The skies threatened rain any minute. Our teenage son’s hollow leg needed a refill, and so we found ourselves driving slowly down the main street of Puxico, Missouri, searching on both sides of the empty street for a diner. We made the first pass-through, and decided to make a wide turn encompassing a few city blocks before heading back down the street, now in search of a convenience or grocery store. “Well would you look at that,” I said, as we happened upon a little log building, sitting all tidy and pristine on a corner lot. The sign in front read, “Puxico Public Library.”
My husband parked the truck, and I hurried inside, just as the rain started to fall, to find out about the building. The library’s sole librarian, Sheila Bruton, greeted me warmly. After hearing about why I wanted information about the library, she quickly located a history book about the local area for me to see. She also made a copy of the section that mentions the library.
More about the Puxico Library
This little library happens to be the only log library in Missouri. It also has a rich history, which reflects kindly upon the folks in Puxico.
The first library in Puxico was located on bookshelves in Harry White’s drugstore in 1937. Two years later, the inventory of the library grew so large that the library was moved to a shoe store building.
About this time, the Works Progress Association (WPA) not only funded the library staff’s wages, but also commissioned a building to house the library and the new city hall. By now, the library’s inventory numbered about 3,000 books.
The logs came from nearby Mingo Swamp. The WPA provided jobs at a time in our history when young men needed work desperately.
On July 15, 1939, the library/city hall held its grand opening. When WWII rolled around, the library became the “War Information Center,” and stocked books and pamphlets pertaining to the war.
After the war, the library lost its government funding. That didn’t stop the townsfolk from volunteering, and so they kept the doors open for several years. In 1979, Mayor Harlan Lamb applied for government funding for the library. Under Title V, the city hired a librarian. The library also benefited from another government program—the Youth Community Conservation and Improvement Projects—which hired young people to renovate the old building. City Hall moved out of the library, doubling the available floor space.
The library is not only attractive to look at from the outside, but it is quite handsome within, where the light-oak-stained log walls run vertically. Sheila’s desk stands front and center in the first room, with a clear view of the door, which is only a few feet away. Her desk is also made of vertical standing logs. She doesn’t know, though, if the desk came with the original building. My husband noticed that some of the library tables were made of logs, too.
While I was inside the library, the sky busted loose with a gully-washer. Inside, it was dry and comfy, and the walls with their brilliant white chinking between gleaming logs seemed to exude warmth—just like well-kept old houses do.
The library now houses more than 7,000 books, offers a children’s reading hour on Wednesday mornings, and serves as a delightful stop on the “Holiday Tour,” sponsored by the Puxico Public Library Arts and Crafts Guild.
It also serves as a model of what government dollars, when spent correctly, can do. In fact, if I knew that my tax dollars would go to fund more public libraries in small towns across the United States, I would be more inclined to pay taxes without grimacing.
The Puxico Public Library is located in Stoddard County, MO, at 201 N. Hickman Avenue.
First published in August 2002.