History of the Clinton Public Library 

The Clinton Daily Herald, Wednesday 06 Aug 1902 p. 5

The board of trustees of the Clinton public school library held an important meeting Tuesday evening in the city hall, with all members of the board in attendance. The building committee reported that it is in communication with the directors of several public libraries throughout the country. Visits have also been made by members of the committee to libraries in other cities and much information gathered which will be of much value in the erection of the building in this city. Five architects have been requested to submit plans for the building of the library edifice. The plans and specifications are not yet decided upon, but it is said that the foundation will have been completed before November 1. The principal business at last night’s meeting was the presentation and acceptance of the deed of the property located at the corner of Eighth avenue and Third street, donated by Mrs. W.E. Young as a site for the library building. The following resolution was adopted with regart to this matter. Be it resolved by the board of trustees of the free public library of the city of Clinton, Iowa, That the warrenty deed from Mrs. Emma E. Young and her husband, W.E. Young, conveying to this city as a gift for the purposeds of a free public library, lots 1 and 9 in block 23 in said city, be and the same is hereby accepted. "That this board on their own behalf and on behalf of the citizens of the city of Clinton hereby extends to Mrs. Young their sincere thanks for her magnificent gift so generously bestowed upon her home city."

The Clinton Herald, 07 Nov 1994

The first successful attempt to establish a library in Clinton was made by the Railroad Literary Association March 3, 1864.  Organizers were: Daniel Mahoney, William Lake, George Leslie, Henry Harrison, Thomas Haller, Leonard Berran, John Welfare, William Hall, John Coleman, William Thompson, William O'Donnell and Robert Leslie Jr.

Funds for the formation of the library were raised by a railroad excursion to "the grove on Silver Creek" on July 4, 1864 and $161.50 was raised and added to the treasury funds and $200 was used to purchase the first books. The books were located in a rented room at the law offices of Col. Frank B. Noyes but the rent was too high so, a year later, the books were moved to the front room of the Clinton Herald on First Street between Fourth and Fifth Avenue. 

In 1866, the Young Men's Literary Association took over and was now in charge of providing service to the community.  Over 500 books were moved to J. H. Churcher's bookstore on the Toll block.  There, Mary Robinson administered the collection and it was available for use on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The library services were Not free. Membership fees and subscriptions supported it.  As the membership declined, so did the quality of the library.  Books were ruined or stolen and debts accrued causing the facility to close.

In 1882, the Independent School District of Clinton agreed to take over the collection.  Schools were allowed free use of the books, every one else (except lifetime members of the YMCA) paid $2 per year.  Now the library had about 1400 books and other items.  Mrs. Henry Sabin was the librarian.  Mr. Sabin, the Superintendent of Schools, felt that no other city in Iowa had "a library equal to this."

In 1889, the library was reorganized and moved to specially fitted quarters in the new high school building. In 1899 there were about 8,000 books, thanks to a tax levy.  The school needed the space and the library was moved to the Temple Building until that building was purchased by the government for the Post Office.  The library moved again to the block owned by John E. Mooney where it remained until the new building opened in 1904.

During 1901, letters between Clinton and Mr. Andrew Carnegie brought a $45,000 donation to help build a new public library, where there would be free access for all Clinton County residents. The first board members were: George D. McDaid, Mrs. W. E. Young, Mrs. W. I. Hayes, Virtus Lund Sr., W. D. Walden, C. H. Young, Petrel Davis, Theodore Carstensen and George B. Phelps.  Incidentally, Phelps was elected secretary and held that position for 35 years.  When he died in 1937, he was the last original Board member still on the Board.

The land where the library is now was a gift from Mrs. Emma Lamb Young.  Groundbreaking was in June of 1903 and the building was completed a year later.  The first librarian, Belle Sweet, and her staff worked diligently getting things ready.  There was an open house on election day, Nov. 8 and the library was officially opened Nov. 9, 1904.  In the next 26 1/2 days 6,993 books were checked out.

To enhance library services, stations were established starting in 1906.  There were several station available throughout the community which included Chancy, Curtis Club House, North Branch, Beaver Island, Fire Station and Playgrounds.  Other than the Lyons Branch, only one other branch survived the early years.  Established in 1915, the Chancy station was located at several location on Camanche Avenue.  Because of rent increase, it was closed in 1949.  It was never reestablished because another location could not be found.

The Lyons Branch was established in 1926.  It's first location was over the post office (Heil building).  On Jan. 1, 1928, it moved to 74 Main Ave.  This building was owned by C. A. Norquist.

During the depression people came to the library with market baskets, not only for the cheapest type of recreation, but also for books which would enable them to earn a living in a new field.

In 1954, the Lyons Young Men's Association gave the ground and $12,354.21 in cash toward construction cost.  The City Council granted a tax levy for $27,389.02 and in 1955 the new library opened.

Over the years, many changes have taken place, as the pictures below with show.  There used to be a music room with recitals and everything.  The D. A. R. also had space in the library.  But, all-in-all, I think the library is a great place to visit, and yes -- I would like to live there, especially with the allocation of space for genealogical research. 


Clinton Library

Chancy Library

Chancy Library, 1928

Children at the Library

Public Library, 1930s

Music Room at the Library

Clinton Public Library, 1930s, upstairs in the meeting or 'music room'

Lyons Library

Lyons Library 1930s