Anna Library plans anniversary celebration

ANNA — The Anna Community Branch Library is celebrating its 68th year of service, as well as its 20th anniversary at its current location on Saturday, April 27. The village of Anna’s library contains a rich history of development and expansion, in addition to providing youth a place to pursue reading as leisure, safely spend free time after school hours, and partake in the events and programs that they sponsor.

The library first came to Anna in 1951 in the form of 500 books needing to be stored as the Sidney Library grew too large for their location. After a long search, the excess books found their home at 309 W. Main St. in a store owned by Eddie and Rosa Phillips, and Anna’s first “Station Library” was born. Only eight years later, the station library became a formal branch of the Amos Memorial Public Library, with Rosa Phillips being appointed Anna’s first librarian. To make it official, the Rev. F.J. Mittermaier tasked Muriel Bertsch with organizing a committee as extra support. This committee still operates today as the Anna Library Advisory Committee (formerly the Anna Branch Library Friends of the Library).

From 1959 to 1982, Phillips served as the sole librarian. Upon her retirement, Sheila Strunk took over as Anna’s second librarian, a position she holds to this day. Inspired by the community’s support, Strunk began working to stir up even more interest in reading, focusing her efforts on outreach programs to the village’s youth. Strunk offered story times at the Anna Elementary School to get even the youngest of students excited about books, and encouraged the classes to take field trips to the library. These efforts were hardly in vain, as traffic increased by so much that it became too difficult to continue using their building due to its smaller size. As they began to outgrow their space, the library’s committee started the search for a new location and were eventually contacted by The Ohio Mutual Insurance Company. On Dec. 31, 1986, the Ohio Mutual Insurance Company sold the committee their building for a whopping $1. After some remodeling, the Anna Community Branch Library had their grand opening on May 26, 1988, after 37 years in their original building

Strunk recounted the library’s history, explaining that after the move to 311 W. Main St., the school decided to get the children involved. Several elementary classes volunteered to help, forming an assembly line to assist in moving all the books to their new building just next door. Students stood side by side, passing one book at a time.

“The amazing thing is,” Strunk wrote, “the books all stayed in order!”

But after less than a decade, the library once again outgrew their space and looked to upgrade. Several families came to their aid, one donating land, another offering to build, and a third helping to furnish. This new building was completed and opened on April 25, 1999, at 304 N. Second St., where it has operated for the past 20 years.

One patron has been along for the ride since the early 1970’s. Audrey Meiring, 69, of Aida, Ohio, still visits the Anna Library about once a week.

“I’ve seen all sorts of changes. The building has changed, they have more books, more technology,” she said.

She explained they just had books when she first started visiting — no computers, printers, scanners or iPads.

“When I was in my 20’s,” she relayed over the phone, “I had to drive an hour to get to work, so I was commuting two hours a day. That’s a long time to listen to the radio! So I would check out audio books to listen to.”

When asked her go-to genre, she answered without hesitation, “Murder mysteries!”

However, the Anna Library doesn’t just provide books; Hachette Book Group, a publishing company focusing on education, has found in their studies that there is a direct positive correlation between the amount of libraries in a state and its percentage of literate adults, meaning that the more libraries to be found, the more likely the residents are to be proficient in reading. The U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute for Literacy estimates that, currently, 32 million adults in the U.S. are unable to read. With illiteracy being linked to gender inequality, unemployment, and even infant mortality, the effects of local libraries on illiteracy can directly impact the quality of life in a city and even in a nation.

The Anna Community Branch Library has spent over half a century providing their community with story times, after school activities, summer reading programs, and books that all children are welcome to share. Now they invite you to visit them on Saturday April 27, from 10 a.m. to 2. p.m All are encouraged to join the party and enjoy the free refreshments. Games, crafts and face painting will be offered for children of all ages.

By Jessica Witer

For the Sidney Daily News

The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.