HISTORICAL POSTCARDS OF SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI
Three postcards show views of Springfield's new public library as it looked after 1905 when it was opened to the public. This black and white photo postcard is postmarked 1908; the next postcard appears to be an embellished copy of the first. It is postmarked in 1911. The third postcard appears to be slightly newer as it shows more landscaping, an awning over the front door, and the tree on the left appears to have grown. It is not dated.
The Springfield Library began in 1901 when local citizens Elwyn Bentley and Frank B. Williams called a meeting of 50 citizens to establish a free public library. Andrew Carnegie gave $50,000 to build the structure and in return requested that the city pay $5,000 annually for materials and upkeep. Land was purchased from Jean Schmook on the corner of Central and Jefferson, considered an ideal location near the high school and Drury College. The address is 397 East Central Street. A lawsuit and construction problems delayed the building, but in September 1903 the cornerstone was laid and on March 12, 1905 the library opened to the public. The building was constructed of limestone in the traditional style of the many Carnegie libraries around the country. The architects were Reed and Heckenlively. The first librarian was Miss Emma Parks, who ran the library alone for the first several years, with hours of operation only four hours per day, three days per week. By 1915 the library was open seventy-six hours per week, with three employees. In 1910 the library owned one book for each registered borrower: 2,793 books, 2,793 readers. An interesting note is that the library loaned player piano rolls in 1922, but discontinued this soon after starting it because the rolls would get mixed up.
During the period from 1936 to 1939 the east and west wings of the library were expanded about 19 feet to make room for offices and reading rooms. The work was done through the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) and the stone and lumber were reworked from the original building, making it very difficult to see where the new addition began and the old building left off. In the 1940s, two lots behind the library were purchased to make a parking lot.
The next major renovation was in 1977 when an elevator was installed and a ramp was made. In 2001 the library was renovated again, bringing it into the 21st century.