The moment the Beatrice Public Library first opened its doors on North 16th Street to the public is something library director Laureen Riedesel still remembers.
It was noon on Aug. 12, 1991, the libray achieving their goal of being open before the schools started.
“We opened the door, and it’s honestly like we opened something called Instant Library with a can opener,” Riedesel said.
Although the library was larger than their previous location in the Carnegie building, Riedesel said people started using the library as if it had always been there.
Some people may have been familiar with the layout due to helping the library unpack.
“We did not have a professional mover,” Riedesel said. “The community moved us. Public Properties was able to lend us a pickup truck, but of course it was their busy season so they would call and say ‘we need our pickup back.’ So people actually moved us in their cars.”
Riedesel said the Goodrich Dairy store loaned plastic cartons and Kmart loaned wrapping units so whole shelves could be moved at once. She said the books were being moved in faster than the shelving was built, and only one shelf was out of place.
It was a job that Riedesel knew other libraries spent $100,000 doing.
“So the community saved us a great deal,” Riedesel said. “We appreciate that to this very day.”
Now, over 28 years later, Riedesel says she uses the anniversary to highlight something new the library’s done in the past year.
They celebrated by opening their Innovation Studios Maker Space on Sunday for the public to make an anniversary pin, magnet, mirror or wooden coin designed by library intern, Tyler Milke.
The Makers Space has 17 pieces of equipment totaling more than $30,000. Items include a 3D printer, laser and vinyl cutters, an embroidery sewing machine and camera, video and music kits.
Examples of what can be created in the Maker Space include creating an image or logo that can then be printed onto a shirt or mouse pad, or a laser can cut it into a piece of wood or glass. Images like a toy truck – complete with moving wheels and a ladder – can be made through the 3D printer.
The Maker Space is part of a grant from the Institute of Museums and Library Services, and is targeted towards rural communities that have less access to this kind of equipment. It will continue to a new library at the beginning of October, but Riedesel said the library is already looking for grants and donations to purchase a permanent Maker Space.
“Rotary International and our local Rotary group are giving us a grant that will allow us to buy some of the more child-oriented units that are in there,” Riedesel said. “And we’re also in the process of buying our most expensive piece of equipment, which is the laser cutter. So kind of beginning on both ends and working toward the middle.”
Katy Chapman, the technology and information librarian, said the laser cutter has been the most used item in the Makers Space so far.
Chapman said the library is hosting a Big Give event on Sept. 10, with a goal of raising $1,000 towards the laser cutter.
“Of course any group or organization that has some sort of program where they have some kind of outreach and some kind of gifting program to a community organization, we certainly want them to consider us, as well,” Riedesel said.
The anniversary of the new location is also a good time to look back at the library’s previous locations.
For 20 years before the library became a city department, it traveled from several locations including the now demolished House of Seven Gables building on Ella Street. It was roughly 1873. At that time, it was owned by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and emphasized temperance materials.
Riedesel said the library still has books with the WCTU book plate inside.
Then the library moved into two rooms of an old post office, which is currently the U.S. Bank, before moving into the historic Carnegie Building on Fifth Street in 1903.
Riedesel said the library outgrew the Carnegie building by the 1950s, with books stacked from floor to ceiling in some places and minimal space for events like story time.
Technology also played a factor, as Riedesel said it took nearly 16 hours to install one computer, and there was no space to make it handicap-accessible.
The current building has seen expansions, as well, with the basement opening to the public in 2017.
The basement now holds the heritage room, The Nebraska Genealogical Society collection, the Nebraska history collection and heritage books that were first moved into the Carnegie building, among other things.
It is also the location of The Storefront, the library’s collection of Asian artifacts, as well as the Vette Cultural Arts area, which shows various art exhibits.
Riedesel said future plans for the library include celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment next year.
The library’s founder, Clara B. Colby, was a suffragist, so Riedesel said she wants to emphasize women’s history and the library’s lint to the suffragist movement.
Riedesel said the library’s history with the WCTU also connects to women’s rights and suffrage.
“Women had no legal standing and they were married to people who today we would say ‘they’re addicts, they’re ill’,” Riedesel said, “but at the time they were regarded as just morally fallen people, and ‘why can’t this woman improve her husband and make her husband well. Is she driving him to drink?’ So drinking and issues around drinking were women’s issues in the nineteenth century in a way that I think we don’t often comprehend.”