Webster City Jewel: Library is Literally Rich

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WEBSTER CITY, Iowa -- Sometimes you CAN judge a book by its cover—or in this case, a LIBRARY by its façade.

"Everyone in town is proud of this building," says historian, Nancy Kayser.

But of all the stories it holds, the best might be its own: the one of a wealthy resident.

"The women of Webster City came to Kendall Young and asked him to fund a public library," Kayser explains, "he turned them down. And they were most disappointed."

But Young and his wife, Jane, would eventually come through with a large grant. Construction began in 1904—and though it featured ornate work in stone, glass and wood, it took just one year.

“They brought in contractors from Chicago," says library trustee, Dick Anderson, "they brought in the marble from North Africa.”

Crews worked almost around the clock through the harsh winter, under the supervision of WJ Zitterel, a construction wiz who’d married an Iowan and was looking for a way to give back to his adoptive state.

"It was Zitterel's legacy to the city," says Kayser, "because he knew how much people wanted to honor Kendall Young with this building."

One-hundred and ten years later, Kendall Young’s part in the library continues. And that’s where this stunning place stands out even more.

“This library is run completely off the endowment off the Kendall Young Library Trust,” Anderson explains.

While most libraries are funded by city taxes, this one is funded in part by farm land left by Young.  Others have added more and today, the library lives off the rent of some 17-hundred acres of rich, Hamilton County soil.

“Because of how we’re funded and because of that protected endowment, this library will be here well past all of us,” says library director, Angie Martin-Schwarze.

Though this library's budget is a whopping $600,000 per year, Martin-Schwarze admits that money isn’t enough. Libraries today must work harder to stay relevant.

“You know, keep a pulse; be a part of the community, stay connected to the schools, the kids, the parents.  That’s how we can continue to be a place that’s treasured and needed.”

It just LOOKS like a place with a good story behind it. Turns out, there’s than one.

"We're lucky," Kayser smiles. "Just very lucky."