Thomas T. Jones & Mary Jane Schmaltz

Tom Jones (L) and Mary Jane Schmaltz (R) with Bill Pearce (center L) and Erik Sakariassen (center R)Long-time library staff members Thomas T. Jones and Mary Jane Schmaltz were honored by the Bismarck Library Foundation with the 2015 Pearce Award. The Pearce Award recognizes a past or present Bismarck resident or business who has made significant financial, volunteer and/or inspirational contributions to the Bismarck Veterans Memorial Public Library or the Foundation. It is the Foundation’s highest award.

Tom Jones assumed the directorship of the Bismarck Veterans Memorial Public Library in November 1975 and retired in 2011. During the 36 years he served as the Library Director, he had many career highlights. In 1976, he re-established the Burleigh County Bookmobile and organized a ballot initiative to increase the Library’s city mill levy from 4 to 6 mills. In 1978, the Library joined the Online Computer Library Center, Inc., a national library computer cooperative for sharing cataloging records, thus initiating the development of digital records, the basis for a future online library catalog. In 1979, as President of the ND Library Association, he formed a committee to develop and sponsor a successful legislative initiative that established the formula for State Aid to Public Libraries. In 1983, he was awarded Mountain Plains Library Association’s Distinguished Service Award in recognition for his leadership on this committee. In 1985, he was elected as President of the Mountain Plains Library Association. In 1989, he oversaw the construction of the building expansion from 17,000 to 70,000 square feet. 

In 1993, Tom played a major role in launching the beginnings of the Central Dakota Library Network, sharing in online library catalog costs and an efficient way to share materials. In 1999, Tom was awarded the ND Library Association’s Librarian of the Year award. In 2007, he organized an effort to open the first full-service coffee shop in a North Dakota public library, with fundraising assistance from the Library Foundation and Friends of the Bismarck Public Library. In 2010, he worked with the Library Foundation to fundraise for a complete renovation of the Children’s Library. Over $660,000 was raised.

Mary Jane Schmaltz started working at the Library in 1971 as the Children’s Librarian. She revived the storytime programs and Children’s Department, and children referred to her as the “Prairie Godmother.” Soon after, she served as the Head of Technical Services, then the Head of Information Services, and in 1975 accepted the role of Acting Director. Later that year, after Tom Jones was hired as the Library Director, the Library Board voted to create an Assistant Library Director position for Mary Jane, because she was a natural in administration and they felt that the two of them would make a good team. 

In 1989, after the expansion of the Library building was finished, she forged a partnership with AAUW to begin sorting through donated materials and holding a public book sale. In 1992, she formed the Friends of the Bismarck Public Library and the partnership of AAUW and Friends began. Thanks to her efforts in reviving the Friends and starting the book sale, it is now held two times a year, and each book sale averages profits of over $20,000. These profits directly benefit the Library and assist in funding special events and projects. Throughout her time as Assistant Library Director, she continued to work at the Information Desk, and in 2013 she was promoted to Library Director. Mary Jane retired from the Library in 2014 after 42 years of service.

Tom and Mary Jane received their Pearce Awards at The Art of Books event. Past Pearce Award winners Erik Sakariassen and Bill Pearce presented the awards, which were framed prints of the Ric Sprynczynatyk watercolor of the library building.