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January 10, 2006 > Niles Library

Niles Library

by Arathi Satish

The Niles library has a unique charm and past of its own. Over 75 years old, it is steeped in a rich history. Residents of the tiny community were always interested in having their own library and in 1890; a circulating library of 145 volumes was bought by Niles citizens and placed in Mr. Dickey's store. Under the management of the Christian Endeavor Society, the books were moved in 1895 to the "Open Door" reading room. By January 1900, there were around 500 volumes in the library and the Niles Free Public Library Association was incorporated. The Southern Pacific railroad company was building a new station and generously presented the corporation with the old railroad depot for use by the association.

On Feb. 2, 1911, management of the library was taken over by the Alameda County Library though it was still owned by the Niles Free Public Library Association. Mrs. Chris Runckel was the first custodian and during this time, visitors from the early motion picture company, Essany, were often seen reading books and magazines.

It was Mrs. William H. (Helen) Ford who observed that there was a need for a better building for the library, and with $30,000, she built the Jane R. Clough Memorial Library in memory of her mother. She presented it to the Niles Library Association on a rainy Saturday afternoon on Jan. 14, 1928 in the presence of 1,000 people. The dedication ceremony was colorful and conducted by the members of the Masonic Grand Lodge. Chas. R. Wallenberg, Senior Grand Warden, was master of ceremonies and District Attorney Earl Warren was the grand orator. Mr. and Mrs. Ford gave a beautiful American Flag for the occasion and it was raised by Scoutmaster J. F. Goldner and his troop. The procession included the scouts, campfire girls, school children, the fire department, American Legion, the high school band and others. There are reports that a time capsule was buried to commemorate the occasion.

On Jan. 13, 1936, the Niles Free Public Library Association deeded the building to Alameda County, as it was operating the library. In March, 1965, the building was brought up to date by the county library with new heating, lighting, painting and remodeling. In 1972, The Niles Merchants Association donated carpeting for the library.

A sculpture, "Poppy Nymph" Or "Poppy Girl," by Jo Mora that was originally exhibited in the Palace of Fine Arts during the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915 was purchased by Niles resident William Ford. It was given by Ford to John E. Kimber in 1957, who in turn, willed the statue to the Jane R. Clough Memorial Library in 1970. The white marble statue depicting a woodland nymph with a coronet of poppies can be seen today at the library.

Over a period of years, the Niles Library has hosted a number of programs. The community has always supported it and volunteers have put in tremendous work toward its success. Niles resident Wendy Winsted started the Niles Library Fund in 1999 encouraging local people to donate to the library. This attracted the attention of Fremont Bank and led to a generous matching grant to the Alameda County Library Foundation that allowed the library to extend its hours of operation. Librarian Sally Kusalo loves the cozy atmosphere, historic setting and enthusiastic support of the Niles community. The Niles branch is a delightful 2,100 sq. ft. neighborhood library that has over 11,000 items including books, magazines and newspapers, videos, CD's, and audiocassettes. Volunteers are always welcome to help out.

Niles Library
150 "I" St., Fremont
Tuesdays: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Thursdays: 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
(510) 795-2626

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