Last month, we learned all about the earliest iterations of the Galesburg Public Library, from the Young Men’s Literary Society to the first building at 221 E. Main Street. This month, we’ll learn about the next phase in our library’s story: The Carnegie Era.
As the city grew in the late 19th century, the library quickly outgrew the building on Main Street. Beginning in 1883, businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated money to cities all over the world to build public libraries. In 1901, Carnegie offered Galesburg $50,000 to build a new library, as long as the city agreed to maintain it. An additional $12,500 was raised via tax levy, and library construction began.
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As we continue planning and preparing for the new Galesburg Public Library building, we’re also looking back to the library’s history in Galesburg and how we’ve served the community for more than 150 years.
In 1858, Knox professor (and later acting president) Albert Hurd donated a collection of books to form the Young Men’s Literary Society. The collection was housed in the public high school until the city passed an ordinance in 1874 and a free public library was created. The same year, the first library board was established. Nine men were appointed to help build and maintain the library. The next year, the first librarian, Mrs. F.A. Smith, was hired. …
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