Edwardsville Public Library
Less than a year after Illinois became a state in 1818, the City of Edwardsville already had a free public library. The first library, preceding the current Carnegie library by almost 100 years, was chartered in 1823 and consisted of only 121 items and a single librarian, Mr. John H. Randle. The city’s original library catalog has been preserved and is still viewable today.
In 1879 the library was rechartered. The original library only lasted a short time but was maintained by a dedicated group of women including Sarah Coventry who served as head librarian from 1891-1937 and, with support from the community, continued to grow the library’s collections.
In 1903 Edwardsville resident Charles Boeschenstein, publisher of The Intelligencer and former mayor, wrote to Scottish steel magnate Andrew Carnegie to request funds to build a new library building. Edwardsville received $12,500 from Carnegie and the city donated a parcel of land in City Park for the library’s construction.
The Edwardsville Public Library was dedicated on June 28, 1906- library membership at the time only cost 10 cents a month for access to 500 books. The Children’s Room was built in 1926 and the library was renovated in 1953.
Just two years later, as renovations were drawing to a close, a fire broke out from an overheated stone hearth which quickly consumed the contents of the library. The stone walls survived the fire and the city began repairs on the structure immediately, reopening in 1957.
The Edwardsville Public Library has taken on a myriad of renovations since its reopening and now houses the Madison County Genealogical Society collections, a Children’s Room, the Gates Computer Lab, the Carnegie Café, and more. The library is utilized for many public functions serving the city and area residents with educational and recreational activities.