It was 1934, the middle of the Great Depression. Money for life’s necessities of food, clothing, and shelter was hard to come by. Money for luxuries or entertainment was out of the question.
That did not stop one Kalona woman.
Mrs. E.J. (Amy) Hesselschwerdt believed in books and set about establishing, in the midst of hard times, Kalona’s first library.
With the help of two friends, Fred E. Bourgeois and Mrs. Willis (Cleola) Grady Gingerich, she went out and solicited the entire town for funds and books. Space was provided in the old Legion Hall, upstairs from Charles Strickler’s electrical shop just east of today’s Snair Hardware store on B Avenue.
And the books came.
Attics, basements, closets, and shelves were emptied as the townspeople answered that first committee’s request. When they finished, the Kalona Public Library was launched with a grand total of 907 assorted volumes. Mrs. Hesselschwerdt became the Library Board’s first president (a position held until her death on February 15, 1963) with Mr. Bourgeois as secretary-treasurer and Mrs. Gingerich the first librarian.