The Towanda District Library is located in Towanda, Illinois, adjacent to Interstate Route 55 and to historic Route 66. Although the village of Towanda itself is a small community with a population of just 550 in 2008, it is but a few minutes from the prosperous communities of Bloomington and Normal, Illinois, home of two universities, two large insurance companies, and a Mitsubishi plant.
The Towanda library was established in 1939 with help from the Federal Works Agency Project Administration. In 1943, the town assumed complete responsibility of the library.
In August of 1964, the library was closed due to a lack of funds. Library board members and other volunteers raised funds to successfully reopen the library. In June 1967, the Township Tax was passed and the library became officially known as the Towanda Township Library.
The library changed names to The Towanda District Library when the district was formed on Feb. 10, 1988. The library was housed in several locations in Towanda before beginning construction of a new building in late 1988. The new building opened on Feb. 7, 1989 at 301 S. Taylor St. in Towanda. This building was funded by an Illinois Secretary of State building grant and with special reserve funds.
As of April, 2008, the library district encompasses Towanda Township, Blue Mound Township, and parts of Money Creek Township, which include the towns of Towanda and Cooksville, farmland, and three subdivisions. The district has a population of 2,187 residents.
The library is open 36 hours per week, has a budget $160,000, 20,000 items, a circulation of 20,000 for fiscal year 2016-2017, 1,019 registered borrowers, one director, seven part time employees, an active corps of volunteers that includes a Friends of the Library group, and a partnership with the Towanda Area Historical Society.
The library is part of the RAILS Library System and Resource Sharing Alliance, and as such is one of 200 libraries that form an online consortium using the SirsiDynix Symphony automated library system. Library users are invited to access our online catalog and request materials – which may be picked up at the local library.
Karen Stott Bersche, of Bloomington, Illinois, is the new director of the library – effective July 7, 2008. Ms. Bersche of Bloomington, Illinois, worked for the Alliance Library System for the preceding twelve years. She has an extensive background in library development and marketing, having previously been a library director for thirteen years in northern Illinois. Most recently, Bersche was Director of Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center, which provides library services to clients with low-vision, blindness, and physical challenges. She received the 2007 Illinois Library Association Skrzypek Award for Leadership in Service to the Blind/Physically Challenged. In 2005, Library Journal honored Ms. Bersche as one of “50 Movers and Shakers – The People Who Are Shaping the Future of America’s Libraries.”
Websites with more information about the library and the Towanda area:
- Village of Towanda: towandail.org
- Towanda Area Historical Society: towandahistory.org
- Indian Creek Subdivision: www.frontiernet.net/~indiancreek
- Bloomington/Normal Visitors’ Bureau: www.bloomingtonnormalcvb.org
- RAILS library system: www.railslibraries.info
See more about the history of the library at the Towanda History – library history!
Annabelle Cary (1940-1944)
Edith Shelton (1944-65)
Ruth Calvert (1967-1971)
Eleanor Hensley (1971-1987)
Kari Shelton (1987-1994)
Diane Porter (1994-1999)
Mary Williams (2000-2008)
Karen Stott Bersche (2008 – present )
Library Board Presidents
Mrs. W. L. Hirst (1940-1942)
Ed Wesley (1942-1951)
Keith Stein (1951-1953)
Emmett Wheeler (1953-1954)
William Quinn (1954-1956)
Mrs. Pearl DeVore (1956- )
— incomplete records
Mrs. George Kelley (1967-1970)
Jack Jenkins (1970-1975)
Ruth Parsons (1982-1983)
Hank Thomassen (1983-1989)
Wilma Stevenson (1989-1990)
Ottilie Womack (1990-1991)
Ruth Parsons (1991-1993)
Diane Mueller (1993-1994)
Carolyn Bouck (1994-1998)
Ruth Kraft (1998-1999)
Marsha DeMay (1999-2000)
Sheila Donald (2000-2001)
Diane Mueller (2001-2002)
Tim Mogill (2003 – 2009 )
Letitia Hamblen (2009 – 2012)
Martha Jane Foster (2012 – 2013) Letitia Hamblen (2013 to 2015) Rochelle Wardell (2015 to present)