Financing the Future (1947-1965)
The Fitzgarald House
After 10 years in the Crouch Building, the Federation was given notice that they would need to vacate the rented location. In 1947, the Library Board, chaired by Bessie Heard, voted to purchase the former Fitzgerald residence at 402 W. Louisiana for $12,500Approximately $392,000 in 2023 dollars from W. L. Fitzgerald and Sarah Newman. The group planned on using the money from the sale of the house Mary Boyd had given the library, however, the rest of the funds would need to be raised. Bessie Heard went to all the groups in McKinney asking for support and explaining the benefits of having a library. Hal Dyer and committee would go door to door asking for donations. Every day the donors and donation amounts were published in the McKinney newspapers. It took just twelve days to raise almost $15,000.
It was during this time that the name of the library changed to the Memorial Public Library. It is dedicated to the fallen soldiers from McKinney and Collin County in all the wars. The dedication was presented by Mayer R. F. Newsome on Veteran’s Day in 1948 with many families in attendance. Also, a bronze plaque was revealed during the dedication by Hal Dyer.
By 1951, the library was experiencing financial issues again. A report prepared in 1951 shows that to continue with the current level of funding the library would be short $45 for the following year. There was not enough money to keep the heater on in the winter except a space heater in the main room. The entire electric bill averaged $1.73 per month to make sure they could afford to pay it.
City Federation President Mrs. H. A. Finch, Jr rallied the community to seek assistance from the City of McKinney. Mrs. Finch explained to the Mayor and City Commission that surrounding libraries’ budgets ranged from $6,000 to $10,000 per year. In addition to preventing the projected deficiency, the money would increase wages for the current librarian, Miss Annie Belle Kerr, and hire an assistant. The City Commission agreed to allocate five cents of taxes per hundred dollar valuation to assist with funding the library beginning in 1952 and increase the librarian’s salary from $50 to $75.
The local chapters of Disabled American Veterans, American League, and Veterans of Foreign Wars supported the library through 1951 until receiving funds from the City of McKinney. Since the library was dedicated to fallen soldiers, the veterans groups felt it was their responsibility to raise money. They held a gala in the American Legion Hall with music provided by Jimmie Foster’s orchestra. Refreshments were sold by H. L. Shoap and Fred McKinney of Nehi Co, a bottling company. Proceeds from the refreshments, ticket sales, and special donations were given at the end of the night to Mrs. Finch totaling $600.
With the funds from the City of McKinney, the library board amended their bylaws to remove membership fees to use the library for residents of McKinney and, as a courtesy, the residents of Collin County.
In late 1952, the library was willed a large collection of art books by Collin County artist Frank Klepper. Klepper was born in Plano but grew up in McKinney. He served in the Army on the Mexican border and in France. After the Armistice of 1918, he studied art at the American Art Training Center at Bellevue-La-Montagne with Harry B. Lachman along with various French artists. After his return to the US in 1920, Klepper continued painting his own pieces and teaching at various art schools in Dallas and Sherman. By his death, he had accumulated 400 art books, which he donated to the library.
Also in 1952, Reverand T. W. Sisterson was appointed as general chairman of the Doty branch library project committee. Officials of Doty High School painted and prepared a room to house the library. The first purchase of books included 728 items for the opening in 1954. Caldonia Young served as the librarian of this branch and was assisted by Dorothy Jo Braddox.
For the next decade, the library continued to serve the residents of McKinney and Collin County. Appropriations from the City of McKinney and Collin County funded the running of the library and materials. Additional staff were hired to meet demand of the community, including Byron Miller, librarian at the VA hospital, and Sue McNeil to return books to the shelf. Popularity of the library grew quickly, but budgets remained relatively the same. The library again became dependent on donations to acquire new materials at times. The library also struggled to upkeep the building and facilities.
In 1964, the City of McKinney announced the Council’s Capital Improvement Plan, which included a new library, unbeknownst to the Library Board and members of the City Federation. This set in motion the change for who was responsible for the library.