Galesburg Charleston Memorial District Library

Library History

The roots of library service in our community can be traced back to 1876 and the formation of the Ladies Library Association of Galesburg.

From "A Short History of the Galesburg Ladies' Library Association," by M. Ruth Burrell:

Many ladies of the village of Galesburg met at the residence of Miss Carrie Flint on Grove Street, this 20th day of December 1876, pursuant to a warrant issued by R. G. Smith, Justice of the Peace, authorizing said ladies to organize a Library Association.

It is quite obvious that the original idea of a library association was rooted in the village's proximity to Kalamazoo. As far back as 1852, the ladies of the county seat had formed such as association, "... the oldest women's club in Michigan, and, according to one authority, the third oldest in the United States." The constitution of the new Galesburg group was copied, with the exception of a few minor alterations in the by-laws, verbatim from the one drawn up by the Kalamazoo association.

At the founding meeting, the following temporary officers were elected: Mrs. A. H. Rogers, president; Miss Carrie Flint, secretary; Mrs. Mary L. VanBuren, treasurer; Miss Ella Proctor, librarian. The total number of books donated by the members to begin the new library was twelve.

One month later, on January 6, 1877, the ladies again met for their first annual meeting. A Board of Directors, numbering fifteen members, was elected by ballot. Permanent officers for the year 1877 were elected as follows: Mrs. M. M. Proctor, president; Mrs. Earl, vice-president; Mrs. Towne, secretary; Mrs. A. H. Rogers, assistant secretary; Mrs. Mary L. VanBuren, treasurer; Miss Ella Proctor, librarian; Mrs. Fannie Blake, assistant librarian.

When the Reverend L. M. Hunt donated the sizeable sum of $2,000 to the Association, the ladies responded graciously by giving him an honorary membership and thereby begging a custom of giving all men of the cloth joining the community the privilege of free membership.

The first of many entertainments promoted for the purpose of raising money for the new library was given in February 1877, raising a little over $17.00. Considering the fact that a year's subscription to the association cost only $0.50 per annum, the Association was doubtlessly pleased at the civic-mindedness of the people of the village. A further cause for rejoicing was the librarian's report that thirty volumes had been donated to the budding book collection.

By the date of the second annual meeting, January 6, 1878, it was reported that the library now totaled 181 volumes, of which thirty-seven were donations and seven accepted as subscription fees. The library collection had been relocated several times before finally being housed in the "Union Rooms" in the brick building on Michigan Avenue. Membership consisted of 105 women and fifty-five gentlemen for a grand total of 160. The initial burst of enthusiastic support exceeded the fondest dreams of the new Association. There always seem to be joiners who are eager to espouse a worthy cause, during its infancy at least, and here was no exception. Never again would the subscription roles boast as many names, for as the years slipped away the membership stabilized from between seventy and ninety hardcore supporters.