In 1858, the Young Men’s Literary and Library Association opened a reading room over a bank on Main Street. This reading room was the forerunner of the Galesburg Public Library, established as a Free Public Library and Reading Room in 1874.
The library board constructed the first free public library building on land purchased by the board. A city tax levy and a $50,000 gift from Andrew Carnegie that was secured by then Knox College President, Dr. Thomas McClelland, paid for the building at 40 East Simmons Street. Dedicated on June 3, 1902, the Romanesque architecture of the Carnegie library included Bedford stone walls, curved windows and an entabulature adorned by tablets inscribed with the names of men of science, art and letters.
The Carnegie library was destroyed by fire on May 9, 1958 and was replaced with a new library dedicated on November 3, 1961. A children’s room addition in 1967, installation of an elevator in 1984, and an expansion project completed in 1996 comprise the library as we know it today.
At the dedication of the Galesburg Public Library in 1902, Albert Perry, president of the board, stated, “To this building we invite you all, without distinction of any kind. It is yours and all the books that it contains, and we trust and believe that it contains something beneficial to every citizen of this city.” The library board and staff continue this philosophy and mission of service today, embracing and structuring change to bring you the best resources and services imaginable.
Galesburg Public Library Timeline:
• 1860—Young Men’s Literary Society formed from books donated by Knox College President Albert Hurd. Located in the public high school.
• 1874—First public library opened on Main Street (March 26)
• 1902—Carnegie Library opens on Simmons Street (June 3)
• 1958—Carnegie Library burns to the ground (May 9)
• 1961—New library opens (November 4)
• 1967—Additional space added to library (April 16)
• 1984—Expansion and accessibility improvements
• 1996—Expansion and remodeling for accessibility (April 18)