Spooner Memorial Library

421 High St., Spooner WI 54801 (715)635-2792


Rivers to the People

A Sculpture in Steel by Sara Balbin

The concept of "Rivers to the People" is the result of a two-year effort between the artist, Sara Balbin, Library Director Jane Frankiewicz, the Spooner Library Board and members of our community.

The sculpture is composed of four cut steel books, highlighted with stainless steel and cut steel images. The piece is set on a large boulder surrounded by a pond. Water flows up through the sculpture and cascades down into the pond. Eventually the cut steel will oxidize (rust) and change in color. The carved steel hands rise from the pond catching the flow of water. The hands represent the human element of libraries.

The images that you see on the pages are symbols that represent the knowledge that mankind have accumulated throughout our common history. They begin with the earth, leaves and ferns, some of the oldest vegetation recorded. The animal images are copies of the early cave paintings. The handprint is an ancient Anasasi symbol which means "I was here".

The images move on to the "thinker" and an Arabic cross that symbolizes God, revealing human's first belief in the intangible. The comedy and tragedy masks of theater follow the Greek words, "earth, man, books" reminding us of the importance of literature to ancient man.

The book nearest the library entrance is host to the symbols of science, mathematics and physics. You will note the Roman arch, mathematical components, medicine, warfare and the double helix of a DNA strand, symbols of immense discovery that altered the course of mankind.

The topmost book contains symbols of music and art as well as a sexton and a compass rose celebrating the very human passion for exploration. The ancient constellation Orion flows into the stars that crown the sculpture tying the knowledge of the ancient world to our modern quest of space exploration.

Mankind is by nature an explorer, a seeker of knowledge. Throughout the ages the human race has always reached forward to find the answers that have eluded them. The library is the repository of this accumulated knowledge. Like a river the knowledge flows forth to benefit each new age of man, growing wider, strong and more powerful with every generation’s contributions.

History of the Spooner Library

Dr. George N. Lemmer, a Spooner physician, coroner, and drug store owner, built his home on the southeast corner of High and Walnut streets in the summer of 1903. In 46 years the Lemmer home would become the site of Spooner’s public library, but before that the library would have several other homes.

Spooner’s first public library was opened in 1915 financed by local fund-raising events and under the leadership of a local women’s group, the Spooner Study Club. One of the first library buildings was a former schoolhouse which for many years was located on the alley on Summit Street where the north end of the fire hall now is. That building has since been moved to the southeast corner of Front and Oak streets.
The library’s next home was in the basement of the new city hall which was built on Walnut Street in 1937. That location is now the parking lot across from the present Northwest Sports Complex. Then in 1949, the city purchased the Lemmer home to house the public library which had seriously outgrown its small basement space. Going up a few steps into the house’s porch to enter the library, patrons could choose books from shelves in the Lemmers’ former living quarters. One of the main rooms – the living room, which had a fireplace – held books for adult readers. In what had probably been the Lemmers’ dining room, the librarian sat at her (checkout) desk, ringed by reference books. The doctor’s former bedroom held books for young adults. Other smaller rooms, adjacent to the librarian’s station, held books for children in grades 1-5 and provided storage and a work area. The Lemmer house was a vast improvement over the basement accommodations in city hall, but soon it, too, was woefully inadequate for the library’s growing efforts to serve the community.

In 1962 the city appropriated $46,000 to build a new, large L-shaped library on the site of the Lemmer home. But constantly growing patronage, expansion of the book collection, and addition of video and audiocassettes, computer/Internet services, and more soon brought the need for yet more space. In 1997, funding was raised – mostly on the local level from individuals and businesses, and the 1962 library building was extensively remodeled and enlarged at a cost of $234,000.

This was sited from a book compiled by Sharon Tarr, Spooner Heritage Tour, page 11.

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