Naperville boasts three state-of-the-art libraries today. The very first one opened in 1898 thanks to a bequest from James Lawrence Nichols, fundraising by the Women’s Club and donations from other community members.
The first — and many, many subsequent — librarians were local women with a passion for sharing knowledge.
Edna Goss got the library started, cataloguing the books according to the still-newish Dewey Decimal System. But Edna was a only temporary librarian, assisted by Hannah Ditzler who soon took over.
Hannah left the post when she married John Alspaugh in 1905 and Jennie Niederhauser assumed the duties. Jennie’s husband, who had been teaching at North Central College, took a position at Penn State in 1907 so she also resigned to follow him to Pennsylvania.
Jennie was succeeded by Rose Barnard who enjoyed the job as well as the salary of $35 a month. Unfortunately, Rose’s sister got married and she was needed to manage the household of her aging parents. Her father offered to match the library salary, so Rose left the job in 1909.
During her tenure, however, she had been ably assisted by Mary Barbara Egermann who was trained to take over.
Mary, known as Matie, was the daughter of two local brewing families: Her mother was Barbara Stenger of Stenger Brewery and her father Joseph kept a saloon on Jefferson Avenue where Naper Nuts and Sweets currently operates.
Being Naperville’s librarian was Matie’s life’s work and she served the community until 1950. In addition to managing the books, Matie started a little museum in the building that included local history and dolls from around the world. Many of the dolls were brought back by young military friends returning from overseas. You can see a depiction of a uniformed man offering a doll to Matie on the Chicago Street mural near Sullivan’s.
After Matie’s 41 years of service, Miriam Fry and Katherine Finkbeiner took the helm. They also logged an impressive number of years at Nichols, serving until the 1980s.
Today, we are lucky to have teams of dedicated librarians that serve in all three locations. If you haven’t checked into the business resources at the library, give them a call and learn about the cool stuff they offer to help run your business.