BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HERRIN CITY LIBRARY
The Herrin City Library was established in 1912 by an ordinance passed by the Herrin City Council. The Herrin Woman’s Club requested that the city officials establish a public library to serve the residents of Herrin. The library was to be funded by an annual library tax levy on the real estate property within the corporate limits of the City of Herrin.
Edith Campbell was the first Head Librarian and Mrs. Frank Murrah was the first President of the Board of Trustees of the Herrin City Library. The library was first located in a small room on the third floor of the old Herrin City Hall at the corner of Madison and North Park Avenue (Highway 148). The library’s collection grew and was moved in 1926 to a former private residence at the corner of 14th Street and Harrison (South of the old First Baptist Church). Mona Gosnell and later Mr. Carl Veach were Head Librarians at the 14th Street location.
In 1958, a bond issue referendum was held to finance the construction of a new library facility. The amount of the bond issue was $135,000 total. On May 6th, 1958, the voters of Herrin approved the issue by a 2 to 1 margin. Construction of the new library was begun later that year at the present location at the southeast corner of East Monroe and North 13th Street. The facility was completed and dedicated on September 13th, 1959. Mrs. Marvin (Maude) Owen was the Head Librarian at the new library.
The Herrin City Library had little change since 1959 with only a few interior renovations made over the past forty years. The front doors were remodeled in 1997 to allow for improved handicapped access. New lighting and carpeting have been installed too in the 1990’s. The library entered the “Computer Age” in 1993 when the first computers were installed. The Herrin City Library also joined the Shawnee Library System’s Dynix Network, which currently links 65 libraries in Southern Illinois. The same network provides access to the Internet and World Wide Web at the Herrin City Library. The Shawnee computer link makes its possible to borrow library materials from almost any library within the State of Illinois and the USA.
In the year 2000, the Board of Trustees of the Herrin City Library proposed to enlarge the present facility to 12,300 square feet, which would more than double the size of the library. The expansion would allow the collection to grow and would provide space for a meeting room and for a “Herrin History Room.”
Mr. Gerald Wharton, Head Architect at Architechiques in Herrin, was engaged 1999 to draw up designs for expanding and remodeling the 1959 library facility. The Herrin Library Board accepted proposed architectural designs from Mr. Wharton, which set the cost of the library expansion at about $1,250,000 total. The Library Board then launched a fund-raising drive in the Spring of 2000 to raise enough pledges to fund the project.
The fundraising was given a boost when the City of Herrin, led by Mayor Vic Ritter, pledged $500,000 in Building Bonds to assist with the Library’s Building Expansion project. The Library Board declared in the Fall of 2000 that about $500,000 more had been pledged in support of the Library Building Project. The pledges came from individuals, community groups, and businesses in the Herrin area. Together with the City’s Building bonds, about a million dollars was committed to the building project.
The Herrin City Library submitted an application to the Illinois State Library for a special construction grant to secure additional funding for the building project. In January 2001, the Herrin Library Board was informed that the Illinois State Library approved a special construction grant to the Herrin City Library in the amount of $250,000 total. Together with the local pledges, a total of $1,250,000 in funding was secured for the library building project.
The Library Board advertised for bids for the construction program. The bidding process resulted in Galloway Construction of Johnston City being awarded the contract as the General Contractor for the Herrin City Library’s Building Expansion program. Ground breaking ceremonies were held in June 2001 to launch the construction work. The facility was expanded from 5,000 square feet to over 12,000 square feet total. A community meeting room was added as well as a “Herrin History Room.” The newly expanded and remodeled library facility was dedicated in August 2002. The cost of the building program was $1,300,000 total.
In 2001, the Herrin City Library received four (4) computers from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The gift made it possible to offer four Public Access Stations, which could be used by library patrons to access the World Wide Web also known as the “Internet.”
The Friends of the Herrin City Library was chartered in 1995 and has raised about $50,000 that has been given to the library in support of the building program and other library activities. The Friends held its 10th Annual Pancake & Sausage Breakfast in March 2005.
The Herrin City Library has enjoyed tremendous support from the community both in 1958 and in 2000. Herrinites can take great pride in having one of the best public libraries in Southern Illinois.
Michael Keepper who has worked at Herrin City Library since 1992 and began his library career in 1972, retired from his post as library director on August 31, 2015. Susan Mullen became Library Director upon Michael’s retirement. Miss Mullen has been a librarian since 1992.