THE COKATO PUBLIC LIBRARY, PART II

This is the second in the series chronicling the story of the Cokato Public Library as it celebrates 80 years of service to the people of the Cokato area. This entry was written by branch librarian Mary Ackerman.

In 1974 planning began for the building of the present library/museum complex. The library officially opened August 17, 1976. Great River Regional Library (GRRL) provided staffing, materials to lend, and an excellent support system. The City of Cokato supplied the building, and its furnishing. Funding of the library is primarily through property taxes, however other financial support includes grants, bequests and donations.

Funds from the original H. C. Bull trust fund were used for equipment for the library and museum. In 1977, Ezra P. T. Larson made a bequest to the library to be spent on books and equipment.

Library staff has been remarkably stable over the last 30 years. Only four different librarians have held the position of branch manager as it is recently termed. Judy Loe, Pat Benson, and Nancy Monroe filled the position from 1976 to 1987. Mary Ackerman has been known as "Mary at the library" from December 1987 to the present. Velma Nikkola assisted for 20 years. She still stops in occasionally to make sure things are done right.

While we seem to be in control of the progress of things, Mother Nature intervened with a mighty wind June 16, 1992. Two windows shattered, spreading glass shards throughout the library. Amazingly few books were damaged, but glass was everywhere, necessitating the replacement of the carpet, upholstery on chairs, and shaking out and dusting of the books. The library was closed for about five weeks while cleanup and repairs were made.

Painting and rearranging some shelving units were conveniently done as well. Dan Barberg came out of retirement as cabinetmaker to move and repair shelves he originally made. Many volunteer hours were used restoring the library to order.

Over the years, changes were made in hours open, materials available, and technology. Over ten years ago, the GRRL system became automated, and the library catalog became available over the Internet. Library staff had to learn computer programs in order to perform ordinary library tasks. Patrons learned along with staff, and became amazingly proficient at requesting items online. Library circulation increased exponentially.

While books remain the most important item loaned, many patrons prefer books on tape or c.d. and videos/DVD's. Internet stations are available to all on a scheduled basis, providing a first "online experience" for some, game playing recreation, e-mail connections, and research for others. Additional resources are available via the computer, including the library catalog, databases for research, e-books (electronic) to download to MP3 players.

Great River Regional Library is leading us into the future with innovation and is readily available to assist the staff and patrons of the Cokato Public Library. The City of Cokato is likewise willing to provide the means necessary to meet the needs of the library-using public. We have functioned as a great team for 30 years, and hope to do so for many more.

This article originally appeared in the May 2007 edition of In The Midst Of (V 27, No 2). ©2007, Cokato Historical Society.