In April of 1905, Mrs. Robert Osgood proposed that the Portia Club raise money to furnish a room in the Congregational Church for a public reading room. The Portia members gave plays, concerts, sponsored an organ recital, and held food sales to raise money. By March of 1906 they had purchased a reading table, rug and shelves.
The reading room was opened July 12, 1906 with a book shower. Friends gave magazaine subscriptions and a set of books was secured from the traveling library in Des Moines. Miss Alma Nichols was the first librarian.
The Belle Plaine Library Association was formally organized in November 1907, and a board of trustees and officers was appointed. The original officers were Mrs. R.S. Osgood, president; Mrs. F.H. Henry, secretary; Mrs. J.E. Mosnat, treasurer, and Mis Alma Nichols, librarian.
Mrs. Solly Wertheim served as president from 1908 to 1942.
In February 1929 the reading room moved to the upper story of the Zalesky building on Main Street. The city helped support the library, making it possible to have it open every afternoon except Sunday.
In July 1929, a bequest of $10,000 came from Samuel S. Hart, a former citizen of Belle Plaine. A lot was purchased at the corner of Thirteenth Street and Ninth Avenue. The building progressed under the supervision of the building committee: Mrs. Wertheim, Messrs. E.N. Brown, Edward F. Snyder, J.L. Driscoll and W.O. Brand. The library was dedicated on January 5, 1932 and given the name, Hart Memorial Library.
The library celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1957 with an open house. The Portia, Athena, and Sorosis Club members were in charge.
In 1960 the library joined the Iowa State Traveling Library and received aid from state and federal sources, a $200 grant of reference books and asistance in cataloguing the books and training for the librarian.
Mrs. Ida Rank was librarian for many years, followed by Mrs. Lee Martin, Mrs. Thelma Shadle, Mrs. Bess Wetherel, Mrs. Walter Herring, and Mrs.Ginny Conklin. Recent librarians include Melia Tatman, Kim Byers, Karen Bergan, and Kristi Sorensen.
Interested in more history? Check out the Iowa Historical Society