BEATRICE, Neb. – Laureen Riedesel is a very proud Nebraskan and she knows this state well. The daughter of a pastor, she's lived in the panhandle and along the Missouri River in Peru, Nebraska. And for many years, she's called Beatrice her home.
"This is the place where we protect that homesteader history and I am proud of being the descendant of a homesteader."
Laureen is what you might call a Nebraska history junkie. She's spent the majority of the past four decades immersing herself into the history that makes Nebraska so special. The heritage room in the Beatrice Public Library is Laureen's history wonderland.
"We have all kinds of special treasures in this room including many books that are about early Nebraska territory before Nebraska was even a state, about early Beatrice and Gage County history as well as collectibles that relate to the people that lived in Beatrice."
The director of the Beatrice Public Library has been hunting and gathering valuable Cornhusker state primary sources for the past 40 years.
"We realized that our history was in books that are rare and unusual and we began to deliberately acquire those. They also turned out to be collectibles in places on the east and west coast and we did not want to see our history disappear so we started buying all kinds of things related to those early years in Nebraska."
Inside the heritage room, you'll find a very unique collection of historical books.
"I was lucky enough to find this (book) at an antique store in Lincoln and much to my amazement, it it the tax list by lot of Gage County in 1888."
Laureen really gets a kick out of showing off the library's historical treasures.
"What I always tell people is this room is Nebraska's past, present, and future. Now most people can figure out the past because they think she's going to have a bunch of historical stuff and they can sort of figure out the present cause they think she must have something that's just come out recently but the future, I collect planning documents."
The heritage room is furnished in oak furniture from the 1903 Carnegie Building and includes many library materials dating from the establishment of the first community library in 1873.