Jacksonville Public Library
Backstory and Context
Jacksonville Public Library exists due to the generosity of Illinois College and Andrew Carnegie. Prior to its existence the citizens of Jacksonville created the Jacksonville Library Association which provided a subscription based library with annual fees of fifty dollars. Within four years the city creates the Jacksonville Free Reading Room funded by donations, and later the YMCA. Jacksonville then tried without success to support the library through a mill tax.
With the future of the Jacksonville library in jeopardy, L.O. Vaught, a local lawyer, writes to Andrew Carnegie to request the funding for a free public library in Jacksonville. In response to Vaught’s letter, James Bertram, trusted private secretary of Carnegie, writes back to Vaught to ask for more information on the city. Usually when Carnegie received requests from cities to fund libraries Bertram would examine them and present them to Carnegie in order for approval, and in the case of Jacksonville, Illinois, it was approved.
In order for the library to be established the city needed to find a location. Being a college town, the local college, Illinois College, gave the city a five thousand dollar loan to build the library. The location chosen was the southeast corner of College and Sandy Street, where it still stands today. The architecture and scenery remains in great shape just as when it was built. Carnegie prided his libraries on “achieving a feeling of the cultural and social context of the library within the community,” which it still does to this day.
The mural was created John Jordan of Caringbah, Australia to commemorate the generosity of Andrew Carnegie.
Bial, Raymond, and Linda LaPuma Bial. The Carnegie Library in Illinois. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1991.
Bobinski, George S. “Carnegie Libraries: Their History and Impact on the American PublicLibrary Development,” forward to The Carnegie Library in Illinois by Raymond and Linda LaPuma Bial, 1-4. Chicago: American Library Association, 1969.