A Brief History of the Carthage Public Library
As early as 1870, the citizens of Carthage began a movement to organize a permanent public library
for their community. Lecture courses and public entertainment were used to raise funds for a library
service that opened in a store front on the 600 block of Main Street. This first establishment loaned
books to patrons for an initiation fee of two dollars plus ten cents per week.
In 1902, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie offered $25,000 to build a public library if the citizens would
vote a tax to support a library and if the city could provide a suitable location for a building. Even though
they did not have the right to vote, women of the community circulated petitions for a supporting tax.
The vote to initiate a library tax carried 831 to 94.
The corner lot at 612 S. Garrison Avenue was chosen as the building site. The building, constructed of
Carthage marble, was built in a neoclassic style that was popular between 1900 and 1920. Frederick
Gunn was the architect. With 5,000 books on the shelf, the library opened on February 2, 1905 and
was one of three Carnegie libraries in Jasper County. There were 324 borrower cards issued at that
time. The first book circulated was Ben Hur and was issued to patron Nicholas Wolff who was a
telegraph operator at the Frisco Station. The first director of the Carthage Public Library was Miss
Elizabeth Wales who later became Secretary of the Missouri Library Commission in Jefferson City,
In 1986, the Library Annex was donated by Precious Moments creator Sam Butcher. Located at
510 S. Garrison, the building
provides office space and a community room with a small kitchenette.
The E.L. Dale Memorial Garden is located just north of the library building. Through funds from the
Steadley Trust and the Helen S. Boylan Foundation, a botanical garden with a Memorial Fountain,
a statue commemorating former Carthage Press editor
E.L. Dale, and an Alice in Wonderland
children's area enhance the grounds surrounding the library.
Augustine Birrell once said that "Libraries are not made; they grow." The Carthage Public Library has
certainly grown since 1905. It now houses a collection of over 48,000 volumes, and offers videos,
books on tape, large print books, a CD collection, children's reading programs, internet, genealogy,
and interlibrary loan services, and is supported by an active
Friends of the Library group. Other
features of the library include original art work by Jerry Ellis, Lowell Davis, Bob Tommey, and Barbara
Ivey, an unique low dome with stained glass, and a miniature doll and toy collection.
On November 4, 2003, voters approved a 3/16¢ Parks and Stormwater Sales Tax to fund $2.5 million
of a $4.5 million library addition and renovation project. The remaining $2 million was raised with private
Ground was broken for the construction of the new addition on February 6, 2006, the library's 101st
anniversary. The architectural firm Gould Evans designed the building, and R.E. Smith Construction was
the general contractor for the project. The 13,000 square foot addition opened on May 29, 2007, and
the renovation of the original building was completed in February 2008.
For more information, please e-mail us or call us at (417) 237-7040
during library hours.
Visitors are always welcome!