This story originally ran in the Dec. 30, 1951 Sioux City Journal.
"I DON'T hold with no woman readin' the same author all the time. It ain't broadenin'," said the old man whose wife read nothing but Grace Livingston Hill.
The old man, of course, was a widely read person -- so widely read he checked out nothing but Zane Grey books from the South Sioux City library.
And so the story goes -- books of all kinds for all kinds of people. Characters between covers or under covers, public libraries have them all.
One of the nicest characters in South Sioux City is found at the library. In fact, she is the only librarian the town ever has had. Mrs. Marie Murphy, South Sioux City librarian is a quiet, dignified woman whose experience antedates the present almost 20-year-old library building.
Librarian Is Veteran
In fact, Mrs. Murphy has been in the forefront of South Sioux City's book world for many years. She was one of the first voluntary librarians of the Women's club circulating library, which was the forerunner of today's modern building.
The "book lady" took some time off after that to rear her three children, but in 1934, after Woman's club, city and federal money erected the present home for books, Mrs. Murphy became librarian again.
From a 1934 start of 4,459 books and "mostly empty shelves," the English colonial building is "very crowded" with 11,272 volumes.
The weekly turnover of the thought provokers -- three-quarters fiction -- is around 450 in summer and 500 in winter. Books gain at a rate of about 350 a year, with 50 to 75 being "lost" yearly. Lax patrons make good on only about half of them.
Many Are Patrons
More than one-third of the townspeople are registered, although patrons come from all over Dakota county and even some from Thurston county, Neb.
Reading privileges are free, except to out-of-towners, who must pay a $2 family membership -- and some of the family memberships have been used almost as long as the present building.
The basement of the one-story building has clubrooms furnished by the Woman's club. All club or public functions may use them, with only a heating fee being charged.
Getting down to library facts, amusing experiences happen, even between such cloistered walls.
No library is complete without a G. W. T. W. story and Mrs. Murphy had one ready:
A small lad came racing in and panted, "Mama wants the book All Blowed Away (Gone with the Wind)."
The mysterious of stranger of the South Sioux City library never has been identified.
Once, for a period of two weeks, a short, dark teenager entered the library every afternoon. He never said a word to the librarian or anyone else.
The stranger would take a book, sit in a corner and pull his hat almost over his eyes. Mrs. Murphy checked once and noticed the lad held his book upside down.
After the two weeks were up, Mrs. Murphy never saw the stranger again -- but she hasn't forgotten him.
While library statistics are mainly to provide fact and-or fiction for others, they are interesting in themselves.
Some of the South Sioux City statistics are:
December 13, 1919 -- 25 members of the city's Woman's club voted to start a circulating library if a suitable location could be found.
June, 1933 -- The city bought the present site for $1,000. Woman's club had a fund of $1,370 and the city threw in another $4,500.
1933 and 1934 -- With labor furnished by the federal government under the C. W. A. (civil works administration), the forerunner of P. W. A. and W. P. A., the doors of the debt free building were opened.
Mrs. Murphy was and is the first and only librarian.
The library is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 2 to 5:30 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.