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Kewanee Library Logo. An open book with 3 people positioned so their arms resemble pages in the book.

Library Chronology

Our Early Years


  • Kewanee Township votes one mill for the support of a Public Library


  •  Kewanee Library Association organizes. A Constitution is signed and six association Directors (Trustees) are elected.
  •  Library opens in the newly built town hall, northwest corner of Tremont and Third, then called Library Hall.  John G. Blish is named 1st librarian.  There are 262 books in circulation and the library is open 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm on weeknights and 1 pm – 7 pm on Sundays.
  • Citizens of Kewanee elect the 1st Library Board of Directors
  • Voters approve a two-mill tax, the maximum rate under Illinois law.


  • The Library moves to the second floor of the Odd Fellows Building located on the northwest corner of Tremont and Seconds Streets.
  • Voters once again approve a two-mill tax, the maximum rate under Illinois law
Old black and white photo of the 1880 library board sitting around a table in the library. Six men in suits with papers and record booksold black and white photo of the old fellows building where the library was located for a time. Sign on the front of the building reads "Public Library" and several men are standing by the door. Sign on the side building reads "M. H. Hinsdale"

Kewanee Public Library Finds a Permanent Home


  • The Library begins to grow too large for its current home.
  • Andrew Carnegie is approached and promises $20,000 for a library building if the Township provides a site and if the citizens will maintain minimum annual support in the amount for $2,500.


  •  N.W. Tibbets, Representative from this district, introduces a bill, which passes the general assembly, enabling Directors of Libraries to borrow money for the improvement of a library building and to purchase a site for the said library building. 


  •  The Phillips property at Tremont and First Streets is purchased for the library site for $10,000.
  • Additional funds are needed and Andrew Carnegie agrees to provide an additional $5,000, raising the total funds for construction and the site to $55,000.
  • Architects Patton & Miller provide plans for the new library building which are accepted and construction begins.


  • Cornerstone is laid.  A copper box containing the History of Kewanee Public Library by Horace Phillips, copies of the catalog throughout different years, pictures, a variety of articles and coins is placed inside.


  • The new library is completed and reopens at its new location, on the southeast corner of Tremont and First streets, with a catalog of 8,744 volumes on its shelves, which have been reorganized using the Dewey Decimal Classification.
  • A card catalog is available for the first time.
  • During the grand opening, recognition is given to individuals and organizations who made completion of the second floor possible. Among the gifts received are the Pierce Art Collection and $400 from the women of the Kewanee to be used for new children’s books.
old black and white photo of the "reading room" filled with tables with lamps and chairsold black and white photo of the main floor of the library showing some bookshelves, tables, and a Shakespeare display
Old black and white postcard of the front of the library with "Library, Kewanee, ILL." in the bottom left cornerold black and white photo of the library circulation desk with tables and chairs in the background

Growing with Kewanee

old black and white photo of the library taken between 1910-1929. Picture shows the front and side of the library with several trees


  •  Nine townships and six city schools establish classroom libraries.


1914 - 1929

  • Small branch libraries are opened at Boss Manufacturing Company, Brandenburg Church, the Walworth Company, The Girls Club rooms, Kewanee Public Hospital, and the St. Francis Hospital.


  • Kewanee Public Library celebrates its 50th Anniversary, and an Endowment Fund of $700 is established.


  • The Lay Memorial Trust is established by the Lay Family with $25,000.


  • The Kewanee Public Library hosts WPA classes in bookbinding. Circulation soars.


  •  The Kewanee Public Library observes its 65th Anniversary.


  • Mr. & Mrs. Frank M. Lay establish the Edward Poole Lay Memorial Trust with $25,000.


  • A North Branch is opened at the northeast corner of Elm and Tenth Streets.


  • The Baker Trust Fund of $20,000 is established.


  • At a special election, voters in Kewanee Township increase the tax rate to one mill, the maximum rate.
old black and white photo of the front of the library taken around 1950


  •  Kewanee Public Library observes its 75th Anniversary.


  • Wethersfield Public Library is established by referendum.
  • The first Wethersfield Board is elected and signs a contract with Kewanee Public Library for library service, specifying that they would levy a library tax at the same rate as the Kewanee Public Library with which they would pay for this service.

Library Accessibility Increases

picture of handicap parking space next to handicap entrance to the library


  • Library joins the Illinois Valley Library System, a cooperative resource sharing and support network set up under Illinois library law.

1973 - 1974

  • To enhance accessibility, the Kewanee Public Library constructs a street level entrance and elevator on Second Street using funds from the Building Program and the Federal Revenue Sharing Funds from Kewanee Township.


  • Celebrating its 100th Anniversary, the Kewanee Public Library hosts special programs throughout the year.

1976 - 1978

  • Windows throughout the building are replaced as an energy saving measure which is funded with Federal Revenue Sharing Funds from Kewanee Township.


  • OCLC Computer connection is set up for cataloging and interlibrary loan under a grant from the Illinois Valley Library System.


  • The Henry County Genealogical Society and Kewanee Public Library sign a contract to maintain the genealogical collection in the library building.
  • The Friends of the Library is organized as a support group for the Library.


  • New heating and air conditioning system is installed,  funded in part with an energy saving grant from Illinois State Library.
  • Kewanee Public Library and Wethersfield Public Library each convert, by referendum, from a Township Library to District Library and merge into the Kewanee Public Library District with one Library District and one Library Board of Trustees, which serves as its governing authority. Voters pass a tax rate increase, the first in 40 years.


  • An automated circulation system and on-line catalog is set up to replace manual systems that have been in place since the Library was founded.

Renovation Years - KPLD Returns Home


  • A program for the renovation and restoration of the library building begins. Frye, Gillan, and Molinario, Architects are hired on, and a fundraising feasibility study is conducted.
  • A building bond issue of $675,000 is approved by voters for library restoration and renovation program.  Voters also approve an increase in library tax rate from .27 cents to .49 cents per $100 assessed valuation.
  • The Library Capital Campaign Task Force is formed as a fundraising group for the renovation project.


  • Kewanee Public Library District observes its 125th Anniversary. Jean Wilkins, Director of Illinois State Library attends as the guest speaker.
  • The Library moves out of the building for the renovation and into the Swedman Pharmacy Building a half block north of the Library.


  • The renovation is nearing completion, and the Library returns to its building.
  • An open house for the community is hosted to allow patrons to see the “new” Library for the first time. Jean Wilkins, Director of the Illinois State Library, attends as the guest speaker.
  • The Library adds a Spanish-language book collection for Spanish-speaking patrons.


  • Renovations work continues to finish the Community Room.  Meanwhile, outside exterior work begins replacing stonework and cleaning.
  • The new Reference Desk is installed, funded in part with a mini construction grant from the Illinois State Library.


  • Poetry book Days and Deeds checked out in April 1955 is returned 47 years later along with a check for the $345.14 overdue fee, measured at a fee of two cents a day landing the Kewanee Public Library into the Guiness Book of Worlds Records for the world’s largest fine for an overdue book.
  • Kewanee Public Library, along with several neighboring libraries, launches the Books for Babies program which provides children born within the last year their first book personalized with a name plate.


  • The Staff Parking Area is concreted.
  • The brick Kewanee Public Library District sign, funded by the Friends of the Library, is completed as is the landscaping of the front lawn and north side of the building.


  • The Year of Jubilee! The Library celebrates with a year of programs building up to the final 100th Building Birthday Party on November 4th.
  • The Carnegie Library Building is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The stained-glass window adorning the front of the building, The Tree of Knowledge, is cleaned and repaired.

Going Digital


  • The Kewanee Public Library gets Wi-Fi.


  • The Kewanee Public Library District celebrates 130 years in service.
  • A drive-up book return is installed in the alley behind the Library.


  • The Kewanee Public Library Districts teams up with the Henry County Genealogical Society and Kewanee Historical Society to begin work on digitizing the Kewanee newspapers.
  • Wrought-iron fence is installed to complete the outdoor renovation.


  • Congresswoman Cheri Bustos visits Kewanee Public Library to present books from the Library of Congress Surplus Book Program.


  • The Library briefly closes its doors to patrons due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but quickly pivots and begins offering an array of online programming and new services such as curbside delivery.


  • To make the Library’s front entrance safe for years to come, the front steps are torn down and replaced.
  • Kewanee Public Library receives an On the Road to Recovery: Transforming Library Spaces grant from the Illinois State Library and purchases activity panels for the Children’s Room, outdoor benches, and a picnic table, as well as updated indoor seating.


  • The much-loved toy room located in the Youth Services section of the library is revamped and more tactile sensory objects are added to allow children of all ages to decompress.



Monday  9am-6pm
Tuesday  9am-6pm
Wednesday  9am-6pm
Thursday  9am-6pm
Friday  9am-6pm
Saturday  9am-1pm
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