donate books or money? Sit in any of the chairs?  You know, the I’m-a-crazy-fan-and-want-to-know kinda stuff.  I’d also like to know the reasons why the Carnegie library proposal was rejected.  Was it simply good, clean civic pride that preferred a local contribution or was there some sort of nasty back-room-dealing going on?

Anyway, the Auld Library is a one-room library and the librarian’s desk and bookshelves looked original.  There was a patron using the resources (it was late morning on a Friday).  I spent most of my visit browsing the Nebraska author’s section and the Willa Cather section, although a book about cat behavior caught my eye in the general non-fiction section.

I didn’t take pictures of the inside for which I’m now kicking myself, but it was good to just be inside and experience the room.  There’s a great big wonderful radiator in the non-fiction section that I fear the coming renovation may eliminate. They are currently raising funds to build an addition onto the back of the building which looks like it will double their space.  In addition to the radiators, I’m afraid the old coal chute door on the back of the building will also find its way to the scrap heap (or antique store):

Coal chute.  The house I grew up in had one.

Here’s a picture of Red Cloud’s main drag, looking south when standing in the middle of the street directly in front of the library:

The library has a blog that you can check out here and they also have a Facebook page.

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