The Stillwater Public Library was founded in 1922 by the Stillwater Woman’s Club with dues of $1 per year being charged. On January 15, 1923, the Club opened Stillwater’s first public library in the former parsonage of the United Brethren Church paying $20 per month in rent. The Club organized a book drive, sorted and classified books, and served as librarians. On July 1, 1923, the City of Stillwater agreed to assume financial responsibility for the public library by hiring Harriet Woodring for $25 a month to keep the library open 3 hours a day and establishing a Library Board and building fund. Mrs. I.O. Diggs, from the Woman’s Club, was appointed to the newly formed Library Board. Mrs. Pearl Good served as Secretary.
(Photo: Library construction during the summer of 1938)
In 1927, the W. T. Keys home, located at the corner of 6th Avenue and Husband, was purchased for $10,500 to house the Library. On April 27, 1937, Stillwater voters approved 3 to1 the construction of a 12,000 square foot library at the same location for $60,000. Built with an additional $22,500 Public Works Administration grant, the Library at 206 West 6th Avenue was opened to the public on September 21, 1938, and formally dedicated October 16 with over 1,000 in attendance and Dr. Henry G. Bennett, president of Oklahoma A&M College as the principal speaker. The new library featured an auditorium, shelving for 22,000 books, and seating for 100 people in the reading room and 250 in the auditorium.
(Photo: Children read during "Book Week" 1942 which was themed "Forward with Books")
On August 10, 1944, Mrs. Ruth Simank, Miss Harriet McElderry, Librarian, and Mr. Edmon Low were appointed as a committee with Mrs. Valerie Ward and Mr. Lee Ward, of Washington School, for the purpose of establishing a branch library. In July 1945, the City Commissioners allowed $1,000. The School Board was to furnish housing quarters and the branch librarian’s salary while the main library was to buy books, periodicals and supplies. The branch library was soon set up in the annex of Washington School. In May, 1947, the branch had a collection of 696 volumes, annual subscriptions to 30 periodicals, and four newspapers, with a total book circulation in 1946-47 of 5,246.
The branch library suffered devastating material losses after floods in 1957 and 1959 which destroyed over 90% of the books, leaving only 308 volumes. Although efforts were made to replace the collection, after much discussion the decision was made April 27, 1961, to close the Washington Branch Library on June 30 of that year.
(Photo: The record rack circa 1970)
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Stillwater Public Library underwent a number of renovations including conversion of the basement auditorium into a children’s department, addition of a mezzanine, and expansion of parking facilities. The library expanded to 13,500 square feet.
On February 20, 1984, the Stillwater City Commission created the Stillwater Public Library Trust with a five-member board appointed by the City Commission, Library Board and Friends of the Library. The Trust was created initially “to form a vehicle for the reception and administration of contributions to and for the sole purpose of assisting with the costs associated with land acquisition, design, construction and equipping of a new library building.” The Trust was later revised to provide support for materials, programs, and equipment.
On November 20, 1990, Stillwater voters passed a $4.98 million bond issue for the construction of a new public library at 1107 S. Duck with a groundbreaking ceremony on November 11, 1992. The new facility included the renovation of the existing Stillwater South High School and construction of a new 27,500 square foot building giving the library a grand total of 50,400 square feet. The library opened its new doors to the public on April 8, 1994, with a formal dedication on May 14.
The library’s north building was originally constructed in 1919 and served as the community’s high school until 1942 when the high school location was moved. Courses continued to be offered until 1945. From 1945-1960, the building was used as a junior high school. After 1960, Stillwater Public School District used the building to teach various classes and for athletic activities.
The Stillwater Public Library provides the latest technological services while maintaining its traditional, core collections. The library provides free wireless service and twenty-six internet accessible computers. The library hosts an additional 10 computers in its lab as well as a state of the art video conferencing center for a variety of programs, classes and meetings. Extensive online services and resources are available including full text journals, e-books, audio books, account management, and reference services. The library’s core collection numbers over 90,000 volumes and includes books, audio books, music CDs, DVDs, magazines and newspapers. Special collections include Multi-Language, Graphic Novels, Genealogy, and Local Government and historical documents.
(Photo: The Library in 2013)
An Outreach Program delivers library materials to homebound patrons, assisted living facilities and daycares. Programs for children, teens, and adults are available throughout the year, including an extensive summer reading program. Unique to the Stillwater Public Library is an exceptional and technologically enabled meeting room facility with seven rooms and a large prep kitchen designed to host meetings, conferences, seminars, workshops, receptions, weddings, and small conventions.
On November 18, 2010, the Library dedicated the only known statue of Oklahoma Historian, Angie Debo, on the front lawn. Dr. Debo was selected due to her international recognition for books on Oklahoma’s Native Americans, her work at the Oklahoma State University Library, and her home in nearby Marshall, Oklahoma. Surrounding the base of the statue are the 38 seals of Oklahoma’s federally recognized Native American tribes highlighting Dr. Debo’s commitment to fighting for the civil rights of American Indians.