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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 PictureThe 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; and the present Director, Mrs. Lori Beck.
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.

This resource is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by State Library of Iowa.