Humble Beginnings

Established in April, 1922, by the GCC and Newera Club, the library in Story City had humble beginnings with one room in the First Mortgage Investment Building from 1922 to 1927. A total of 430 books made up the entire collection, the majority of which were donated by members of the community. During those years, women from the Women’s Club volunteered to keep the library open. Those volunteers included Lucile Tjernagel, Mae Charlson and Helen Ristedt. Bertha Bartlett also volunteered until she was officially hired in 1927 to run the library. She continued as the Head Librarian until 1964.

In 1927 the library expanded to two rooms above the Jacobson Drug Store and it remained there until 1939. In 1939, it was moved into two rooms in the Community Building adjacent to City Hall with 1302 square feet. The library remained there for 55 years, until 1994.  When Bartlett retired in 1964, Marie Nolan was hired and served as Head Librarian from 1965 until 1976. She was followed by Arlene Toft (1976 – 1980), Borghild Gisslequist (1980-1981), Rosemary Osheim (1981-1985), Sharon McLaughlin (1985-1986) and Janice Thompson (1986 to 2007).


A Brand New Building

In 1987, Friends of the Library was formed, with their focus to improve library facilities. In 1989/90 they facilitated a feasibility study which concluded that a new building was needed for Story City. In 1990/91 they facilitated the purchase of the Handsaker lot for the new building at a cost of $75,000, with the Friends paying $15,000, the remainder by the City of Story City. The fundraising efforts for building a new library were coordinated through the Friends of the Library, and its members served on the major committees for the fundraising campaign. The entire campaign was initiated in the fall of 1991 kicked off with a campaign gala on September 7, 1991. Dr. Frances Bartlett Kinne, Chancellor of Jacksonville University, was named honorary chairperson of the fund-raising campaign. Speakers for the even were Dr. Kinne, a native of Story City and Kevin Cooney, newscaster from KCCI-TV. The initial goal was for $600,000.

On June 27, 1993, a ground breaking ceremony was held at the construction site, under the guidance of Board President Charles E. Semler, M.D., with Dr. Frances Kinne again speaking at the event. Instead of traditional shovels, the groundbreaking was with a single-bottom plow pulled by children of the community and led by Dr. Kinne. After the initial pull, all those involved with the project were invited to take their turn pulling the ropes attached to the plow. The library construction was completed in the summer of 1994, and staff and volunteers began moving into the new building on July 18, 1994. A book brigade made up of hundreds of community volunteers was formed to pass the thousands of books from the old building to the new library on July 18 and 19. The final cost of the library, which had an additional wing added to the original cost, was slightly over $700,000. The library was dedicated in July 2, 1995.


Moving Forward

Janice Thompson was the Library Director during the Library building project. Programs were initiated for children, using the new meeting room for pre-school storytimes, summer reading programs, and special programs. With that move, the library initiated its first library automation system, and computers were set up for the staff using the Winnebago system.   

On April 23, 1999, the Bertha Bartlett Public Library Foundation was incorporated as a 501C-3 organization for the purposes of helping support and improve the Bertha Bartlett Public Library. The Bartlett Book Club began in November of 1996, and still offers monthly discussions. Thompson retired in April 2007, and Kolleen Taylor was hired as the new Library Director.

In the fall of 2007, the Library launched its first library website, making the catalog available on the internet. Taylor coordinated the addition of library servers to host the catalog and the website was established through a grant to the State Library of Iowa by the Bill Gates Foundation. Programming in Story City was also expanded over the next few years to incorporate Teens, Tweens, an after-school program, Lego Robotics and Makerspace kits.  Non-fiction materials and biographies were moved into the Kinne Wing, which was also used for special adult programs, author events, and musical performances. 


Gilbert Library, A Branch of BBPL

In the spring of 2011, the Gilbert community approached Library Director Taylor about considering contracting with them for library services.  In July 2011, two shelves of books initiated the first steps into the Gilbert Community. In January of 2012, a building had been purchased by the city of Gilbert and remodeled. Most of the initial books and interior furniture was donated.


In Our Recent History

After school programming expanded in 2009, with once-a-month special children’s events (K-4), added to the calendar and a program for tweens. This again expanded in 2017 with additional early dismissals requiring additional special programs to our calendar.  The automation system system was upgraded to Alexandria, a division of the Companion Corporation out of Salt Lake City in 2008, and this was continued until 2021 when the automation system was again upgraded to Insignia Corporation out of Alberta, Canada. 

The Storytelling Festival, which was coordinated by the Story City Chamber of Commerce in 1996, always had a connection to the library, with workshops and volunteer hours from library staff and volunteers. In 2016 and 2017, library and the Historical Society worked with the GCC on this project, but the GCC and Historical society decided to abandon this project in 2018. In 2019, the Storytelling Festival was held again with the Bertha Bartlett Public Library Foundation coordinating this, and featured speakers were Storyteller Will Stuck, Dr. Frances Bartlett Kinne (via Skype technology) and Eric Hanson, KCCI-TV anchor and graduate from the Roland-Story Schools.

In 2019, the building east of the library (Pete Tekippe photography) was purchased with the intent to expand the library. A steering committee was formed, but due to the Covid-19 epidemic, the efforts to explore expansions were curtailed. In 2020 and 2021 the Storytelling event was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and plans for 2022 are still up in the air.  The building expansion project work resumed in 2021, hiring Emergent Architecture firm out of Cedar Rapids to integrate the two properties.  Fundraising for this project began at the end of 2021, and elsewhere on this site, the Donate button will allow donations to be made tonline through Paypal to the Bertha Bartlett Public Library Foundation, a 501C-3 organization which supports the library.


History written by Kolleen Taylor with resources from the Library Expansion scrapbook compiled in 1995 by Susan Amenson and Sue Trample.