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Dakota Datebook

Jamestown’s Old Reading Room

Alfred Dickey was the first lieutenant governor of North Dakota. He was also a citizen of Jamestown and a supporter of the public good. So, in January of 1901, he called a meeting with the intention to create a free reading room for Jamestown. 

Unfortunately, Mr. Dickey proved too sick to go to his own meeting, so he was represented by his friend, Mr. Smart. It was through Smart that the attendees learned that Mr. Dickey intended to donate most of the supplies needed for the new room and would even hire a custodian for three nights a week. Unfortunately, Mr. Dickey couldn’t shake his illness, and three days after the meeting he died without ever seeing his idea come to fruition. Shortly after his death, his son, Alfred E. Dickey, held another meeting with the library committee and guaranteed them that he would fulfill his father’s promises.

About a month later, around this date, Jamestown happily opened the reading room in the Opera House Block, leaving it free and open to the public, although for $1 a year, library card holders could borrow books from there. This spot proved popular, and in 1908 the city decided to support the library with taxes, and in January 1909 they moved it to City Hall and hired the first full-time librarian, Miss Alice Paddock.

Alfred E. Dickey continued to support the library even after his death in 1910, leaving the Board of Directors $20,000 to find a new library location and a $15,000 endowment for upkeep of the building. In 1980, the National Register of Historic Places registered the Alfred Dickey Free Library as a historical site. They have since received two more endowments, one of $13,000 from Morris Beck, and another of $20,000 from Chester Hodge for buying books of non-fiction. However, the largest support comes from the taxes and generous donations from the people of Jamestown and Stutsman County. So even though Alfred Dickey never saw the fruits of his idea, there is no doubt about the impact of his vision.

Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas




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