History of the Library

Your library was not always the bustling, high-tech, high-energy place that you know and love today.  120 years ago, the library consisted of 300 books and magazines in one small room and served a population of 1,445 patrons.  Today, the Marengo Public Library District resides in one slightly bigger room, has 61,224 items, and serves approximately 15,000 patrons.  Oddly enough, the earliest and the most current versions of our library were in the same building!  We actually started out on the (now non-existent) second floor of our current building, above the aisles where the adult non-fiction books about astronomy, cooking, and computers are located today.  The library was housed in five different locations between the first and this most recent dwelling, making our current space the seventh home of the library.
In March of 1884, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union opened a public reading room on the second floor of the W. F. Abbott Furniture and Undertaking Parlor on Main Street .  Local patrons donated their books, magazines and newspapers for everyone to enjoy.  Ice Cream Socials were a popular method to raise funds for the new library.  Electricity came to Marengo in 1896, and the city council very generously agreed to furnish one electric light for the library in 1897.
 
In 1906, the Woman's Club received 1,000 books from the estate of a local resident.  Not for the last time, the library had outgrown its building.  It was decided that the Woman's Club would be responsible for a public library for one year.  The library material from the reading room was combined with the inherited private collection, and two rooms were rented to hold them in the nearby house of Dr. Green.
 
One year later, an ordinance creating and establishing the Marengo Public Library as an official taxing body was approved, and a Board of Directors was appointed.  Our first official librarian was Miss Mabel Fay, who received a salary of four dollars a week, out of which she was to pay a cleaning woman to thoroughly clean the rooms twice a month.  The board agreed to pay a janitor fifty cents a week to tend the stove during the cold months.
 
By December of 1907, we had outgrown Dr. Green's house, and the library moved to Dr. Nutt's house on West Washington Street (now the municipal parking lot behind the present library).  In 1917, the library grew too large for Dr. Nutt's house, and we moved across the street into the Community Building (now Harris Bank) on the second floor.  The heating and lights were privately donated, and the library paid $15 a month for rent.
 
In 1927, we moved into our fifth location.  This time we moved into the ground floor of the brick building on the corner of Ann and West Prairie Streets.  Also in 1927, Robert E. Strahorn donated the money to create the beautiful Strahorn Memorial Library in memory of his wife, Carrie Adell Green Strahorn. Local contractor Andrew Lindquist constructed the building on the old site of Dr. Green's house at a total cost of $34,500.00.  The new library was officially opened in 1930.  In 1985, the community passed a referendum in order to change the municipal Marengo Public Library into a district library.  The library then became a self-governed taxing body, instead of being run and paid for by the city.  This new library district would serve Marengo, Union , and the surrounding countryside.
 
The library continued to occupy the Strahorn Memorial Library until 1991, when we moved (yet again) into our current (and first) building.  Things have changed quite a bit since we were in this building for the first time.  Even the years that we have been in our current space have brought many changes.  When we first moved to this building in 1991, we had no public computers, we held 29,000 items in our collection, and approximately 9,000 people came to the library.  In 2008, we owned eleven public computers, we held 60,755 items, and 65,513 people visited the library.  Quite a difference!  The most recent event was the Library Board's decision to change the Library's name to better reflect the larger community it serves.  As of July 1, 2008, the Library is now the Marengo-Union Library District.
 
No matter where we are, no matter how big or small our building, and no matter where we go from here, the mission of the Marengo-Union Library remains the same:  to supply our taxpayers with free and open access to any and all knowledge and information, to provide materials in order to serve their informational and entertainment needs, and also to provide the highest possible level of library service.  We are very proud to have provided library services since 1884, and we hope to serve the Marengo-Union area for another 120 years and beyond!

 

FAST FACTS
Number of volumes held:
1884: 300
1907: 1,150
1912: 1,724
1927 5,539
1935: 6,738
1949: 7,700
1957: 9,000
1961: 14,513
1968: 11,000
1986: 19,954
1990: 25,451
1993: 30,440
1998: 37,261
2000: 39,458
2010: 67,335

Population served:
1890: 1,445
1900: 2,005
1940: 2,034
1950: 2,726
1960: 3,455
1990 10,120
2000: 12,110
2010: 13,933

Attendance:
1894: 1,425
1895: 1,244
1907: 500
1993: 26,266
1997: 8,398
1999: 23,222
2001: 28,660
2010: 78,211