RIPL's 150th Anniversary

Celebrating 150 Years of Library Service in Rock Island!

2022 marked 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're celebrating until November 2023! 

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 Summer 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. 

  • May 17, 2023: Shakespeare's Life in His Works, with Genesius Guild 

  • June 14, 2023: Brian "Fox" Ellis, portraying John James Audubon

  • June 5, 2023: History Beneath Our Feet, places, markers, and people from our local history 

  • June 17, 2023: Broadway Historic District Walking Tour

  • July 12, 2023: Gangsters & Ghosts Walking Tour

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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