The Danville Public Library connects the community with knowledge, information and culture.
The first library in Danville was probably the Vermilion County Library, described in the Danville Enquirer, on November 4, 1837. It was open to all who would pay $1.50 to subscribe. It had a collection of approximately 118 volumes at the time of the news article. “The library is kept upstairs in the room immediately contiguous to the Printing Office and directly opposite the United States Hotel.” (This location has not been located on any existing map of Danville).
The next impetus for a public library, as we now know it, for the citizens of Danville came in 1864 when James Culbertson of the First Presbyterian Church bequeathed his collection of books to form a nucleus for a public library.
Three other collections were ultimately consolidated to form the Danville Public Library in 1883. After renting library space in three downtown locations over twenty years, the Board of Trustees applied to Andrew Carnegie, a philanthropist, for funds to build a home for the library. Carnegie granted the city $40,000 and construction began in 1903.
On November 7, 1904, the public was welcomed into the new building. The library was so popular that, by 1911, the library had outgrown the space in the new building. A second request for construction funds from Mr. Carnegie was denied, thus beginning the re-arranging of services and books that was to continue for 80 years.
The only major addition to the Carnegie building in 90 years was made possible by a $5,000 bequest from longtime library trustee Augustus Webster, who died in 1923. As a result of his generosity, the fiction stack room behind the circulation desk was built in 1929. In 1977, a referendum to build a new library failed. In 1980, a new east entrance was constructed in order to comply with handicapped accessibility laws.
When property located on the same block as the present library became available in 1993, the Board of Trustees began planning for a new, modern, efficient library building. In order to achieve this goal, a unique partnership was forged. The City Council committed $2.5 million, and the “Bring the Dream Alive in ’95” committee of the Danville Library Foundation worked to raise $1.5 million in private gifts from nearly 1,300 citizens. Success was achieved on May 26, 1994. This time, instead of one man paying for the new library building, the entire community was involved.
The Secretary of State/State Librarian, George Ryan, provided $400,000 to the project in the form of a library construction grant which allowed the purchase of new shelving and furnishings for the new two-story 39,800 square foot building.
Actual construction began in mid-August, 1994. On September 29, 1995, the general contractor, English Brothers of Champaign, turned over the keys to the library’s Assistant Director, Phill Cohee.
The Carnegie Building was closed September 30, after a Great Radio Flyer Wagon Train of 550 children initiated the moving of the books by moving part of the children’s collection to the new building in their wagons.
The grand opening for the new Danville Public Library was held at 4:30 pm on Tuesday, November 7, 1995, exactly 91 years to the day the Carnegie building opened to Danville residents.
Thus began a significant new chapter in the life of the Danville Public Library. “Dreams Come True.”
The Danville Library Foundation continues to work to support the dreams of Danville Public Library. A $390,000 renovation of the building was completed recently to update the lighting throughout the building to LED and create an enclosed teen area, a large group study room, a facilities office, and storage.