Library History

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The library opens to the public in a single room of a building on Center St. It was opened by the Ladies' Library Association, formed in 1856, and supported by book donations and membership fees handled by the Ladies' Library Association.


A charter is obtained from the legislature and the Association is incorporated under the name Bloomington Library Association.


The library relocates to a hall located at 105 West North Street (now West Monroe Street).


The library closes due to lack of funds. It reopens thanks to citizens who raise the needed $1,100.


Mrs. Sarah B. Withers donates land at the corner of East and Washington streets for a library. A two-story building is erected and christened Withers Library. It is dedicated with speeches and a grand banquet.


Withers Library opens to the public in January.


The building and its possessions are turned over to the city. The library becomes a tax-supported institution, establishing a free public library.


Library on Wheels is created. The service brings books and magazines to patients at local hospitals.


Withers Public Library Bookwagon begins to deliver books to Bloomington neighborhoods and local schools.


The Lake Bloomington branch of the library, the Nellie E. Parham Branch, opens. This branch provides services for East Bay campers and residents of the lake area. The branch closes in 1974.


The library purchases a used Bookmobile from Moline Public Library that has the capacity to hold more than 1,500 books. Driven by college students, the Bookmobile increases the number of stops to neighborhoods within the city.


The Library purchases its third version of the Bookmobile.
(In 1976, this Bookmobile is reconditioned and repainted to reflect the changing of the Library's name from Withers Public Library to Bloomington Public Library).


Citizens for a New Public Library call a meeting to organize a Friends of the Library group. The group campaigns for voter approval of bonds for a new public library and succeeds.


A new library is built at 205 E. Olive St. It is named Bloomington Public Library.


The Extension Services (now Outreach) department is created to manage all services offered outside the library (Bookmobile, books-by-mail, etc.).

The Library's fourth version of the Bookmobile arrives.
(In 1990, this Bookmobile is reconditioned and repainted. Also in 1990, this Bookmobile becomes the first to service the areas covered by the Golden Prairie Public Library District)


Bloomington Public Library receives an Illinois State Library's Project Plus Grant, making it possible to send the Bookmobile on stops to surrounding townships to demonstrate library service. As a result, a referendum is held and these townships — Arrowsmith, Bloomington, Dale, Dawson and Old Town — form the Golden Prairie Public Library District which is served by the Bloomington Public Library.


Kenneth Smith bequests $298,083.26 to the library.


The Bloomington Public Library Foundation is established with funds bequeathed by Smith.


The first computer network, funded through the Foundation, is launched. This brings Bloomington Public Library up to speed in the booming technological age.


Sandra L. Beye bequests $50,000 to the library. This bequest is used to expand the computer network.


The Library rolls out the fifth version of the Bookmobile. This Bookmobile carries 6,000 items and is the first Bookmobile to be equipped with computers.


A grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation allows public computer expansion.


The library receives an Illinois First Grant for the construction of the library's Computer Lab and expansion of the Information Technology Services department.


The library undergoes a major renovation to help improve accessibility and customer service. There are now lendable materials on both levels of the library.


The library adds self-checkout stations and a returned-materials sorter to its Circulation Department. Combine with RFID technology already in use, the new technology streamlines the circulation process. In the past, it would take overtaxed staff up to 12 days to remove returned items from a patron's account. Using the sorter and RFID technology, materials are now removed from a patron's account immediately.


The Library rolls out its sixth version of the Bookmobile. This Bookmobile weighs 33,000 pounds, is 32.5 feet long, carries 3,000 items and makes 48 stops every three weeks.