Computers and audiovisual materials sit side-by-side with Lincoln Library’s 300,000 volumes of fiction, nonfiction, and reference materials. In addition, there is the availability of online research databases, home delivery through our Extension Services, and an e-library, lending materials such as audio books and eBooks. Popular areas are Youth Services for children and teens, and the Sangamon Valley Collection for genealogists and historians.
The library’s board and staff stand firm in their mission to inform, enrich, and empower Springfield citizens through abundant library resources and technologies.
Libraries have long been a part of the Springfield community. The first libraries were subscription libraries for which individuals would pay an annual fee to borrow materials. By the turn of the twentieth century, the growth of public libraries began to increase across the country. In fact, the Springfield Library Association, a subscription library, voted to turn its collection over to the city to serve as the foundation for a free public library for Springfield’s residents. With the approval of the City Council, an ordinance was passed on February 1, 1886, providing for the city’s first public library: the Springfield Public Library.
For the first several years of its existence, the library did not have a permanent home. By 1894, the library moved from its original location in the YMCA building at 5th and Capitol streets to the third floor of City Hall. However, just as the city was growing so too was the library’s collection.
At this time, the industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was providing funds for public libraries across the country. In 1899, a request was sent to Mr. Carnegie asking for funds to help build a new library for the citizens of Springfield. In 1901, the city’s request was approved. Construction began on the new library in 1902 and was completed in 1904, with the building being dedicated on June 7, 1904. With the new building came a new name: Lincoln Library, a name recommended by Andrew Carnegie himself!
The new building was striking. However, it was designed to hold only 40,000 books and its architectural style was not amenable to expansion. In 1904, when the library opened, its collection was already over 34,000 volumes. Over the years, changes were made to accommodate growth, which included raising the roof and adding a floor.
In the 1920s, new branches were established throughout the city. The library not only had its main location at 7th and Capitol streets, but now there were North, South, West, and East branches. Yet, the main library’s collection continued to grow. Plans for a new library were already being considered as early as 1935. However, agreement was not reached until 1974.
Beautiful but impractical, the original Carnegie library building was demolished to make way for a 3-story, 94,500 square foot structure. During construction, the library continued to operate out of temporary facilities located in a former JC Penneys store at 522 E. Adams.
With construction complete by 1976, the new library made its grand opening to the public on February 21, 1977 with a collection of over 250,000 volumes.
The library still operates out of this same building today. With time, changes have been made. Technology has a foothold in today’s library. Sadly, the branches have closed.