The Beginning of the Silver Bay Public Library

Because so many people were outspoken in their wish for a library, the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) in October 1954 appointed a committee to investigate the possibility of Silver Bay having a library.  After many meetings and much correspondence, and talking to many interested people, enough definite information had been gathered to warrant forming a library board.

This new board, with six members, met for the first time on January 7, 1955.  One of the temporary school buildings was to be used for the library.  The State Library Extension had approved the plans and had chosen and packed over 500 books and were waiting for word of a shipping date.  Final plans for a February 1955 opening were being made when late in January came the discouraging news that the building would not be available.  Due to the large influx of children, the building was needed for the school.  There being no other place available in the townsite, all plans and dreams were put on hold. 

Hope and interest were revived when Reserve Mining Company leadership decided to remodel the former store building (which sat near the current firehall and city hall) into a community center.  The library board asked for and received a portion of the building (approximately 500 sf) to be used as a public library.  A flyer was sent to residents of Silver Bay and the surrounding area telling them that at long last plans were being completed for a public library.  The library would be sponsored by the PTA and the Recreation Association, and the library board would be responsible for its operation.

The Recreation Association agreed to back the board financially up to $50.00 for needed supplies (book pockets, cards, glue, ink, rubber stamps, daters, etc).  Desks were donated, chairs and tables were borrowed, Reserve Mining and Hunkin Arundel and Dixon (general contractors of the plant) gave shelving, paint, a magazine rack, and wiring. 

News got around and offers of books came from all over.  The Duluth Public Library donated books as did interested friends of the library from Silver Bay, Two Harbors and as far away as Cleveland.  The book collection soon totaled 1,200 books.  The library would initially be open 4 hours a week and would be staffed by volunteers.

Opening day was June 8, 1955, and despite pouring rain was well attended.  Fundraisers were held subsequently to raise money for new books and donations were received from Reserve Mining Co. and EW Davis.

On August 25, 1957 the Village Council of Silver Bay passed Ordinance No. 13 establishing a Public Library for the Village.  It thereafter received an annual appropriation from the Village which covered salaries (volunteers had operated the library prior to this date), books and magazines, supplies, furniture, and equipment.  There were no excess funds available for larger quarters and it very soon became clear that a larger space was going to be needed. 

One means of determining a library’s growth and service to a community lies in circulation figures.  In 1958, 6,201 books were circulated by the Silver Bay library.  In 1959, the figure was 12,091 and in 1961 the figure was a whopping 21,545.  Silver Bay was a young community, and the library was outgrowing its space

In 1964, the library board requested the authority to secure the services of an architect for consultation and development of a preliminary plan for a new library building.  This was granted by the Village of Silver Bay and it set in motion the eventual construction of the library Silver Bay has today.  After a lengthy campaign, voters in April 1965 approved a bond issue of $56,000 for a new library, $73,000 for a new firehall and $21,000 for a new police station.  The Federal government awarded the library project an additional $28,800 through the Library Services and Construction Act of 1964.  Construction of the library (and firehall) began in June 1966 and was completed in December 1966.

Over the years, the Silver Bay Public Library has kept pace with the needs of the community and surrounding area.  Libraries have gone from spaces of solitude to real community spaces where people gather to learn together.  As a result of these changes, plans are underway to add space to the current library.  The project includes improved accessibility by creating an entrance close to the parking lot and changing the interior elements to better serve the public, replacing the roof and other aging elements and creating small meeting rooms and a large classroom.  The project will cost more than $1 million and is funded almost entirely by grants.       

The Public Library is a fixture in the small community of Silver Bay and continues to serve the local community in many ways.  We, at the Bay Area Historical Society, feel a partnership with them and will continue to collaborate on projects now and in the future.