Today marks the 93rd anniversary of the Haish Memorial Library Building! 


Did you know that before this beautiful building was built, the DeKalb Public Library was located underneath a roller-skating rink? Read the full story of the library’s history below:


The DeKalb Public Library began in the 1880s as a reading room of donated books that was staffed by volunteers. 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 in popularity, but lacked adequate funds to serve the public and nearly closed down. To avoid a shutdown, Annie Glidden and the ladies of the Library Whist Club began to donate a portion of their card winnings to the library—a partnership which continues to this day.


Although the library had a home, it was located adjacent to the city jail. 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 the third floor. Because of the noise from the skates, the library was forced to drastically reduce its hours.


On February 15, 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 of the Haish building.


Through the years the building has seen many changes. In the 1960s, an 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 a reference room and a lower-level children’s room. In 1980, the Haish Memorial Library Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In January of 2016, the first phase of a major expansion project was completed, adding 46,000 sq. ft. to the building. In September 2016, the second phase was completed with the re-opening of the remodeled Haish building that we enjoy today.


Thank you, DeKalb, for over 130 wonderful years!

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