Rock Island Public Library celebrates 150th birthday

Rock Island Public Library celebrates 150th birthday
Rock Island Public Library celebrates 150th birthday(KWQC)
Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 12:04 AM CST
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ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (KWQC) - A Quad Cities library celebrated a milestone decades in the making Thursday evening, complete with birthday cake and gifts.

The Rock Island Public Library will celebrate its 150th birthday later on Nov. 25. Thursday’s party kicks off the “Year of the Library,” in the city.

One book lover, Elizabeth McCoy, often finds herself spending hours downtown at the library. She said the building means so much to her and many others.

“Honestly, it’s really a safe space for me,” McCoy said. “When I did kind of figure out that this was a free resource that I could use, [was] just nice to have an independent place where I can come and just kind of, you know, relax.”

The Rock Island library was the first library to open its doors to the public in the state.

Since then its services have changed tremendously. Library Director Angela Campbell said people like McCoy are the future of the library.

“Having that community space to go to is going to become even more important for libraries,” Campbell said. “That’s something that we thrive on. And we really want everyone to come visit us and have those conversations.”

In March 1872, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Local Libraries Act, allowing city governments the ability to collect taxes for the operation of a library. That led Rock Island to quickly establish one of its own. It opened on November 25, 1872, in a space rented from a local bank.

Fast forward to today, Mayor Mike Thoms said the birthday party commemorates an important city resource.

“It just cannot be said enough that you’re setting the pace for the next 150 [years],″ Thoms said. “People think of books to check out and read and bring back. It’s far more than that now. Far, far more than that.”

The current building was completed in 1903. When thinking about the library as a whole turning 150, McCoy said it takes on a much bigger meaning.

“I think of all like the girls like my age that have come here before., and have studied in the same library,” McCoy said. “This building is beautiful ... Like the knowledge and everything that is contained here is, honestly, it’s crazy to think about.”

The festivities continue Monday at 10 a.m. with the unveiling of a new monument commemorating the location of the first library on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 17th Street.

Rock Island City council will then officially recognize the “Year of the Library” at its next meeting. It runs through next November.