RIPL's 150th Anniversary

Celebrating 150 Years of Library Service in Rock Island!

2022 marks the start of our 150th year as a public library, and that’s a great reason to celebrate! The Rock Island Public Library began November 25, 1872, the first in Illinois to actually open for business after the passing of the 1872 Illinois Local Library Act.

We kicked off our Year of the Library with a birthday party on November 10, a rock dedication on the morning of November 14, and an official proclamation from the City marking November 2022 through November 2023 as the "year of the library."  The fun continues, with the following events in January and February 2023: 

  • Time capsule collection: Drop off items, notes, photos, clippings, memories, etc for the 150th anniversary year time capsule anytime during library hours from now until November 2023. 

  • "150 Winters" All Ages Winter Reading Challenge: January 14-February 25, all RIPL locations. Celebrate 150 years of winter reading by reading and logging activities in our Beanstack reading challenge. Our community goal is 150,000 minutes of reading this winter! Pregister via our Beanstack website. 

  • History... In Person! With Brian "Fox" Ellis: Walt Whitman's Lincoln, Wednesday, February 8, at 6pm. Portraying Walt Whitman,  Fox recreates a program Whitman delivered on the life and death of Lincoln woven with his Civil War poems and recollections of a misty morning encounter between Whitman and Lincoln during the war.

  • Balancing the Account: Shifting Public Perception of Native Americans from Deficits to Values with Dr. Jane Simonson, Thursday, February 9 at 5pm. Simonsen's talk will explore the historical roots of narratives about Native people and nations, and consider what kinds of initiatives can change the conversation around Native histories, communities, cultures, and values.

  • Sol Butler - The Greatest Athlete You've Never Heard of with local author David Sebben, Saturday, February 11 at 11 am, Downtown Library.  Local author David Sebben speaks on the life of 1915 Rock Island high School Graduate Sol Butler. An accomplished athlete, Butler played for the Rock Island Independents football team and competed in the long jump in the 1920 Olympic games. Join us to learn more about this legendary Rock Islander from a local expert!

  • Why Black History? Community conversations facilitated by Dr. Jacqueline Walls, and friends,  Saturdays from January 28 through March 4, 10:30 am, Rock Island Downtown Library. 

  • Birth of the Computer: The John Atanasoff Story, February 23 at 6:00pm, offsite at Wallenberg Hall, Denkmann Building, Augustana College, 3520 7th Avenue, Rock Island, Illinois 61201. This program is offered in collaboration with Davenport Public Library and Augustana College.

Pick up a list of 150 things to do at your library, and start checking them off! It's also a good time to apply or renew your library card!  As noted above, we have a full  year of events planned. Pick up a copy of our events list at any Rock Island Library, or check our calendar. 

Key Events in Our Founding:

March 7, 1872: Local Library Act passed, allowing municipalities to levy a tax for the operation of free public libraries.

August 12, 1872: The Young Men’s Literary Association presents an offer to Rock Island City Council to turn over the entire contents of their private library for the public good. The City Council accepts the offer, and passes an ordinance to create a public library for Rock Island, setting a tax rate of one-half mill per dollar of assessed valuation (well below the one-mill rate permitted by the Illinois Legislature.)

October 12, 1872: First public board of library trustees appointed.

October 18, 1872: Library Board elects officers, and approves renting rooms on the 2nd floor of the Michell & Lynde bank building, off 2nd Avenue & 17th Street. The library will remain here until 1903.

October 29, 1872: Library board meets to prepare for opening. A single 48-foot by 28-foot-wide room is rented for $150 per year. The entrance is on what is now West 17th Street. By-laws, operating hours, and library rules are adopted. 

November 7, 1872: Furniture and books moved into the Mitchell & Lynde site from the YMLA address (in the Bailey & Boyle block, just next door.) The inventory lists 2,174 volumes, periodicals, and documents, and assorted furniture. 

November 25, 1872: The “Rock Island Public Library & Reading Room” opens for the first time, with the first librarian, Miss Ellen Gale, in charge. Thanks to the YMLA donation, it is the first library to actually open in Illinois following the passing of the Local Library Act. 

November 26, 1872: A special board meeting was called to approve renting a second room, due to the public's enthusiastic response the day before.

See our Mission & History page or Gallery for more about our “storied” history

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