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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson column: Book smarts: Thanks to Carnegie, many F-M residents have fond memories of libraries

Their names were Inga, Mable, Thora, Sigrid, Nellie and Myrtle. They were the librarians of another era and were known, respectively, as Miss Rynning, Miss Garman and the Misses Oien. They were the librarians of my youth. Libraries are among my l...

Their names were Inga, Mable, Thora, Sigrid, Nellie and Myrtle.

They were the librarians of another era and were known, respectively, as Miss Rynning, Miss Garman and the Misses Oien.

They were the librarians of my youth.

Libraries are among my life's greatest pleasures. And a good thing, too, since I've spent half of my life in one.

Perhaps it began in the small library in our old house where I was read to while nestled safely in the lap of Mom or Dad or Grandma.

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As I grew up, I discovered other libraries. Miss Rynning was librarian at the downtown Carnegie library. At Horace Mann, my grade school, Mable Garman held forth, and at Ben Franklin Junior High, it was the Oien sisters.

I recall the delight of summer bicycle rides and winter bus trips to visit the downtown library.

I remember the smell of the books, slightly musty, but somehow welcoming. I liked the smell of the glowing, well-polished wood. You don't see a lot of wood in new libraries.

Downstairs, the children's room furniture was comfy for listening to stories read aloud. I do not recall any toys or games; the story was the thing.

But as I grew older, I liked sitting on the floor in the stacks upstairs or at the big wooden tables. As I think back, I am reminded of the hush -- no voices, only whispers and the turning of pages. It was so peaceful.

The Fargo Public Library began in 1900 in a room at the Masonic Temple at the northwest corner of First Avenue and Fifth Street North. The site is now a parking lot.

A new library, funded by Andrew Carnegie, opened on Jan. 26, 1903. It was built on the southeast corner of Roberts Street and First Avenue North.

An addition to the north side of the building was constructed in 1930, almost doubling its size. It was the first of three Carnegie libraries built in Fargo.

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Razed in 1970, the site is now a parking lot.

Even the sculpture commissioned to commemorate the old library has been removed, which is often the response to public art in Fargo.

In 1968, a new library opened at 102 3rd St. N. In 2000, when the Fargo Public Library celebrated its centennial, there wasn't a shred of the old building left.

The cornerstone for Fargo's second Carnegie Library was laid in June 1905. The dedication took place Jan. 18, 1906. Located on the campus of what was then North Dakota Agricultural College, now North Dakota State University, the new library held 9,000 volumes and had seating for 75 of the college's 308 students.

The old library became inadequate and another was built in 1950. The Carnegie building went to the Music Department and was named Putnam Hall in honor of Dr. Charles S. Putnam.

Putnam Hall now houses the College of Business Administration.

It's a lovely little building, so much more pleasing than a parking lot.

The cornerstone for Fargo's third Carnegie Library was laid at Fargo College on Sept. 5, 1910, by former President Theodore Roosevelt, who spoke before a crowd estimated at 30,000.

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The library was razed in 1964 and replaced by an insurance building and parking lot.

In 1903, Moorhead attorney George E. Perley obtained a $10,000 Carnegie grant to build a public library in Moorhead.

The Moorhead Public Library opened July 12, 1906, with a collection of 1,000 books. It was at the intersection of Front Street (now Main Avenue) and Sixth Street South. Miss Nellie Olson was the first librarian. At the 50th anniversary, Myrtle T. Rundquist was head librarian.

The building was razed in 1961. The site is now a parking lot.

A new building was built and the Moorhead Public Library became part of the Lake Agassiz Regional Library system, which includes Minnesota counties Becker, Clay, Clearwater, Mahnomen, Norman, Polk and Wilkin.

Millions of people used the Carnegie libraries and continue to do so. They are recognized as readers travel around the country. But each community chose its own style of architecture, which influenced the evolution of library design. And they became landmarks affectionately remembered by a multitude of readers.

Librarian Andrea Halgrimson writes a monthly history column for The Forum. Readers can share memories or ask questions of her by e-mail at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com

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