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HISTORY OF THE LIBRARY

Books and Much More

In 1903, citizens of the small town of Springfield, Missouri, watched a dream come true when the granite cornerstone of the new Public Library was laid. The ceremony was the culmination of three years of negotiations with prominent library philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, whose $50,000 contribution was the financial cornerstone of the community's dream.

The Springfield Public Library officially opened in 1905 with 700 books and an annual circulation of 8,657. More than a century later, the Springfield-Greene County Library boasts an annual circulation of 3,926,602 and has expanded its holdings to over 550.000 volumes -- which includes audiobooks, compact discs, DVDs and toys as well as books.

During this time the Library's commitment to public service was also growing. It has always been the Library's mission to provide citizens with free access to information for their recreational, educational, cultural and business needs. To meet these needs the Library offered many innovative services -- Walking Books, delivery of library materials to the homebound, a circulating Educational Toy Collection, Summer Reading Club for kids and computerized Reference Services.

The Springfield-Greene County Library: An Historical Timeline

  • 1901 - On February 15, 50 prominent businessmen and influential citizens meet in the office of Springfield mayor Ralph Walker and enthusiastically support a plan to start a library. Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie agrees to give $50,000 if the city provides $5,000 annually for the purchase of books and the maintenance of the institution.
  • 1903 - A site for the main library is purchased for $3,250. The money is raised by popular subscription with the largest individual donation only $100. The cornerstone is laid and construction begins on the stately structure at 397 E. Central.
  • 1905 - On March 12, the Springfield Public Library opens with limited hours and one staff member. The library owns a total of 700 volumes and boasts a circulation of 8,657 this first year.
  • 1937 - The city library is enlarged to its present size under a Works Progress Administration project.
  • 1945 - The northwest Greene County town of Ash Grove starts its city library at 101 E. Main.
  • 1951 - The Greene County Library, started in the basement of the Court House, moves into new headquarters. The two-story, 18-room house at 1451 Benton, known as the Silsby house, is eventually sold to Cox Medical Center.
  • 1955 - The Greene County Library initiates a bookmobile program.
  • 1956 - The Ash Grove City Library becomes part of the Greene County Library.
  • 1957 - The Springfield Public Library opens the Plaza Branch, a storefront library which serves patrons in the expanding southeast portion of the city.
  • 1961 - The Board of the Greene County Library contracts services from the Springfield Public Library, and both libraries operate under the supervision of the director of the city library.
  • 1961 - The Greene County Library opens the Republic Branch, a consolidation of book deposits held at several locations in that western Greene County city.
  • 1966 - The Missouri State Library established the Ozark Pioneer Library system, to be headquartered at Springfield's main library. This system, which coordinates services of public libraries in 13 surrounding counties, is the forerunner of the Southwest Missouri Library Network.
  • 1967 - The Greene County Library, having outgrown its headquarters on Benton, opens a new library at 630 W. Kearney, currently the Kearney Branch.
  • 1971 - To better serve the needs of south Springfield, the Public Library opens the Brentwood Branch at 2214 Brentwood Blvd. This branch replaces the storefront Plaza Branch.
  • 1971 - The Greene County Library and the Springfield Public Library boards decide that the libraries could operate more efficiently as one entity, and merge to create the Springfield-Greene County Library District.
  • 1977 - To meet the needs of the city's growing southwest side, the library creates the Parkcrest Branch, an "immobile" bookmobile parked in the Parkcrest Shopping Center.
  • 1978 - The Main Library is renovated to increase accessibility with the addition of a ramp and an elevator.
  • 1983 - Kickapoo Prairie Branch opens at 620 W. Republic Road, replacing the Parkcrest bookmobile. This library, built entirely with local funds, becomes the first library in the system to be fully computerized.
  • 1983 - The district goes online with a CLSI automated circulation system, and the card catalogs are phased out.
  • 1985 - Republic Branch moves to a larger storefront location at 221 W. Highway 60.
  • 1991 - The Library replaces the outdated automation system with the new Dynix automated circulation system, increasing computer memory and capability.
  • 1992 - Willard Branch opens in a storefront in the East Shopping Center.
  • 1992 - Library support services relocate from the Main Library to a newly-constructed addition to the Kickapoo Prairie Branch, freeing up more public service space at the Main Library.
  • 1994 - Construction is completed on an addition to the Kearney Branch.
  • 1994 - Library-sponsored Ozarks Regional Information Online Network (ORION) goes online.
  • 1995 - The Library launches its site on the World Wide Web, which can now be found at the URL thelibrary.org.
  • 1996 - Construction is completed on an addition to the Brentwood Branch, and its parking lot is expanded.
  • 1997 - The Library migrates its automation system to the Innovative Interfaces Inc. system, and later implements a web-based catalog.
  • 1999 - The Library Center, the District's new flagship facility, opens at 4653 S. Campbell. Reference, local history and genealogy services are moved from the Main Library. Support services, including the administrative offices, technical services and the Outreach Department are also located in the new facility. It features a cafe and a gift shop. The facility replaces the Kickapoo Prairie Branch.
  • 1999 - Main Library is renamed the Midtown Carnegie Branch.
  • 2000 - Fair Grove Branch opens in the northeast Greene County town's city hall complex at 81 Orchard Blvd.
  • 2003 - The Library Express, a 30-foot long satellite-equipped bus, becomes part of the Library system and brings computer classes, storytimes and other programs to patrons.
  • 2003 - The Library Station, the District's newest destination Library opens at 2535 N. Kansas Expressway. The automotive repair collection, a comprehensive law collection and a local history and genealogy department are housed at the facility. It features a gift shop and a full-scale Panera Bread. The facility replaces the Kearney Branch Library.
  • 2004 - The District celebrates the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of the Midtown Carnegie Branch.
  • 2005 - Riverbluff Cave, a prehistoric find in Greene County, is unveiled through videoconferencing at the Library Center; Wi-Fi is installed systemwide.
  • 2006 - Photographs of Frisco train engines, employee record cards, depots and more are digitized and available on the Library's web site and is soon searched out by people from around the world.
  • 2008 - The Park Central Branch, a new urban concept in library service and the ninth facility in the District, opens in March on Springfield's downtown square.
  • 2008 - The tenth branch in the northeast town of Strafford opens in August.
  • 2009 - A new Willard Branch, a few yards from the present facility in the East Shopping Center, opens in July.
  • 2009 - A new Republic Branch, at 921 North Lindsey, opens October 31.
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