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Dallas' Carnegie Library turns 100

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DALLAS -- In the small town of Dallas, almost everything has changed in the last 100 years. But on Saturday, the community will come together to celebrate one of its constants.

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The town will hold its Carnegie Library centennial celebration, which opened in 1914, and still functions as a library.

Local authors and South Dakota State Librarian Daria Bossman are expected to speak as part of the anniversary program, which starts at 10 a.m. and will include memories of old Dallas and the library. A noon pork meal will be held in the city park, which will be followed by an ice cream social around 3 p.m. The day will be capped with a street dance in front of the Dallas American Legion and Fire Hall at 7 p.m.

The celebration is being held in conjunction with South Dakota's celebration of 125 years of statehood.

Dallas' Carnegie Library is believed to be one of the few original Carnegie libraries in the state still being used as a library, along with the library in Deadwood. Many of the 25 libraries built in South Dakota have been turned into historical buildings or museums.

"We're really lucky to still have one," said Librarian Kari Kerner, who was worked at the library for nearly 30 years. "It has served this community very well."

On Sept. 18, 1914, the Dallas Carnegie Library opened at a cost of $6,000, $5,000 of which was granted to the town by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate who would have a hand building 3,500 libraries. The site was located just east of the high school in Dallas at the time and on Main Street.

Communities that wanted a library building wrote a letter to Carnegie and had to demonstrate the need for a public library that would be a free service to all, would annually provide 10 percent of the construction cost to support the library's operation and would have to provide the building site. The towns that received the libraries had to have at least 1,000 people, or nearly 10 times as many residents as what Dallas has today.

Other area towns to have a Carnegie Library were Mitchell, Lake Andes, Armour, Wagner, Tyndall and Wessington Springs, all receiving between $5,000 and $12,000 in grant money between 1902 and 1917.

In Dallas, a the town of less than 150 people, the building -- added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 -- has never had water or plumbing.

Shelly Day, who has lived in the community her whole life, said it's a special moment in the town's history and one of its most resilient buildings.

"It's definitely a miracle and milestone. We've had a bunch of fires and this is one of three to survive all of those," Day said.

The daughter of one of the town's most famous residents, Frank Day, Shelly and her family will donate her father's collection of tapes and documents to the University of South Dakota library archives. That ceremony will be at 1 p.m.

The library is still open on Tuesdays each week from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., to allow kids from school to use the library. Each year around Independence Day, Kerner said the library holds a puppet contest with awards for kids.

Town Finance Officer Jeanette Sinkular said the town enjoys the chance to get together and note the interesting history of Dallas, such as the 104-year-old Dallas Water Tower in the middle of Main Street and the historic St. Augustine's Catholic Church, built in 1925.

"We just love celebrating birthdays," she said.

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