1936 – 1949

Over the years, the city of Mondovi has been the major contributor to the library, financing 74% of the budget in 1936 and continuing at about that pace down through the years. If not for late return fines of $50 -$70 per year, the city treasury would have been the only source of revenue most years in that era. Expenditures were frugal and consistent from year to year, with small increases annually. Mrs. Whitwam’s salary grew to $770 for Mrs. Solberg in 1949. Less than $100 a year usually was paid out for new books. In 1949, that had risen to $355, not a very large increase considering the post war economy. And the yearly cost for cleaning had shot up from $9.50 in 1936 to a whopping $27.85 by the end of the ’40’s. In addition, a charge of $189 listed under “building stuff” was paid.

Six librarians served over those 15 years: Almeda Farrington, Frances Whitman, Evelyn Stai (1937 – 1941), Bonnie Ward(1942), Margaret McLaughlin(1944 – 1947), and Iva Solberg(1948 – 1950).

That time span saw an increasing appetite for novels and other works of fiction. Margaret Mitchell fascinated the reading public with “Gone with the Wind”, historical fiction about the Civil War.  John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” focused attention on social injustice. Adult reader choices are reflected by a 1949 statistic: within the adult books portion of the total collection, 15% used were non-fiction and 34% were fiction. With the depression slowly grinding away and finally giving way to the pain of war, Americans all over were diverting their attentions with long books, often read under a bare light bulb or kerosene lamp. But diversions were about to take another form which would have a significant effect on libraries, the one in Mondovi included.

By 1949, the budget had risen from $1086 to $1,600, and there were 8138 books on the shelves, used by 2000 patrons who borrowed 6,200 volumes. Instead of ten books a year, readers read six. The vast improvement in radio technology was helping “Fibber McGee and Molly”, “The Shadow” and Jack Benny take over family living rooms. Faster, more comfortable automobiles and good roads took folks who would have been reading a book to the stores that stayed open evenings. People were enthralled with the new fangled gadgets. And just over the horizon was the faint glow of the bright, alluring enemy of library usage, the Hollywood boob tube.