(Library locations are italicized.)

In February of 1913, eight ladies met at the Wm. Jennings home to organize a club called the Arnold Women’s Improvement Club AWIC.  They elected officers: Mrs. Fred Brittan president, Mrs. Jennings, vice-president, Mrs. Tom Backes treasurer, and Mrs. Charles Beardsley reporter.  Others present that day were Mrs. William Conrad, Mrs. T. L. Jones and Mrs. A. J. McCants.  In 1914, they decided to start a private library club and each member donated a book.  In 1917, they opened to the public and each member took their turn at running the library.

Mr. Wheeler, cashier of the Farmers State Bank, allowed the use of the west room in the new bank building as a library, open on Saturday afternoons only.  George DeMetz, an employee of the bank, borrowed the first book.  (The entire library collection was contained in one small bookcase.)  In the summer of 1918, when the Farmers Bank became the Arnold State Bank, the little library was moved to the ladies’ lounge because the new officers needed the west room for themselves.   (This move thereby eliminated the male half of the population from becoming borrowers.)

New quarters were needed and Fred Brittan offered to share his office in the back room of the new Security State Bank.  The book collection had gradually grown through donations, and in 1919 the AWIC offered it to the Arnold Township, requesting that they make a tax levy for its support.  Township voters accepted the gift of 513 books, four bookcases, and all necessary equipment, then levied the necessary tax.

Miss Essie Haskell, Charles Sanderson, Mrs. Fred Brittan and Miss Laura Peterson were appointed as board of directors.  Miss Peterson was chosen to be the librarian.  That same year (1919) the Arnold High School freshman class selected and gave the library 21 new books.  Mr. Brittan could no longer spare the room for the library, so it was subsequently moved once again, to the basement of the bank, in 1921.

This location was a bit damp and dark for library purposes and cost $7.50 a month rent.  When Neil Logan offered to rent them his office, they quickly moved, but in less than three months the Logan building was sold.  After a long search, the Tom Backes house was rented and another move made.  After moving the library contents seven times, a permanent home was in sight.

Mrs. Swain Finch died in 1920, willing $17,000 to the village to erect a library building in memory of her husband and herself.  When the cornerstone was laid in 1924, the bequest had grown to $23,000.  The final move was made on January 14, 1925 to Finch Memorial Library.  The large bronze memorial tablet on the library’s east wall (unveiled on April 30, 1925 to a large crowd) was designed by librarian Laura Peterson as a tribute to the pioneer life of Ephriam “Swain” and Sarah Finch.  Laura Peterson, Mrs. Hawley Wehrley, Alice Beltz, Clara Fox, Caroline Geiser, Norene Mills, Darlene Rimpley and Marcy Lucas have been the librarians up to the present time.

Official word was received on July 1, 2015, designating Finch Memorial Library as a National Historic Landmark. In April of 2015, Cheryl Carson, AEDC Director made the final presentation to the State Historical Preservation Board.  Its acceptance to the registry will now make federal funds available for the library.  In January 2020, renovations began that will expose the beautiful original wooden architecture on the main floor.  It is also hoped that the smaller front windows, that had been covered over, will be visible once again.  In addition, a new HVAC system was installed at this time, through a $4500 grant from The Custer County Foundation.

(Information provided by Marcy Lucas and Berni Crow.  Some information for the markers was taken from the book “One Hundred Years on the South Loup” by Norene Hall Mills.  Compiled by Berni Crow (1-28-2020)