Library History

Read how this library was established and how it has evolved to become such an important part of our community.

The beginnings of what was to become the Onawa Public Library started as early as 1894 when the Monona County Jail became the repository of 25 volumes available to the public.  In 1874, the Franklin Township Library books were moved to the new schoolhouse with additions by Judge Oliver, and this founded the Onawa School Library. 
                                                   Old Library Building Picture

The Library had many homes prior to the present location.  In November 1906  a grant of $10,000 was received from  Andrew Carnegie, wealthy philanthropist, toward the new Library building and Judge Addison Oliver proposed to give an additional $20,000 - $10,000 for the erection of the building and $10,000 for a permanent endowment.  B.D. and C.H. Holbrook donated six twenty foot lots for the site, which is the present location of our Library.

The laying of the cornerstone for the Library was on October 17, 1908.  This grand occasion was attended by an array of citizens of the community.  The building was completed and ready for occupancy in the fall of 1909.
Some of our librarians have included: Maude Oliver, niece of Judge Oliver; Miss Estella Wiley; Miss Ellen True; Frances Cleghorn; Helen Allen Burgess, Mrs. Clarence Johnson; Mrs. Frank Durr; Mrs. Myrtle Williams; Mrs. Barbara Blagg Cooper Zastera; Mrs. Virginia Erlandson; Mrs. Lori Beck and the present Director, Amy McDermott.

The Library was entered into the National Registry of History in October of 1979 and is now recognized as one of the best examples of Prairie School Architecture.  Designed by a firm of Chicago architects, the Library shows the marked influence of Sullivan.

The Onawa Public Library is a classic example of the Chicago School of Architecture and is a one of a kind in its class.  The original architectural elements have kept their style over the many years including the addition which maintains the original architectural style.

The library expansion project was completed in October 2005. The design placed great emphasis on extending the style and materials of the existing historic Carnegie Library building while providing the needed expansion.

The Onawa Library provides a safe, comfortable location for the community to check out books, movies, magazines, and various other items; utilize the computer and Wi-Fi; print, copy, and fax; hold meetings; safe place for DHS family visits; test proctoring; passport processing; and a place to just relax and feel welcome.