In 1940, the Fairmount Woman’s Club held a meeting to decide whether or not the club wanted to sponsor a WPA Library (Work Projects Administration started by President Roosevelt). The idea of such a move had been suggested by Mrs. Elsie McKean, whose husband was Supt. of Fairmount High School. Mrs. Eunice Zierjack, an avid reader, was appointed to be chairman of the committee. The first library board consisted of Fairmount Woman’s Club members Eunice Zierjack, Elsie McKean, Marguerite Cast, Josephine Catlett, Frances Parrish, and Hazle Davison. Miss Mae Kilpatrick was the first librarian, paid by the W.P.A.
In 1941, the township and village owned a house east of the Town Hall. They let the library board use the southwest room of this house, which was also the home of the town’s policeman and his family. This room was formerly used as a telephone office. Books were furnished by the WPA or the state library, while other books were donated or purchased with monies earned from Tag Days or food sales.
The WPA library was opened on March 1, 1941, continuing until January 29, 1943 when all such projects ended due to World War II. From January until April 19, 1943 the room was open two afternoons a week as a War Information Center with the local chapter of the Woman’s Club meeting the necessary expenses. A referendum was passed in the April, 1943 election and it became the Vance Township Library.
The state library let the board keep the books they had donated when it was still the WPA library.
Mr. and Mrs. G. R. Catlett, Mr. and Mrs. Shirley Catlett and Mr. and Mrs. Kemp Catlett donated the house on the north side of the bank to be used as a library. This house was formerly a residence, then a doctor’s and dentist’s office. In June,1950, the books were moved by the board members, using little wagons and cars, from the house east of the Town Hall to its present site north of the bank.
Miss Mae Kilpatrick was librarian from the very beginning until 1961. Mae was paid $27.00 every two weeks, Other librarians have been: Richard Dalbey, who became a librarian soon after his high school graduation in 1962 until his death in 1968. His mother, Helen Dalbey, then became the librarian until she retired in 1977. Patsy Howard was hired upon Helen’s retirement. She served for nearly 2 years. After her resignation, Barbara Biggerstaff followed for approximatey 22 years, followed by Melanie Clark for a year, and then the present librarian, Bonnie Gilbert since 2001.
In 1966 Vance Township Library joined the Lincoln Trails Library System.
The library displays a number of antique books in a glass-door encased bookshelf, original to the old house – turned library. These books were original materials that were on the shelves when the library opened and many of them still bear the W.P.A. stamp. To the left of this bookshelf is an antique iron fireplace and mantle, also original to the house.
In 1992, seven area libraries formed a cooperative group to comply with state requirements for a Per Capita Grant. These libraries include Vance (Fairmount), Westville, Georgetown, Elwood Carnegie (Ridge Farm), Sidell, Chrisman, and Catlin and have been sucessful in receiving grants as a co-op.
The structure of the Vance Township Library building has remained the same throughout the years, with the exception of enclosing the unused back porch in the fall of 2009. The back wall of the previous storage room was removed, opening up into the new back porch room.This became one large room for storage and for programs.
The 4 former library systems (Lincoln Trails, Lewis & Clark, Rolling Prairie, and Shawnee) merged on July 1, 2011 and became Illinois Heartland Library System, the largest library consortia in the country, covering 28,141 square miles in the southern half of Illinois.
Vance Township Library was officially automated on December 15, 2016.