YOUR TWIN BRIDGES
THE TWIN BRIDGES PUBLIC LIBRARY
123 years ago this library began as a reading room created by a group of industrious women to lure men away from saloons. Now, over a century, it has evolved into the public service organization that it is today. Created on the eve of the Spanish-American War and enduring incredible challenges in culture and economy through the Great Depression and two World Wars, this library has stood the test of time in a community determined to keep it alive.
The Twin Bridges Public Library was established in 1897 by a group so determined and industrious that they were able to open a library in less than five months. The library opened June 17, 1897.
With donations from the Ladies Amity Club, The Good Templars, and their initial W.C.T.U. startup funds, they had $226.50 to start the library. The library was permitted free use of the old school room in the Pioneer Masonic Hall by Dr. Pease. The two story wooden building constructed in 1879 was believed to be located at the present Fifth and So. Madison Streets of Twin Bridges.
When the Temperance Society known as the W.C.T.U swept over Montana in the 1890’s, the organization proposed to open lounging and reading rooms for the men, in order to lure them away from saloons. It was strictly a women’s movement, and was totally financed by the ladies who held election dinners, home talent entertainments, pancake socials, ten-cent teas, and other fundraisers. The W. C. T. U. voted to disband, and use their remaining funds of $62.60 to establish a “public circulating library to be located in the town of Twin Bridges.” Two factions developed: the conservatives that wanted to use the money to buy books for reading among themselves, and the progressives whose proposal was to give everyone a chance to read books. The progressive philosophy withstood. In recognition of the union, the members also voted to have the library named The White Ribbon Library Association however was changed to the Twin Bridges Public Library Association two weeks later.
In April of that year, bylaws were created, which established that “any person of good repute, either sex” could become a member of the association by submitting a written application and a $2.00 fee. Additionally, the bylaws stated the “library must be kept quiet and persons must communicate in a low tone of voice, and talk as little as possible.”
DUES & FEES
Lifetime memberships were offered for $25 with no additional dues. All members had the privilege of voting at an annual meeting and the use of the library materials. Non-members could utilize the library at the following cots: 6 weeks for $.25, 3 months for $.45, 6 months for $.80 and 1 year for $1.50. Circulation was limited to one book per person for a 2 week time period, except “those living 5 miles distant from the library shall be allowed 3 weeks.” Fines for overdue books were set at $.10/week.
The first shipment of new books arrived from McClurg’s of Chicago. It contained 100 books at a cost of $40.17 plus $3.00 freight. On June 21st, 1897, the first Twin Bridges Library opened, with a collection of 577 books and 94 donated magazines. Of these materials, only 191 were purchased.
In 1917, the trustees approached the Twin Brides City Council to take over the library, and in May 1918, the library became a free library and established taxing authority of 3 mils per year to support the facility. At the time, they had $.55 in their treasury.
SALARIES & CIRCULATION
Salaries were instituted in 1918 at a rate of $1.00 per week for the 3 hour/week the library was open. Circulation has risen from 59 books checked out by 15 people in June 1897, to 566 books checked out by 297 people in February 1997.
In 1926 the library moved out of the Masonic Hall to a property on the present city park. The property was purchased for $200 and a house in the back of the library was sold to John Seyler for $75. The library stayed in the location for 40 years, a building quoted as “almost as old as the town itself and originally built for a feed store.”
Howard Lumber closed down it’s twin Bridges Store and Howard Paige put the Main Street property up for sale. The Twin Bridges Public Library Board proceeded to purchase this building with an earnest payment of $1,000 comprised of donations and library savings, and put toward the purchase price of $38,500 in June 1983. With the assistance of many fundraisers and community members, the library was moved into the present facility in October 1983.
The TBPL moved into a brand new building erected beside the former library, the present Twin Bridges Firehall and City Clerk Office. Part of the firehall became home to the library in May 1965.
In 2006, local artist Jim Shirk painted our mural on the outside of the library. This lovely mural depicts local culture here in the valley and the value of our library to our history & heritage. You can read the full article about this mural in the Montana Standard HERE.
That November, the Children’s Reading Room was dedicated in memory of the Virginia Wats, a long time teacher in the Twin Bridges Schools.
1986, the Montana History Section was dedicated to Camilla Gage & a wood stove was replaced with a gas heater.
In 1987 the reference room was dedicated in memory of May Lunger, a former Librarian.
1989 was when the first telephone was installed in the library.
Today, the Twin Bridges Public Library is a community treasure. Serving over 1,000 people in the Twin Bridges and surrounding area, we strive to offer a variety of free services and programs, as well as an incredible network of library resources at our patron's fingertips!