The Colby Public Library had its auspicious beginning in 1911 when a group calling themselves the Civic League of Women, rented a small room in the front of Dr. Beaver’s residence. Thereafter, they gathered books from relatives, friends and their own homes. They then proceeded to sell everyone who would listen a library card for $1.00. In January 1, 1926, the library was closed due to a shortage of money and space. This however, did not sit well with some of our more forward looking citizens. They met with the City Council and on March 14, 1926 (just 2 months later) the Colby Public Library was organized. It was then located in the Connelly building and moved to City Hall in 1936.
Space became an issue for the library, so in 1960 discussions began about a permanent build. In 1961, the President of the Library Board of Trustees appointed three board members and the librarian to work with the Historical Society to develop plans for a new library on its own property. The library and historical society wanted to construct a building to house both public entities. Albert Frahm and John Pratt worked tirelessly contacting everyone in Thomas County to help with this project. Many of the original pioneering families donated to help raise around $120,000 for the original structure at 375 W. 4th Street. An initial gift of $5,000.00 was received from Mrs. Bertha Louis. At the February 8, 1961 meeting, W.D. Ferguson, one of the organizing committee members (1926) of the Colby Public Library, promised to donate one-third of the finances for a building that cost $100,000.00. Land was purchased from the Henry Theil estate for $12,500.00. Beatrice Davis, head librarian suggested the name be changed from Colby Public Library to Pioneer Memorial Library in honor of the large share of finances donated by descendants of the pioneer families. The building was dedicated Sunday January 26, 1964 at 2:30 pm.
In 1999, a large capital improvement campaign was waged and spearheaded by JoAnne Sunderman, the Library Director; the results being a beautifully integrated addition to the original building. In 2006, a basement renovation project was begun by Jeff Friesen, Library Director, and finished in 2007 by library staff. The basement was opened for youth and public programs for the library and other community organizations in 2008.
In 2009 the library received a large endowment from the Maxine Neville Revocable Trust. The Library Board of Trustees placed these funds in secured deposits and has determined that the library plan and use the interest from these funds to increase services and programing to the community.
In 2010 the library renewed the inside and outside of the library. This plan will take a few years to complete, but with the extra funds from the Neville Trust we will be able to complete this work on a timely manner. March 2010, the library staff in cooperation with those who are part of the Library Board of Trustees and Friends of the Pioneer Memorial Library wrote their first Murder Mystery in honor of the 125th Anniversary of Thomas County.
In 2011 the library introduced a new library catalog system for patron. This allows patrons to manage their accounts from home. The library also designed and distributed new library cards to patrons. We also received a $6,000.00 grant from the Pete Henry Foundation. These funds helped us purchase 4 new AWE – children’s literacy computers. These computers have over 90 different types of learning software that children from ages 0 to 12 years old can use. They were seen to be very popular. The library also began to plan for refurbishing the main area of the library in the next year.
In 2012 the library finished a refurbishing project where carpet was replaced with carpet tiles and porcelain tile, and window blinds. We painted, added new comfy chairs and café tables, installed new electrical outlets in the seating area so that patrons can enjoy using their laptops, tablets and such without running them out of battery. This renewal was done with funds from the Maxine Neville Trust. We also have had the privilege of adding modern art and our library motto to the libraries environment, a new circulation desk and much more through a gift of the Jean Hutton Memorial.