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Library History
1857

The library opens to the public in a single room of a building on Center St. It was opened by the Ladies' Library Association, formed in 1856, and supported by book donations and membership fees handled by the Ladies' Library Association.

1867

A charter is obtained from the legislature and the Association is incorporated under the name Bloomington Library Association.

1871

The library relocates to a hall located at 105 West North Street (now West Monroe Street).

1880

The library closes due to lack of funds. It reopens thanks to citizens who raise the needed $1,100.

1887

Mrs. Sarah B. Withers donates land at the corner of East and Washington streets for a library. A two-story building is erected and christened Withers Library. It is dedicated with speeches and a grand banquet.

1888

Withers Library opens to the public in January.

1894

The building and its possessions are turned over to the city. The library becomes a tax-supported institution, establishing a free public library.

1926

Library on Wheels is created. The service brings books and magazines to patients at local hospitals.

1930

Withers Public Library Bookwagon begins to deliver books to Bloomington neighborhoods and local schools.

1933

The Lake Bloomington branch of the library, the Nellie E. Parham Branch, opens. This branch provides services for East Bay campers and residents of the lake area. The branch closes in 1974.

1961

The library purchases a used Bookmobile from Moline Public Library that has the capacity to hold more than 1,500 books. Driven by college students, the Bookmobile increases the number of stops to neighborhoods within the city.

1965

The Library purchases its third version of the Bookmobile.
(In 1976, this Bookmobile is reconditioned and repainted to reflect the changing of the Library's name from Withers Public Library to Bloomington Public Library).

1976

Citizens for a New Public Library call a meeting to organize a Friends of the Library group. The group campaigns for voter approval of bonds for a new public library and succeeds.

1977

A new library is built at 205 E. Olive St. It is named Bloomington Public Library.

1979

The Extension Services (now Outreach) department is created to manage all services offered outside the library (Bookmobile, books-by-mail, etc.).

The Library's fourth version of the Bookmobile arrives.
(In 1990, this Bookmobile is reconditioned and repainted. Also in 1990, this Bookmobile becomes the first to service the areas covered by the Golden Prairie Public Library District)

1980s

Bloomington Public Library receives an Illinois State Library's Project Plus Grant, making it possible to send the Bookmobile on stops to surrounding townships to demonstrate library service. As a result, a referendum is held and these townships — Arrowsmith, Bloomington, Dale, Dawson and Old Town — form the Golden Prairie Public Library District which is served by the Bloomington Public Library.

1995

Kenneth Smith bequests $298,083.26 to the library.

1996

The Bloomington Public Library Foundation is established with funds bequeathed by Smith.

1997

The first computer network, funded through the Foundation, is launched. This brings Bloomington Public Library up to speed in the booming technological age.

1998

Sandra L. Beye bequests $50,000 to the library. This bequest is used to expand the computer network.

1999

The Library rolls out the fifth version of the Bookmobile. This Bookmobile carries 6,000 items and is the first Bookmobile to be equipped with computers.

2002

A grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation allows public computer expansion.

2003

The library receives an Illinois First Grant for the construction of the library's Computer Lab and expansion of the Information Technology Services department.

2006

The library undergoes a major renovation to help improve accessibility and customer service. There are now lendable materials on both levels of the library.

2010

The library adds self-checkout stations and a returned-materials sorter to its Circulation Department. Combine with RFID technology already in use, the new technology streamlines the circulation process. In the past, it would take overtaxed staff up to 12 days to remove returned items from a patron's account. Using the sorter and RFID technology, materials are now removed from a patron's account immediately.

2015

The Library rolls out its sixth version of the Bookmobile. This Bookmobile weighs 33,000 pounds, is 32.5 feet long, carries 3,500 items and makes 48 stops every three weeks.