A Brief History of
The DeKalb Public Library
What we know as the DeKalb Public Library began life in the 1880s as a reading room, staffed entirely by volunteers and populated with donated books. In 1893 the City Council established a public library in a room on the second floor of City Hall, which was then located at 125 South Second Street. By 1895 the library was growing, but it lacked adequate funds to serve the public and nearly closed down. Into this breach marched Annie Glidden and the ladies of the Library Whist Club who donated a portion of their card winnings to the Library for the purchase of books. This partnership continues to this day.
Although the library had a home, it lived next to the city jail and was eager to move. In 1923 the library moved to the second floor of the Daily Chronicle building at 114 East Lincoln Highway, which also housed a roller skating rink on its third floor. Because of the noise from the skates the library was forced to drastically reduce its hours.
On February 15th, 1931, the beautiful Haish Memorial Library Building at 309 Oak Street was dedicated. Built on land provided by the city and financed by a bequest of $150,000 from barbed-wire millionaire Jacob Haish, the striking building with its Indiana Bedford limestone facade soon gained national recognition through an article in Architecture magazine. In 1934 the library received a mural by Gustaf Dahlstrom from the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project. The mural is installed over the fireplace in the main reading room.
Through the years the building has seen many changes. In the 1960's the art gallery in the east wing was made into a children's room and the stacks were expanded upward. In 1978-79 a two-story addition on the south side provided for the reference room and a lower-level children's room, and saw the east wing become the fiction room. In 1980, the Haish Memorial Library Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Our building program is a detailed statement of all the spaces the library would need in an expanded or new library building, including the contents of each space and its location in relation to the other spaces in the library. Building programs are designed to help architects develop floor plans that provide required spaces