It’s October, and we’re getting ready for Halloween here at the library. Starting next Friday we’ll be playing scary movies on Friday nights. Check our Website for the schedule. It’s mostly older horror films, like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Haunting, although one newer favorite, the spine-tingling The Others, is on the list.

While we’re thinking about horror here in Webster Groves, let’s recall that there is at least one notoriously haunted house in town: the house on Plant Avenue. In our archives we have a copy of the chapter from Hans Holzer’s 1970 book Gothic Ghosts that tells about the various spirits that visit residents of the house, and a copy of an old Echo, the Webster Groves High School student newspaper, that also covers the story.

But of course, this is not the only ghost story in town. Last year Patrick Dorsey published his book Haunted Webster Groves, in which he collects stories from people about multiple ghostly experiences in our city. From hauntings in homes to spectral appearances in places like the Theatre Guild and the Book House, Dorsey has collected a chilling assortment of real-life tales. The blurb for the book says that,  ‘Webster Groves, Missouri is one of the early suburbs of St. Louis, a place with a history that extends back to Colonial times and reaches across the Civil War right through to today. Some who lived that history have evidently remained…’

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

The Juiciest Webster Groves Story Ever

While patrolling at 1 a.m. on a February morning in 1956, Webster Groves Police Sergeant Otto Piffel saw a lone young woman walking towards Highway 66. He stopped and questioned her, but she said she was headed to find a phone to call a taxicab, and she went on her way. A few hours later, around 2:40 a.m., Officer Piffel found a home on Ambergate Drive to be on fire. He radioed an alarm, and broadcast a description of the woman, who was soon picked up by Crestwood police.

Shot dead inside the burning house was Walter A. Siebert, a well-known Republican politician, whose nude body fell through the floor and into the basement while firefighters fought the blaze.

The woman, who was booked as Barbara Simpson, was also known as Jean and a number of other aliases. Upon questioning by police she admitted that ‘I killed him. Isn’t that enough?’ It turned out that her name was June Joy Milton, and she was a 28-year-old divorcee. She had met the 59-year-old Siebert, a widower, a year before and had been seeing him three times a week ever since. They had argued about ‘a traveling salesman,’ Milton claims he threatened her, so she shot him. She spent the next day removing items from his home, including a TV set and his cocker spaniel, before setting fire to the house to destroy the evidence.

Newspapers across the country were enthralled with the story, calling Milton ‘a brunette beauty,’ and ‘a svelte five foot three.’ The articles never seemed to list her age as the same. But the one thing they always reported the same were her declarations of how she was glad she shot Siebert, was glad he was dead. There were also frequent references to the bedroom argument in Siebert’s ‘swank suburban home.’

June Joy Milton was charged with first degree murder and first degree arson. She was subsequently acquitted of those charges, by reason of insanity. No word of what happened to the cocker spaniel.

The initial news article, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for February 13, 1956, complete with a photograph of Siebert and of Webster Groves Firefighters indicating the exact place where the dead body fell through the floor, is in our historical archives.

Acme Press

Recently we have been sifting through a lot of old archival materials at the library, classifying and cataloging everything we have that has to do with local history and filing it in such a way that people can find it. It’s a lot of work, but also very interesting.

One thing we kept coming across were numbers of an old newsletter simply called Acme Press. The issues were usually from the 1970s, and they were full of local news and announcements, advertisements for local businesses, and interesting historical tidbits about Webster Groves. But we only had a handful of these, and it looked like they had been published regularly for a number of years.

So last week we visited with the folks at Acme Printers-Lithographers to see what we could learn. Acme has always been owned and operated by the Rath family, and Joe Rath told us that his parents started publishing the newsletter at a time when there was no local newspaper covering Webster Groves news. The Webster Groves Advertiser ceased publication in April, 1971, and the Webster-Kirkwood Times did not start up until April, 1978. The Times ran as a monthly paper, then bi-weekly, and finally became weekly in spring, 1984.

The Acme Press ran from May, 1974 until October 1981, so it covered a number of years when there was very little other local news being done. It was always a 4 to 8 sheet newsletter, 8 1/2″ by 11″ format, almost always black and white, except for a late June, 1978 issue in glorious red, white and blue, and several December issues in the later years in festive red and green.

The very first issue covers the new addition to City Hall. Along the way we find news about local events like the dedication of the Old Orchard Gazebo, annual preparations for Community Days, exhibits at local galleries, the filming of the TV show Lucas Tanner, and much more.

The good news is that the Raths have donated a mostly complete run of the newsletter, and we now have it on our shelf for you to look at. Stop by sometime and take a look!

Miss Webster

In the library’s ongoing quest to catalog and file every photo, magazine article, newspaper clipping, old document, and any other kind of local history tidbit, I came this week to the file dedicated to the Miss Webster pageant. The pageant is one of the most popular and enduring of the events held annually at our Community Days Festival, and there has long been significant media attention to it.

In decades past Miss Webster had more ‘official duties,’ such as meeting with the mayor and city council and attending important municipal events: all of this is attested by charming old news photos, such as those showing a beaming teenage girl standing among a group of somber, dark-suited councilmembers.

Many of the photos we have come from the collection of John W. Cooper, Jr., who was a councilmember for ten years, starting in 1960, and then mayor from 1970 to 1986. It was during his tenurMiss Webstere, and largely due to his work and influence, that Community Days grew to the important local celebration that is still is today. He was also a great fan of taking snapshots, and so we have this archive of photos, including this one of the 1962 court in all its summertime splendor.

A while back we worked very hard to compile a list of all the winners of the pageant over the years, particularly the early years from 1960 to 1985, which Mayor Cooper’s photos cover. The only years we could not figure out were 1969 and 1985. So if anyone reading this knows who won in those years, please let us know.

Perhaps what we call ‘beauty pageants’ carry a little cultural baggage these days, but I don’t foresee any popular movement to get rid of our Miss Webster Pageant. It is an integral part of the city’s long-time Fourth of July celebration, one of the best celebrations in the region.


Last night our Strategic Planning Committee met to discuss the results of our recent community survey. Most of the survey was well designed and yielded results that were easy to understand. But one word, one concept really, kept troubling us and made us wonder if we and the people who answered the survey were on the same page.

We asked a few questions about diversity: diversity of services, diversity of our collections. They yielded very different results. One question asked if it was important for the library’s services to represent the diversity of our community, and only 13% of respondents thought it was. However, when we asked about the most important actions for the library to provide, ‘Diverse Collections and Services’ ranked number two among dozens of selections, sandwiched between ‘Support for Basic Computer Literacy,’ and ‘More Downloadable E-books.’

In discussing this, we wondered whether survey respondents took the words ‘diverse’ and ‘diversity’ to refer to the same concept in both instances. We certainly meant it the same way in asking both questions, namely, collections and services that are relevant to people of varying races and ethnicities. But due to the wide disparity in responses, we thought that perhaps respondents understood ‘Diverse Collections and Services’ to mean many different collections and services, without consideration of any specific target audience.

What do you think? If you were answering the question about ‘Diverse Collections and Services,’ would you mean the former or the latter?

Navigating the New Online Catalog

Check out this post to see how to:

  • Log in
  • Change your personal information
  • Find items
  • Place holds


Logging In

  1. Access your account by clicking on the “My Account” link on the WGPL home page.    www.wgpl.org


2. Type your barcode (found on the back of your library card, also known as your full library card number) and password into the boxes. If it’s the first time you’re logging in, your password is 1234.


Managing Your Account

Once you’re logged in, you can make all kinds of changes to your information, including creating a username, changing your password, creating a check-out history, renewing items, and estimating fines and fees. All of these options can be managed under the “My Account” tab at the top of the page.

  1. Creating a Username and Password:
  • These changes are accessed by expanding the “Change Logon” section at the bottom of the “My Account” page. Make sure to click the box next to “Change Username” or “Change Password” before you start typing. And make sure to click save!


2. Creating a Check-out History:

  •  If you want to keep track of all the things you’ve checked out, make sure you check the box next to “Maintain Reading History” in the “Contact Information and Preferences” section. Please note that this will only keep track of things that are checked out going forward from the date you chose that option.


3. Seeing What is Checked Out & Renewing Items:

To view a list of the items you have checked out, click on “Items Out” in the menu on the left-hand side of the page, or choose “Items Out” from the list under the “My Account” tab at the top of the page.Picture6

To renew items, click the box next to the title and then click on “Renew Selected Items.” Simply click on “Renew All Items” to renew everything.


4. Estimating Fees & Fines:

The aPicture7mount you currently owe in fines & fees is listed next to “Fines & Fees” on the left side of the page. Click on those words to see an itemized list. Click on “Estimate Overdue Fines” and then choose a date from the drop-down calendar to find out how much you’ll owe if you turn items in and pay at a later date.


Searching & Placing Holds

Start any search by typing the title, author, or subject into the search bar on the catalog’s main page and pressing enter. This will give you the widest search results; narrower initial results can be found by clicking on one of the choices below the main search bar.

To narrow your search, click on any of the options under “Narrow Your Search” on the left side of the page. Among the options are: format, owning library, language, series information, and subject. You can also choose “More” under most of those headings to see other options listed.


Click on the title to find out more about a specific item, including the plot summary, availability, location of copies in the MLC, and suggestions of similar titles.


To place a hold, click on “Place Request” on the right side of the page. You will be prompted to select a pickup library. After choosing a library, you’ll see a page confirming that your hold has been placed; this page will also allow you to confirm your contact information. Note: if you’re placing a hold on a popular title, you may have an additional step letting you know how many holds are currently on the item, and asking you if you’re sure you want to proceed with the hold request.


For further assistance or questions please contact the Reference Desk.

By phone – (314) 961-7277

By email – reference@wgpl.org

A New Library Catalog is Coming Soon!

MLC Logo Art (300x147) (2)On December 10 Webster Groves Public Library, along with our 8 partner libraries in the Municipal Library Consortium, will start using a completely new computer system. We’re very excited about the change, which will allow us to provide better, faster, more secure service in many ways.

But what’s most important for you to know as a library user is that we will have a great new catalog for you to use for finding library materials, keeping track of your account, handling your library requests, and much, much more. With our new catalog you will be able to:

  • Create targeted searches to find exactly what you want, limited by media type (book, movie, e-book, etc.)
  • Easily create reading lists and wish lists
  • Pay your library fines on line
  • Update your contact information and account preferences without having to visit the library
  • Set up an individual username so you no longer have to enter your library card number
  • Create saved searches so you will be notified when your favorite authors publish new books
  • Choose if you would like the catalog to track your reading history, so you know the books you’re already read
  • Read book reviews right from the catalog, and submit your own reviews

There are many more features guaranteed to make your library experience easier, more enjoyable, and more productive. As soon as we are up and running with our new catalog we’ll start scheduling classes to teach you how to use it, so stay tuned!