Many businesses and people have come and gone from Ripley, but one of the few landmarks that never left town was the Union Township Public Library.
This year, the library celebrates its centennial, having been founded in 1915. The library is holding a centennial celebration from 2- 4 p.m. Sept 20, when the library will host an ice cream social, honoring Ripley residents from more than 100 years ago who raised money through ice cream socials to purchase land upon which they built the library.
“The Ripley Progress Club used to hold ice cream socials and bakes sales and selling of The Ripley Song to raise funds to purchase the land,” Union Township Public Library Director Alison Gibson said. “In honor of them, we thought it would be a fun event to have.”
Gibson said the library staff will be decorating the walls with advertisements, news, and other old photos and memorabilia by decade, and if locals have old photos of family members or other Ripley-centric people or places, they’re encouraged to bring them to the ice cream social.
Folks are also invited to dress up in outfits from the past, representing a decade of fashion. Contemporary clothing is more than acceptable, Gibson said.
The library staff uncovered an old patron list from the 1930s, and Gibson and the staff plan to show that to visitors as well.
“It’s fun to see the families back then that were getting library cards that are still getting them today,” Gibson said.
According to passages from “Ripley, Ohio: Its History and Families” by Eliese Bambach Stivers, between 1910 and 1917, the Ripley Progress Club raised $2,298 (equivalent to around $43,358.49 in 2015) to purchase a plot of land through “ice cream festivals, sold articles and solicited donations from former Ripley residents.”
The community then spent $8,000 to build the library, and amazingly, according to the same book, the Ripley Progress Club even secured a $10,000 grant from famous philanthropist and steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie spent more than $56 million in the late 1800s and early 1900s helping to build 2,509 libraries around the world, with a majority of them in the United States, according to Columbia University’s Carnegie Collections.
The first librarian, according to the book, was Mrs. Burgess Newcomb Tate, who had experience working in Columbus. The library association’s first president was the wife of Ernest Kirker.
The library survived a terrible flood in 1937 and currently has more than 178,000 books and more than 32,225 volumes, as well as numerous magazines and historic editions of The Ripley Bee newspaper.
The library has undergone extensive renovations over the past 30 years, from removing the red tile roof in 1980 to renovating the front steps and lower level of the library later in the decade. In 1991, a reference room and a children’s area were completed as part of an expansion, and two years later a multi-purpose room and a township trustees room were added as well.