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  St. Louis Public Library Founded
Brief Description:  The Public School Library Society was founded in 1865. It would later become the St. Louis Public Library. Although there had been attempts to establish a community library in St. Louis as early as the 1820s, the St. Louis Public Library traces its beginnings to an 1860 proposal by Superintendent of Public Schools Ira Divoll to establish a library as an integral part of the public school system. Lack of funds and the Civil War delayed action on Divoll´s proposal. In 1864 he modified his proposal to permit the establishment of a library related to the school system but not dependent on public funds for its support. The Public School Library Society of St. Louis was created by the Missouri legislature on February 3, 1865 "for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a public school library and lyceum." The library, with Ira Divoll as its first temporary librarian, opened shortly thereafter to all directors, officer, teachers, or pupils of the public school system, upon a payment $3 annual fee or a $12 life membership. Honorary membership was open to others for $25, payable in cash or books. Over the next three decades the name changed to "St. Louis Public School Library" and then, simply, to "St. Louis Public Library." The collections were expanded and augmented by donations and the absorption of other local libraries. By 1886, shortly after the word "school" was dropped from the name, the free library movement in St. Louis was gaining momentum. Librarian Frederick Morgan Crunden led the effort to make the library completely free to everyone. A bill drafted by Crunden authorizing municipalities to tax themselves to establish and maintain free libraries was passed by the Missouri legislature on April 10, 1885. After a vigorous campaign led by Crunden, the city electorate voted on April 4, 1893 to transfer the Library from the administration of the board of education to an independent board of library directors, with a special property tax assessment dedicated to support it. Although the transfer did not take place until 1894, the 1893 election date is commemorated as the year the library became a free public library.
Year:  1865
Decade:  1860 - 1869
Beginning Date:     Feb. 03, 1865

Divoll, Ira

Related Links
Libraries and Culture: Bookplate Archive

Literary St. Louis: a Guide



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