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80 years, still growing

July 19, 2019 by Abigail Bostwick

 It was 1939 when those first efforts by the Plum Lake Women’s Club began for the area to lend library materials, according to past director and current volunteer Ida Nemec. 

In 1976, the tear-down of the school meant the library needed a new home, this time in the basement of the Plum Lake Town Hall. Already, the library was growing and in need of modern developments.

“Elvira Thompson, a volunteer, started the Dewey Decimal system,” said Nemec, who began as a story time volunteer. At that time, Plum Lake Library was open just over 10 hours per week. 

Programing continued to grow — both in materials and patrons — and demand increased for more hours and resources, however. 

It was 1981 when Nemec was offered the position as library director. She accepted, earning her librarian certification on the job via University of Wisconsin-Superior. 

The basement quarters were becoming increasingly confining and around 1985, Nemec recalled, the space was simply not easily accessible for users nor for additional information. 

“We kept outgrowing our space,” Nemec remembered.

With community support and the continued and ongoing trending use, the library started an expansion fund. At the same time, the Friends of the Library began, a still-active and internal part of the library.

The current building

“With the generous support of community organizations and 

individuals, a wonderful new handicapped accessible facility on Main Street was opened up in 1992,” Nemec said. The land was donated by a supportive patron. “It was all through fundraisers, nothing ever went on the tax roll. It was through community support, 100%, that the library was able to do this.”

By then, the library collection housed more than 11,000 items, from books and videos and DVDs to audio materials and newspapers and research material. The new building meant the library had room to accommodate its patrons — and gain more if needed. 

Since 1992, the library offerings have nearly doubled, Nemec and current Plum Lake library director Emilie Braunel said. It now includes almost more than 20,000 items in circulation, as well state-of-the art modern technology and high quality subject matter of all resources easily at the fingertips of patrons in downtown Sayner. 

The last big expansion came in 2005 with an ambitious campaign. A legacy in the amount of $50,000 from Phoebe Swazey led the effort. From this, came an addition to the library building that permitted for a larger children’s collection and play and reading area. It also permitted for more audio, media and book materials. 

It has been through many donations, trusts, an endowment fund, countless volunteer hours, bake sales and buffets and book sales and other creative efforts that the library has seen such success, the past and current directors observed. 

Nemec retired in 2017 after 38 years, but still serves as a passionate volunteer. Braunel, with ties to the Northwoods and a family with children of her own, was happy to take over. 

“There’s so many unique and different ways libraries can support and serve their communities,” Braunel said. “Getting someone the item they want, or the piece of information they are after is wonderful.”

“It’s not a monetary thing,” Nemec agreed. “You’re helping people. That’s the thing about libraries. They help.” 

The Plum Lake Library is a central source of gathering, community and pride for the residents of Sayner, Star Lake and St. Germain, Nemec and Braunel noted.

“The Plum Lake Library is one of the greatest assets the community has,” Nemec said. 

A community library

Plum Lake Library today has nearly 2,000 patrons, almost 100 Friends of the Library, volunteers and a strong Board of Trustees. The library employs Braunel as well as assistant Jason Hilkovitch, who Braunel noted can track down just about any local history clientele seek. 

“You get to know people, and families, you make connections,” Braunel said. “I’m so impressed with the amount of support of the community and its organizations here. People are always willing to give.” 

Available besides its book, e-book and audio are internet access via computers or wireless, photocopier, fax, laminator, Gale courses and newspapers. Via interlibrary loan, patrons can borrow just about any item their heart desires. 

“The mission of the Plum Lake Library is to enhance the quality of life enjoyed by people of all ages living or visiting the Sayner-Star Lake and St. Germain area by providing a variety of quality books, media and up-to-date technology resources that meet their developmental, cultural, educational, recreational and informational needs,” the library notes in its welcome. 

The library is open and free to all who come. Patrons range everywhere from infants to the elderly, as well as residents and visitors alike. Generations of families have passed, and continue to pass through for the resources and camaraderie, Braunel said, one of her favorite parts of the job. 

“I love the people, it’s the most rewarding,” she indicated. “I love hearing everyone’s stories and meeting so many families.” 

Work and growth always continues and will continue around the library, Nemec and Braunel said, in the ever-expanding and lively place the Plum Lake Library has evolved into. Landscaping continues to be underway as well as work on the basement. In the future, the library hopes to renovate the space enough to be accessible and readily available for patron use on a regular basis. A fundraiser — right now at around $130,000 — has this as its current focus. 

Later in the summer, an 80th anniversary celebration will be set. Currently, there is a book and movie challenge readers can take part in — by reading and/or watching eight books or movies (one for each decade of existence) by Dec. 2. Those who bring in a completed form will receive a commemorative bookmark. Rules are that material must have been published in 1930 or released in the same year. Titles can be mixed and matched from fiction, mystery and non-fiction set or about the 1930s. 

Volunteers are always welcome and sought. Upcoming programing can be viewed at www.plumlakelibrary.org.

Library hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information call 715-542-2020. 


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