St. Charles Public Library
History of the Library
From Subscription to Tax Support
For over 125 years, the St. Charles community has supported and benefited from a library that is situated in an historic building on Main Street. In 1888, with only $2 per year as membership dues to start off with, 12 citizens met up at what used to be City Hall (now called The Old Courthouse) located on Court Square where they laid out their plans for this subscription-based library which was legally incorporated two years later in 1889 when it had around 500 books already donated by residents of Saint Charles County alone!
One day in 1906, the Association’s members voted that Library should be a public institution. The township residents also agreed to this proposal and on April 18 they met with their first Board of Directors meeting after voting for it unanimously.
The Library Board asked the voters in 1978 to convert from a township library and create their own independent district. This would offer more opportunity for expanding services by including neighboring communities that were previously unserved, as well as parts of the school system where students have been left without access to materials or librarians.
Location and Building
The library location and size has changed over the years. With its first rented rooms at 203 E. Main Street, by 1900 it grew to 3,000 volumes with 200 books circulated per week!
After becoming a township library, the Library Board sent Andrew Carnegie (a philanthropist) a letter with an appeal for funds to build new facilities. Mr. Carnegies’ personal secretary responded that they would be happy to give $12,500 toward building a free public library in St. Charles. The remainder of the total cost of $15,000 was funded by local donations.
When it was constructed, the Carnegie Library of St. Charles Illinois had been a refuse dump and an ice skating rink before its opening on December 1908 to serve residents living west of that city’s downtown area; however, they were unhappy with how far away from their homes the library was located- this later led them into criticizing architects Phillips Rogers & Woodyat for designing such location as well. The building survived natural disasters like floods which also destroyed many other buildings in 1924 but those who designed it argued against replacing or repairing any parts except adding more windows because “the building will be sufficiently lighted without additional expense.”
The 1925 addition to the library included an upper level which helped meet many of the needs for more space. The construction was completed by men who were employed with Civil Works Administration program in 1933, when they built a children’s room in the basement too!
On November 10, 1962, the township of St. Charles voted to approve $255,000 in additional funds for a new school building after their population exceeded expectations by more than 100% and nearly doubled from 1908-1960 with 16k residents living there as of 1960’s census. The architects Frazier Raftery Orr & Fairbank were chosen on December 1st 1963 when construction was completed about 6 months later coming out at 25×25 foot square feet finished size plus an auditorium that could hold 240 people all together!
St. Charles Township experienced rapid growth starting around 1910 due to its location near two major railroads which led them needing expansion again just 30 years into being incorporated but they found it necessary before this time period even came up.
The new addition to the original library space added 7,640 square feet on the main floor and a basement area of 3,950 square feet. The public services were all housed in this level which had shelving for 50,000 volumes and seating for 90 people! Though it was not as tall or ornate as its predecessor from Andrew Carnegie’s era (and now office/storage), we’re glad that there are still so many resources available at our local branch.
Just Make An Appointment!