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The Chippewa Falls Public Library opened its doors to the community on February 5, 1894. In 1903, the library moved from the old McBean Building to a new Carnegie funded location. The current building at 105 West Central Street has been the library’s home since August 9, 1969.
LOOKING AT THE PAST
The Chippewa Falls Public Library owes its beginnings to a "book social" given by the People Literary Society in November, 1893. In the following month, the City Council adopted a resolution legally establishing a library which was opened to the public on February 5, 1894, in the old McBean Building, at 19 East Central Street.
Through the efforts of many individuals and a number of clubs and societies, the library gradually increased its book stock. Proceeds from concerts, balls, quilt raffles, and minstrel shows all went to purchase more books; and the City Council even allotted seven percent of the liquor license fees toward the upkeep of the library and the librarian's salary. With an ever increasing book collection, it wasn't long before library patrons were allowed to take out two books at a time.
During 1902, in great part through the efforts of Leslie Willson, the Andrew Carnegie Foundation agreed to give $20,000 for the erection of a new library building "If the City of Chippewa Falls pledges itself to support a Free Public Library at a cost of not less than two thousand dollars a year, and furnishes a suitable site." After considering several possibilities, a site was selected, plans were approved, and construction was started. The move to the new structure was made toward the end of the following year and the library was officially opened on December 5, 1903.
Three events which occurred over the years are noteworthy. In 1914, the library was modernized with electric lighting. On January 15, 1915, a fire in the office of the library caused about $3,000 damage and spoiled a plan to exhibit a large collection of new books. Many of the early records of the library were also destroyed in this fire. In June of 1949, a children's room was opened as the result of money that had been given as a memorial to Minnie Enger, who had worked in the library for 30 years until her death in 1947. This sum was enlarged with money from other sources and the children's department got off to a good start.
The Carnegie Public Library stood across the street from the current library's location from 1903 to 1969. It had been recognized for a number of years that the Carnegie building had outlived its usefulness as a functionally satisfactory library facility. It was "not only inadequate for the safe maintenance of current stocks and efficient operation" but was also inadequate for the "development of services to satisfactorily serve Chippewa Falls and the surrounding area." (Quoted from the Building Program Statement which was prepared by William Duren.) Considering the steadily increasing demands being made on the library for the expansion of existing services and the creation of new programs; considering the consistent growth in circulation and in the number of patrons; and considering the small but steady growth of the population being served by the library, the need for improved library facilities was great. Recognizing this great need, the cooperative efforts of the board of Trustees, the City Officials, the Library staff and many interested citizens resulted in the decision to build a new library for the City of Chippewa Falls.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Construction of the present library building was started in mid-1968 and was completed roughly one year later, with the move from the old building being made on August 9, 1969. A dedication ceremony was held on September 28th, 1969. Over the past half century the cultural, informational and recreational needs of our community have changed in significant ways and the library has adapted to meet these changing needs. The library has been a member of the Indianhead Federated Library System since 1978 and joined the MORE Consortium in 2004, giving patrons access to materials from over 50 libraries in western Wisconsin. While joining the consortium has brought increased access to materials for patrons, the broad scope of new material formats and ever changing cultural and technological landscape have impacted building usage. As we celebrate the library’s 50 th anniversary in the present building in 2019, we look forward to beginning a community conversation about what the library for the next half century or more should look like!
The picture above was taken in 1999. The Main Reading Room had an upgrade with computers and more seating added.
The picture above was taken in 2018. The Main Reading Room had an upgrade with new computers, more comfortable seating, new carpeting and a new coat of paint.