Mansfield/Richland County Public Library
Backstory and Context
Around 1890 Miss Martha Mercer became the head librarian of the Memorial Library, which was then housed in the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building. Miss Mercer traveled to New York and met with James Bertram, Andrew Carnegie’s secretary. In 1903 Carnegie awarded a grant for $35,000 for the construction of a new library. There were conditions attached to this grant, the city had to supply a site for the new library and provide $2,500 per year for maintenance. At that time the Memorial library had an annual cost of about $2,300 and the library association had $5,000 available from the estate of John C. Larwill to help secure a site. The future looked promising. It took almost two years for a location to be secured and in January of 1905 the site of the Grace Episcopal Church on West Third Street was chosen. A few months later the library board selected Vernon Redding, of Mansfield, as architect for the new building, who also designed the Galion Public Library. The new Mansfield Public Library was dedicated on December 19, 1908 and open for business.
In 1914 Miss Mercer retired and Miss Helen Fox succeeded her as head librarian. During World War I the American Red Cross was housed in the assembly room of the library and in October and November of 1918 the library had to close due to Spanish Influenza. It was during this time, in 1924, that the library changed from a municipal library to a school district library, which allowed the library to increase its support by bringing it under the tax support of the schools. In 1927, Helen Keating, the first children’s librarian was hired. Miss Helen Fox passed away January 2, 1931.
Mildred Sandoe replaced Miss Helen Fox as head librarian. Miss Sandoe operated the library through the depression years when circulation elevated and funds were cut. In 1931 the first reference librarian was hired, Lois MacKellar, who would become head librarian in 1937 after Miss Sandoe resigned to work as a state library organizer. Lois MacKellar would serve as head librarian until 1963 and be the last female in that position.
The library began outgrowing its space and in 1950 construction started to ease this burden. The most notable changes where the removal of the front steps allowing patrons to enter on the first floor, and an addition added to the back of the building to extend floor space. In August of 1965, the roof caved-in over the circulation area and it took nearly a year for repairs to be completed. In May of 1987 library materials were moved to the Tucker Building on Park Ave. West and construction began on the expansion. In 1989 construction was completed on the Main library, with an opening ceremony on February 12, 1989.
Mansfield Daily Shield, 30 APR 1903, pg. 2.
Mansfield Daily Shield, 21 MAR 1905, pg. 1.
Mansfield Daily Shield, 10 JAN 1907, pg. 1.
Mansfield Daily Shield, 22 OCT 1908, pg. 1.
Mansfield Daily Shield, 24 OCT 1908, pg. 2.
Mansfield-Richland County Public Library Building Study, February 1978, pg. III-5-III-7.
“Public Library, Mansfield, Ohio,” The Sherman Room Archives, accessed October 17, 2019, https://shermanroom.omeka.net/items/show/323.