History of the Centralia Public Library

All newspaper pictures on this page are courtesy of the Centralia Fireside Guard

A Brief History:

In 1899, a small group of ladies joined together to form the Mid-Week Club, a literary club for book study and intellectual enrichment. In January 1901, unhappy with the quality and type of books available from traveling libraries, the club secured an upstairs room in the old City Hall and held a tea.  Admission was a gift of a book or books that were used to start a library. Members were assessed $1.00 each which was used to establish a library fund. Mrs. Anna Willis, a Mid-Week Club member, was hired as the first librarian. On November 3, 1903, the club donated the library to City Council, and it became the Centralia Public Library.

library.2-300x266 The city continued to pay the librarian’s salary and the Mid-Week Club supplied books and supervision until July 1913 when the city, with its own financial difficulties, handed the library back to the Mid-Week Club. In April 1918, due to low finances and World War I, the library closed. In August 1920 a women’s organization, P.E.O., came to the aid of the library.  All Mid-Week and P.E.O. members combined efforts, and the library was opened a few weeks later.

library.3-300x273 In 1938, the Missouri Legislature decreed that any public library without tax support had to become a part of the county system, and on April 1941, a 7-mil tax was voted in for the library support. In 1963, the library moved to 304 E. Sneed Street after the Chance Foundation presented the residence and the lot to the city for specific use as a library. This two-story residential structure underwent structural renovation in 1987. Reinforcing and replacing supports were needed to handle the weight of books on the ground level. Despite this renovation, books could not be placed on the second floor of this 1,889-square-foot building.

The library board of trustees purchased a vacant lot at Jefferson and Head Streets in 1971 from Gerald Bryson for $6,500 for the purpose of building a new library. In November 1996, after a community pledge and donation drive, library district voters approved a $350,000 bond proposal.  Construction began in July 1997 on an estimated $519,821 new 5,375 square foot structure. On March 28, 1998, volunteers from the community loaded books in boxes and moved them in pick-up trucks to the new facility while approximately 200 adults and children participated in a “book brigade”. Once again the library closed temporarily and reopened on April 20.

In October 2003 the library celebrated 100 years with food and fun in the library. Today, the Centralia Public Library is thriving, due to the support of the community.

A more in-depth history of the library is available (9 pages long) upon request from centraliapl@gmail.com

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