Watervliet District Library
Connects People, Inspires Ideas, and Transforms Lives

A Brief History of the Watervliet District Library​​

Mrs. Cora Peer, wife of Dr. Orville Peer, called together the first meeting of the Library Association of Watervliet at the Carmody Opera House November 14, 1913.  Winifred Sterner was elected President and Mrs. Peer Vice President. The association was in it’s infancy, no books, and no money, which they set out to collect around the community.  The Village Council provided them space in the Village Hall located in a small building at the center of the Cortez Flooring Inc. building today (2016) for the Library in December of 1913.

After the village bought a smaller building in January 1914, Frank Baughman offered them the second floor of his feed store located where Jot Liquor is today (2016).  The library was moved in the spring and opened their new location April 4, 1914.  Open every Saturday, the library’s selection of books contained nearly five hundred books in all different genres.  Library subscriptions were $1 for one year or 50 cents for six months. 

At the December 1914 meeting of the Association Cora Peer was named President and Mrs. F.M. Keasey was named first Vice President.  Miss Effie Price was named as the Librarian. 

The library ran into bad luck when P. H. Lewis bought the building and planned to tear it down and build anew.  The Library was saved in January of 1915 when they were able to move into the kindergarten annex of the Watervliet Public School.

 As misfortune strikes again, the building the kindergarten and library shared was sold a year later.  The First National Bank offered a room for the library to move to.  Today the current resident of this building is the Flower Basket florist shop.

 Two years later, the village council hall moved into a bigger building and offered free rent to the library.  They stayed in this Burr building until 1925.
It is unknown as to how long Miss Price held the Librarian position, however we do know that in July 1926 Miss Irene Ray was the Librarian.  Around 1928 Cora Peer took on the position and along with that of President of the Association.

When the Old High School was built the Library moved in there.  They were now open during the week to students and on Saturdays from two to five.  The City Hall then made plans to build a new building with a room for the library.  The Library Association appreciated this gesture so the citizens could utilize the use of the library more effectively.  Today the city hall is still housed in the same building.

In January of 1939, the Watervliet Library secured a state aid grant that recognized them as a public library.  This offered taxpayers free loans of books, while non-taxpayers still paid five cents per week.  This change brought the increase of patrons from 30 in 1939 to 263 in 1940.

In January 1940 Mrs. Peer stepped down from her 26 year run as President and was replaced by Mrs. Charles Jennings.  She held the position as librarian with Mrs. Grace Sterner as assistant librarian.  Cora suffered a fall in the early months of 1942 breaking her hip, which forced her to retire.  Never recovering, she passed away February, 1944.  The library board appointed a new librarian, Mrs. Grace Sterner in 1943, and Mrs. Laura Helweg filled the assistant librarian spot.

 The first meeting for the expansion of the library began in 1947.  The board raised money by doing public benefits, dances, parties, and plays.  They raised $305.45. 

Grace Sterner retired on May 1, 1952 and was replaced by Mrs. Rene Spencer with Mrs. John Brule as assistant. 

After a unanimous vote, in 1958, the library board purchased the Tuka property for the expansion of the library.  They moved into the property a year later.  The library sought volunteer aid to help move over 6,000 books.  Today, the current resident of this building is the Tat Parish Law Office.

Mrs. Spencer retired at the end of 1972 and was succeeded by Mrs. Wanda McLain.

The last move the library has made was in 1985.  With the library growing, the board purchased the Rogel Motor Sales Warehouse in 1983 and remodeled.  Today the library still sits in the same building.   

Mrs. McLain retired April 9, 1994 and was replaced by the current director, Mrs. Lois Hartman.  Our collection of books and DVDs is over 27,581 and counting.  Today the library serves the citizens of Watervliet and surrounding cities with the MI Library Card program.

A few interesting tidbits of information about the library throughout the years:

The library joined MLA in 1954, Berrien County Library League in 1965 and the Southwest Michigan Library Cooperative in 1978. 

The purchase of their very first phone line happened in May of 1957. 

In 1967 the library board seated 11 board members.  Today we have five members on the board.

The first computer came in 1985.

The library has used an automated circulation system since 1998.

The library first had its own website in 1999.

Thank you to Wade Lynch for his contribution
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