Throwback Thursday: The Vienna Library

Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!

The community of Vienna (now known as Newville) is one of the oldest settlements in DeKalb County; it was platted in 1837, the county’s official birth year. Though we don’t have many Vienna records on hand, we did recently scan a ledger from the settlement’s past.

The ledger, which is part of the John Martin Smith Collection, is dated 1855, and contains the by-laws from the Vienna Library, as well as multiple patrons records.

The library was organized by “the inhabitants of Newville Township,” resulting in the formation of the Vienna Library Association and the election of a board of directors. R. Faurot was chosen as the association’s president.


Anyone could become a patron of the library, though the library’s “cardholder” policy was a bit different from what you might experience today.

Instead of owning a library card, patrons of the Vienna Library owned shares in the library itself, the shares costing five dollars apiece.

Books could be checked out for 30 days at a time, any day of the week except for Sunday. Unless they stopped by on a Saturday afternoon, patrons were charged 5 cents for every check-out and every return.

Originally, there was also a rule that patrons could only check out one library book per share they owned in the library (up to ten books at a time), but it appears to have been overturned by the Vienna Library Association at some point, as someone has written “rejected” over that section in cursive.

Because library members owned shares in the library itself, they could sell or otherwise transfer those shares to other people—something you certainly can’t do with a library card!


“. . . I have sold my share of said library to F. M. Thompson.”

Popular books (as per the patron records) included Uncle Tom’s Cabin, biographies of Daniel Boone and P. T. Barnum, and Popery! As It Was and As It Is.

Other materials available at the Vienna Library included works by Shakespeare, Longfellow, Poe, and Dickens, as well as books titled The Shady Side, Elementary Geology, Female Poets of America, The Price of a Crown, and This, That & the Other.

Want to see more local history? Click here to browse our online photo database, or head on over to the Genealogy Center’s official Facebook page.


About Chelsea

I've been working at Willennar Genealogy Center for over two years now, and I've loved every minute of getting to learn more about the stories of DeKalb County and the surrounding area. I'm interested in all kinds of history, but I'm especially fond of the early film industry, old letters and journals, the DeKalb County Fair, and the Interurban line.
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