The Stillwater Woman's Club
The Stillwater Public Library was founded in 1922 by the Stillwater Woman’s Club, with dues of $1 per year being charged. On January 15, 1923, the Club opened Stillwater’s first public library in the former parsonage of the United Brethren Church paying $20 per month in rent. The Club organized a book drive, sorted and classified books, and served as librarians. On July 1, 1923, the City of Stillwater agreed to assume financial responsibility for the public library by hiring Harriet Woodring for $25 a month to keep the library open 3 hours a day and establishing a Library Board and building fund. Mrs. I.O. Diggs, from the Woman’s Club, was appointed to the newly formed Library Board. Mrs. Pearl Good served as Secretary.
The Community Rallies
In 1927, the W. T. Keys home, located at the corner of 6th Avenue and Husband, was purchased for $10,500 to house the library. On April 27, 1937, Stillwater voters approved the construction of a 12,000-square-foot library at the same location for $60,000. After the community voted by a 3 to 1 margin to fund a new library with the aid of a $22,500 Public Works Administration grant, construction began on a new building located at 206 W. 6th Avenue.
Sixth Street Library
The library at 206 West 6th Avenue was opened to the public on September 21, 1938, and formally dedicated on October 16 with over 1,000 in attendance and Dr. Henry G. Bennett, president of Oklahoma A&M College, as the principal speaker. The new library featured an auditorium, shelving for 22,000 books, and seating for 100 people in the reading room and 250 in the auditorium.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Stillwater Public Library underwent several renovations including the conversion of the basement auditorium into a children’s department, the addition of a mezzanine, and expansion of parking facilities. The library expanded to 13,500 square feet.
Washington School Branch
On August 10, 1944, Mrs. Ruth Simank, Miss Harriet McElderry, Librarian, and Mr. Edmon Low were appointed as a committee with Mrs. Valerie Ward and Mr. Lee Ward to establish a branch library at Stillwater's segregated school, named for Booker T. Washington. In July 1945, the City Commissioners allowed $1,000 for the project and Valerie Ward was appointed as the librarian. The School Board was to furnish housing quarters and the branch librarian’s salary while the main library was to buy books, periodicals, and supplies. The branch library was soon set up in the annex of Washington School. In May 1947, the branch had a collection of 696 volumes, annual subscriptions to 30 periodicals, and four newspapers, with a total book circulation in 1946-47 of 5,246.
The branch library suffered devastating material losses after floods in 1957 and 1959 which destroyed over 90% of the books, leaving only 308 volumes. Although efforts were made to replace the collection, after much discussion the decision was made on April 27, 1961, to close the Washington Branch Library on June 30 of that year.
The Friends of the Library
The Friends of the Library was created in the summer of 1980. Its first book sale in 1982 earned $1,183. Della Bennet, the library director from 1969-82, was instrumental in creating the Friends group. Today, the Friends and the proceeds from their biannual book sales are crucial to raising funds used for library programs, adding materials to the collection, and more.
The Library Trust
On February 20, 1984, the Stillwater City Commission created the Stillwater Public Library Trust with a five-member board appointed by the City Commission, the Library Board, and the Friends of the Library. The Trust with created initially "to form a vehicle for the reception and administration of contributions to and for the sole purpose of assisting with the costs associated with land acquisition, design, construction and equipping of a new library building." The Trust was later revised to its current mission, to provide support for library materials, programs, and equipment.
A New Home
On November 20, 1990, Stillwater voters passed a $4.98 million bond issue for the construction of a new public library at 1107 S. Duck with a groundbreaking ceremony on November 11, 1992. The new facility, under the directorship of John Augelli (1982-2001), included the renovation of the existing Stillwater South High School which was originally constructed in 1919 and served as the community’s high school until 1942 when the high school location was moved. Courses continued to be offered until 1945. From 1945-1960, the building was used as a junior high school. After 1960, the Stillwater School District used the building to teach various classes and for athletic activities.
In addition to the South High renovation, the bond also paid for the construction of a new 27,500-square-foot building giving the library a grand total of 50,400 square feet. The library opened its doors to the public on April 8, 1994, with a formal dedication on May 14. The new building ushered the library into the computer age. In 1988, computers for public use were purchased, changing how librarians help the public access information. The card catalog was replaced with an online catalog system.
The 21st Century
Under the care of Director Lynda Reynolds from 2001-2018, the library continued to grow into a technology and gathering hub. Reynolds instituted community reading programs and consistent free programs for all ages. She also worked to install the only known statue of Oklahoma Historian Angie Debo that resides in front of the library. Dr. Debo was selected due to her international recognition for boos on Oklahoma's Native Americans, her work at the Oklahoma State University Library, and her home in nearby Marshall, Oklahoma. Surrounding the base of the statue are the 38 seals of Oklahoma's federally recognized Native American tribes highlighting Dr. Debo's commitment to fighting for the civil rights of American Indians. The statue was dedicated on November 18, 2010.
Today, the Stillwater Public Library maintains its traditional core collections while providing the latest technological services. The library provides free Wi-Fi, access to computers, and meeting room space. Extensive online services and resources are available including full-text journals, more than 80,000 eBooks and eAudios through the OK Virtual Library, account management, and reference services. The library's core collection numbers over 80,000 volumes and includes books, audiobooks, DVDs, magazines, and newspapers. Special collections include Multi-Language, Graphic Novels, Genealogy, and Local Government, and historical archives.
Librarians deliver library materials to homebound patrons, assisted living facilities, and daycares. Free programs are available for children, teens, and adults throughout the year, including an extensive summer reading program. Unique to the Stillwater Public Library is the exceptional and technologically enabled meeting room facility with seven rooms and a large prep kitchen designed to host meetings, conferences, seminars, and classes.
Formats change, but what the library does stays the same. We provide free access for all community members, credible information, great stories, help using the latest formats and technology, and a warm, friendly welcome.