It is to this scenic spot that Norwegians Thore P. Skotland and his family came one delightful day in the spring of 1850. Perhaps his heart was warmed by a terrain that reminded him of the rugged beauty of Norway. Whatever his reason, he put his roots down in a piece of land two miles north of the town to be know later as Calmar, Iowa on a tract of land called the Rhuben Boe Farm. His descendants still occupy on part of this land. A German settler in the southern part of the township had preceded Skotland, but nothing is known of him.
That summer, Skotland and his wife saw only 6 people, three whites and three Indians. It is difficult to imagine seeing no human beings outside your family for month’s. The three countrymen who broke his drought of companionship were Thorsen Land, Lars Land and Andre P. Sandager. This was made even more interesting by the fact that these three were not just fellow Norwegians, but were also Thore’s brothers.
You might wonder how this could be, since they had different last names. Norwegian custom at that time decreed that the surname belonged to the land, estate or farm a person came from. When you left your home to live elsewhere, you also left behind your name.
Skotland and his family, Calmar’s first recorded settlers, were soon joined by others. In 1851, seven other settlers arrived. In the period of the 1870’s through the 1890’s, Calmar showed a population gain from 700 to almost 1100 people.
While the City of Calmar, continued to grow and flourish, Thore P. Skotland took on many new endeavors. One of those would be to become one of the three incorporaters of Luther College in Decorah, IA. He was also a member of it’s first Board of Trustee’s and a member of it’s first building committee. In 1874, he sold out and moved to Otter Tail County, Minnesota, where he died in 1903 at the age of 81.
The library in Calmar was established in the fall of 1933. The local “Thimble Club” started the library with donated books in the back of Mr. T. Hazelton’s Clock Repair Shop. It soon moved to the upstairs of the city hall. The library was housed there until 1971. That year Idor and Doris Bjonerud donated the use of their vacant dry goods store. This was on ground level, bright, and room for lots of shelving. The library occupied this location for twenty years.
In the fall of 1991, a fundraising campaign was launched to buy the Baumler TV Repair Shop. With a challenge grant from V.O. Figge of Iowa State Bank, fundraising began. With funds from the Calmar Development Corporation, American Legion, and other local organizations the challenge was met. Additional funds came from local citizens and also former residents of Calmar.
The building was purchased and renovation was accomplished with volunteer help from the Calmar Lions Club. The Calmar Manufacturing Company helped us to obtain our shelving and furnishings for the new library location.
February 6, 1992 was moving day. The 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students from CFS School in Calmar helped to pack all the books from the old location, transport them to the new library location and unload them there, all in one day. On Saturday, members of the community came to help unpack the remaining books and shelve them.
In 1994, renovation began on the basement to construct a Community Room for the community. Mr. V.O. Figge donated funds in memory of his wife, Elizabeth to help attain the goal of money needed to finish the project.
In 1995, the Winneshiek County Hospital offered the former Miller Medical Building for purchase by the Calmar Library. After approval from the city council, with the provision that the Calmar Police Department could occupy part of the building, the library contracted to purchase this adjacent property. With plans to add a connecting room between the two buildings, a bond issue was put to the voters of Calmar in 1998; however, the bond issue was defeated. The library had some funds on hand to construct a smaller room to connect the buildings, and with the approval from the city council, construction was completed in the fall of 1998.
A grant was received from the R.J. McElroy Foundation for additional shelving, which was again purchased from Calmar Mfg. Co. With the help of city employees Rodney Newgard and Don Ondrashek, shelving and finish work was completed.
On June 27, 1999, the new addition was officially dedicated and named in honor of Dr. Garfield and Marian Miller. Dr. Miller spent many hours helping in all phases of renovating the new library. Marian Miller was a member of the library Board of Trustees, retiring after nearly 40 years of service.
In 2005, then board vice-president Darrel Hoff was in contact with the surviving children of Francis “Sonny” and Marian Meyer who generously donated money from the Meyer estate towards the construction of a new children’s library addition. Following negotiations with the City of Calmar, an agreement was reached to give up the back portion of the existing library to make room for the new City Clerk’s office, along with renovations and new construction within the police department, in exchange for additional space for the children’s library. In addition to the donation from the Meyer family, funds from other donors and grant monies were received, thus enabling the library to begin construction on a new children’s room in June of 2005. Construction was completed in the early fall of 2005, including new shelving from Calmar Manufacturing Company. Oak laminate floor was installed and the room was painted a cheery yellow color with oak wood trim throughout. A large play area rug highlights a large portion of the room. Several over-sized stuffed character animals are a popular feature, allowing children to lay down and relax while browsing through books. Another highlight of the children’s room is a full length hand-painted wall mural by Randy and Jane Fosaaen depicting many multi-generational storybook characters from Winnie the Pooh and Bambi to Lion King and Thomas the Train, all as a result of funds given from Gemini Corporation in memory of John Chipera. A lovely hand-painted sign, again from Randy & Jane Fosaaen, graces the entrance to the Children’s Library and was unveiled at a dedication of the room in 2006. With the addition of the expanded Children’s Library, changes took place throughout the entire library. The Adult Fiction section was moved to the main portion of the library which is a more suitable location, non-fiction and reference materials were moved to the upper portion and a new Young Adult section has been added.
In 2008, a grant from the Winneshiek County Community Foundation was received and used to renovate the main portion of the library. Old carpet was removed and replaced with bamboo laminate flooring, thus brightening the main portion in addition to improving the overall aesthetic appearance.
Calmar Public Library continues to seek new and innovative ways to meet the needs of Calmar and the surrounding communities for today and into the future.