If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that we use it to share snippets of local history. We hope you’ll forgive us if we take the opportunity this week to share some brief history of a local building that’s very important to us – the Davenport Public Library.
It was 40 years ago on October 5th that the new library on the corner of 4th and Main Streets opened its doors. Designed by famed architect Edward Durell Stone, the newspaper declared that the library was a building that was “designed for tomorrow”.
For those of you who appreciate “just the facts”, the current library is the third major library building in Davenport. The first was the now-demolished Cook library at Sixth and Brady Streets. The second was the Carnegie library building that opened in 1901 on the corner of 4th and Main Streets where the current library now stands. The library has 63,000 square feet on three floors and cost $1.4 million to construct.
One of the high tech features of the new library was the adjustable shelving that replaced the fixed wooden shelving of the earlier library. Another was the system used by customers to request a magazine from the closed lower level of the library. Library staff called it an “autowriter”. A customer would write the name of the item they needed on an electronic panel. That information was instantly transmitted to a staff person in the basement who located the item and sent it up to the first floor on a dumbwaiter. And, finally, the library had entered the automobile age and was now able to provide a drive-up book return.
If you’ve been in the library lately, you know that much has changed. In place of the card catalog, there are online catalog workstations. If you need an article from an older magazine or an out-of-state phone number or address, chances are you can find it online in one of the many databases the library subscribes to. The reading room space of 1968 now has twenty public access computers and instead of waiting in line for the circulation staff to check out your items, you can check them out yourself at the self-check machines and then renew them online from the comfort of your home.
Many things have remained the same, however. The high-tech adjustable metal shelving is still in use and the library is still “designed for tomorrow”. The open floor plan designed by Stone still offers the flexibility needed to change as library services have evolved, and more importantly, the overall “look” of the building remains undated. Last September the main floor was given a facelift – some new shelving added, the Children’s “room” moved to out of the back area to the main floor, the customer service desks were moved back to their original location near the front entrance, and the carpet was replaced. These changes provide improved customer service and also showcase the architecture of the building.
If you haven’t been to the Main library lately, we hope you’ll come to the 40th anniversary celebration Sunday afternoon October 5 and see for yourself that the library building is still “designed for tomorrow”!
More information on the history of the Davenport Public Library is available here.
(posted by Amy G)