The Arrival of Annie Taggart
by Lou Bernard
When Thanksgiving rolls around, which is has a tendency to do roughly once a year, I always think about the Ross Library. To be completely accurate, I think about the Ross Library a lot, because I’m paid to. But around the end of November, I think about it and write about it, because it’s the anniversary.
Thanksgiving is the day the Ross Library first opened in 1910. Annie Halenbake Ross died in September of 1907, and left her home to the city with the intent that it become Lock Haven’s public library. I write about this every year, so it may not surprise you to find out that I sometimes have a difficult time finding anything new to say. Last year I was reduced to writing about some old newspapers found in Annie’s wall.
Of course, every library needs someone to run it. Currently, that’s Diane Whitaker, the library’s director. When it opened, it was Annie Van Cleve Taggart, a young woman from Michigan who came to be our first head librarian. The records are sketchy form that era, and I don’t know too much about Annie Taggart, but that’s not going to prevent me from going on about her for about another six hundred words.
You may have noticed that the library opened over three years after the building was given to the city. This is mainly because city council spent three years messing around with the idea. It was unclear whether or not they were actually going to use the building for a library or not, and they appointed a committee to study it. Committees not being known for their quick and decisive work, they finally committed in March of 1910, and things went fast after that.
City council chose the library board of directors, and the board hired Annie Taggart to be the first librarian. A newspaper article on July 1, 1910, mentioned that she was expected to arrive in mid-August, and that she’d been trained in New York and had been director of the library in Grand Rapids, Michigan for a year.
Annie Taggart arrived in Lock Haven on August 15, to be greeted by Mayor William Bentley and shown her new home, which was the library—In those days, the head librarian lived upstairs in the library. (As opposed to today, where it only seems like the director lives in the library because she works so many hours.) She went to work. She chose several volunteers, including her new assistant, Annie Mitchell, and began sorting and shelving books, and deciding what else she wanted to purchase.
“She understands her work thoroughly and succeeded admirably in combining or classifying the old books with the new, a task much more difficult than when all new books are purchased,” the Clinton Democrat said in September. “She is pleasant and courteous and in love with her work. She is also pleased with Lock Haven and her people, and there is no doubt but that the library will be conducted successfully and along approved lines under Miss Taggart’s direction.”
She also had something of an artistic streak, designing a series of posters and bulletins for display in the children’s library, which was the present-day Pennsylvania Room. She did them all by hand, and the newspapers remarked on how nicely they were done.
The library first opened its doors on Thanksgiving Day of 1910, and Annie Taggart was there to greet the public, wearing a red carnation on her dress. At a rough estimate, two thousand people came to see the new library and meet the new librarian that day.
In December, Annie personally accepted a copy of the newly-published “Pennsylvania Mountain Stories,” given to the library by Henry Wharton Shoemaker, my personal hero and a writer from McElhattan. She added it to the collection, along with many other donations that came flooding into the library that month.
Annie lasted a little over a year at the Ross Library, and then moved on to be a librarian at the teacher’s college, which was what they called Lock Haven University back then. She’s a part of our history here, the one who helped begin it all. And she left me enough history to write about, which gets me through another November and another anniversary of the day my library began.