A long-closed library in northwest North Dakota reopened this year with a little help from its friends -- among them the North Jefferson County Friends of the Library.
The Tioga Community Library was closed about a decade ago after the oil boom “created such a large amount of people moving into the area,” library director Sandy Clark wrote in an email.
“The library was previously housed in the basement of the elementary school and shared the space with the school library,” Clark explained. “As more children began to attend the school, the school building needed space for the children, and questions of school safety and security arose by allowing the general public access to the school when school was in session.” As a result, she said the city decided to close the library and put its approximately 8,000 pieces of circulation material into storage.
Talks of resurrecting the library began not long after the City of Tioga and other entities in 2016 started fundraising and planning for a long-desired new community center. It was eventually decided to house the library inside. Clark was hired in April 2019 and both the community center and the library opened July 8.
“We were still in the process of cataloging and shelving all the old materials, but we opened with just over half of the work done,” Clark wrote. “In August, I finally made it through all the materials we already owned and began to focus on collection development: what areas the library needed new materials and where we might be lacking. This of course is an ongoing process, but there were a few areas that jumped out immediately. We had almost no DVDs or audio books, and much of the adult fiction section was materials which were very dated.”
Joy Bickler, who lives on the outskirts Tioga, helped fundraise for the library’s reopening. She’s also helped support Clancy Library, where her daughter, Jennifer Davis, volunteers and occasionally substitutes. Bickler donated toward building the new meeting room floor in 2018 and expanding this year’s summer reading program; in 2018 she volunteered alongside her daughter for that program’s kickoff party during Clancy Days.
“That's just such a wonderful event for that community,” Bickler said in a recent interview with Monitor. “It was eye-popping to see the support of the library for Jefferson County through that drive.”
While visiting her daughter in August, Bickler mentioned the Tioga Community Library’s needs. She learned that Clancy Library had a need as well: to find a new home for materials stored in a part of the basement dampened by water seeping through its 100-plus-year-old granite foundation.
Bickler drove back to Tioga with a sampling of what materials were available to show Clark. Back in Clancy, more materials were gathered and a road trip planned.
“Our Friends of the Library team put together 28 boxes of books, CDs and DVDs to support our sister library,” board member Cheryl Vukasin wrote in an email. Those were loaded onto a van, and Davis, accompanied by her husband John, drove to Tioga the weekend of Oct. 18 to deliver the goods.
Clark was pleased.
“The nice thing about getting donations from a library is typically the materials are still in usable condition, which isn't always the case with donations from the general public,” she wrote. “Joy brought me a small ‘sample’ first, containing books and audio books and DVDs. She said her daughter could bring more, and the second time I saw them, they brought a van!”
Clark, who was still sorting through the donated items to get them onto the shelves, said the biggest impact so far has been made in the library’s audiovisual collection.
“Prior to Clancy's donations, I had approximately 10 DVDs and maybe five audio books,” she wrote. “Now we have about 100 DVDs and about 50 audio books. This is an amazing start to this collection.”
Clark said the remainder of the donated materials was roughly 300 books of assorted genres.
“We are truly grateful for the kindness and generosity of the Clancy Library for their donation, and for Joy Bickler for organizing the delivery of the materials to us,” she wrote.
“It just made sense that Clancy was looking ... to find a home for a bunch of books and Tioga was a great place for them to go to,” Bickler said. “What a tremendous gift for the people of Tioga to be able to utilize these resources.
And there is more to come.
Jane Lee Hamman, chair of the North Jefferson County Library District, said by email that after receiving a “thank you” note from Joy Bickler and “since the Book Cellar is closed right now due to water seepage in the basement ... the board decided to collect more books to send another car load to Tioga when Jen and John go visit again.”