The story of the Laurel’s founding librarian: Carrie Erb

By 
Rosalyn Visser
Thursday, August 4, 2022
Carrie E. Erb

Carrie E. Erb

An influential woman in Laurel’s history is Carrie E. Erb, who served as Laurel’s first librarian. Erb’s story begins in Iowa. Carrie Evelyn Young was born in Corning, Iowa to Joseph and Joanna Young on February 20, 1872. She studied education at Corning Academy and became a teacher. Carrie Young taught in Iowa for a few years and eventually followed her parents in their move to Loveland, Colorado.

Carrie Young taught elementary school in Colorado for the next six years. Then, in 1905, she married widower, Abraham Erb. Carrie and Abraham had two children together, as well as the three teens from Abraham’s first marriage.

The Erb family came to Laurel, Montana in March 1907. They moved into 110 Fourth Avenue, one of Laurel’s oldest houses. Abraham farmed that land, until his death in 1916. Carrie was left alone to raise their children; however, she found community in Laurel and became involved in many organizations.

One important group Erb was a member of was the Laurel Woman’s Club, which established Laurel’s library. It was Erb’s involvement in this organization that led to her becoming the first librarian of the Laurel City Library in 1917.

Erb, after her retirement in 1951, recounted that on her first day on the job, “There wasn’t a book or magazine in that place when they gave me the key and told me to unlock [the doors].” By the end of the day, they had 137 books donated by Laurel community members.

In 1920, Erb left the library for a brief time to teach in the Coombs Flat District but shortly after returned to her role as the city librarian. The library slowly acquired more books and grew to offer a more diverse selection. For many years, it was only Erb’s memory and knowledge of the collection that helped patrons find books. It was not until later in her career that they adopted the Dewey Decimal System to catalog the library.

Erb wrote one Christmas that, “The library is here to serve the needs of those who wish to avail themselves of its opportunities.” As such, she worked hard to provide library patrons with what they wanted or needed.

Carrie Erb dedicated her life to the library and helped it evolve into the institution it is today. By the time of her retirement in 1951, the library grew to over 7,000 books. She loved being a part of the community and felt privileged to be able to watch the “youngsters” grow up before her eyes. In turn, the community loved and appreciated her. One small example of the community showing their appreciation was in 1922 when the Laurel Woman’s Club banded together to allow Erb to take a two week vacation. The community also recognized her as a crucial part of the library. One little boy drew a picture of Mrs. Erb and displayed it in the library window with the label “Carrie lives here.”

Beyond the library, Erb was involved in the Methodist Church and was a member of many organizations across Laurel including the Red Cross, Grand Army of the Republic (woman’s auxiliary for Civil War veterans), as well as Laurel’s Woman’s Club. She rose up to help the Laurel community however she could from offering her home as a space for voting to helping direct a children’s play.

Erb passed away on November 16, 1966, at the age of 94. Carrie Young Erb loved and dedicated herself to education and Laurel, and a year before her passing, she told Outlook reporters that “All the things that are good are part of Laurel—[it’s] a part of me and I am part of it.”

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The Laurel Outlook

 

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