The More Things Change . . .

On June 21, 1923, the Davenport Public Library formally opened the new addition to its Main Street location.  The eighteen-year old building—the largest Carnegie library west of the Mississippi at the time of its construction—was already in sore need of more elbow room.

The addition was on the east side of the library and included a new stack room,* a cataloguing department, an office for the librarian,** and something called a ‘special library room.’  The stack room in the original building was turned into a reference room, and the children’s room was given a small parent-teacher reference room and stack area of its own.  The library also gained enough new basement space for a new smokeless boiler, bigger coal bins, and fire-proof rooms for the newspaper archives and documents collection.

These renovations were the brainchild of Miss Grace Rose, former Davenport librarian, and her successor, Miss Grace Shellenberger.**

The library opened in the afternoon and visitors, explored the renovations amid flowers sent by supporters of the library.  Music was provided by the Apollo Mandolin Club and the Orphans’ Home band.

The Davenport Democrat trumpeted the opinion of Julia A. Robinson, secretary of the state library board, in the evening edition:

“The Davenport library, as it stands completed today, is without a doubt the best equipped and most conveniently arranged of any library in the state.  Even Des Moines has to take second place now.”

Johnson Brigham, president of the board, agreed:

“Your library is one of the city’s great big assets and should be appreciated by every Davenporter.”

Isn’t that nice?

And now, eighty-eight years later, we are poised to open our third location so that we may better serve the east side of our city.  The Grand Opening of the Eastern Avenue Library is scheduled for early July.  Unlike Miss Shellenberger’s dream library, Eastern has meeting rooms, study rooms, computer workstations for all ages, a teen area, and a café.   It will also be LEED certified, with a geothermal heating and cooling system, stormwater management systems for the roof and parking areas, energy efficient lighting, and plenty of sunlight.

Because, in the further words of Miss Robinson:

“The library today is doing more than just handing out books over the loan desk.  It has a greater and more far reaching field than that.”

In Davenport, some things never change.


*The term ‘stacks’ is libraryspeak for an area of dense shelving which is often, but not always, closed to the public.

**The position of librarian in the early 1900s was equivalent to the current position of director.

Sources Used:

Coughlin, Betty.  History of the Davenport Public Library.  ([Cleveland, Ohio]: Western Reserve University, School of Library Science), 1952.

“Davenport library now the best in state say visitors form Des Moines.”  Davenport Democrat and Leader, 21June1923, p.4.

(posted by Sarah)

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