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The History of Greenville Public Library

1914 GPL without date.jpg

Greenville Public Library has a rich, fascinating backstory. Scroll down for a list of some of the most significant dates in our library's history.

Our History


Free School Library founded

The first library in Greenville came about due to a growing need for students to have a good selection of books to help with their studies. Professor F. Gillman Cromer, Superintendent of Schools, was responsible for raising the money needed. A pageant was held at Martin Trainor's Opera House on West Third Street (later known as State Theatre). With a total of $75 raised, the Free School Library was opened in the old East School, three blocks from our current location.


New location sought

Free School Library had again outgrown itself. Henry St. Clair, seeing the need for reference services, offered to furnish and maintain one for the public. Later he donated his own reference collection. The Board of Education levied a 1/10 mill levy to maintain the library.


Carnegie Public Library opens

On March 19, our building was dedicated. A few days before the opening ceremony, area students stood in a line stretching from the McWhinney building up the new sidewalks of the new library. They passed the books from the shelves in one building to the shelves in the new. Miss Lucy Arnold, librarian, had the honor of carrying in the first book, the Bible.


Museum increases in size again

The museum now occupies three large rooms and the hall in the basement of the Carnegie Public Library. There were over 3000 separate articles exhibited in 40 cases.


The Library changes its name

The Carnegie Public Library name was changed to Greenville Public Library.


Updating renovations made to building

After an elevator was installed, the upstairs attic space was renovated into an office area for staff.


Ceilings restored to former glory

The main floor was redone by taking out the lowered ceiling panels and restoring the ceilings to their original look.


Library becomes automated

The library completes automation and shuts down for a week in June to allow the staff, board members, and volunteers to place barcodes on all of the materials.


Book drop returns to the library

A book drop was attached to the lower level entrance to allow patrons to return materials when the library was closed. Laminating machine is purchased by the Friends of the Library to cover library books and materials brought in by the public.


Library updates cataloging system

The library upgrades to a new Windows-based electronic catalog, POLARIS. Preparations begin for upcoming renovations.


Library returns to Sycamore Street

In June, the library was moved into the newly renovated location at 520 Sycamore Street. Ten new patron computers were added, four new children's computers, and the old Reference Desk was replaced soon after.


Levy passes to library's benefit

The community supported a 1 mil levy to last five years, allowing the library to supplement its state funds and restore business hours, as well as previous levels of materials purchasing.


Levy continued permanently

The community supported a permanent continuation to the 2011 1 mil levy, preserving current and future library functions. The library endowment fund was also created to aid preservation of the library's building and maintenance needs in the coming years.


Library adds a new book drop

In January, a new book drop was installed near the main entrance. Books now drop directly into the building into a bin located behind the Circulation Desk.


Library moves to Fifth Street

Local businessman Frank M. McWhinney donated a room in his brick business on Fifth Street to house the ever-growing library. His business was located at 118 West Fifth Street between the Law Library and the former Wayne Theater.


Cornerstone placed on Sycamore Street

A commission sought aid from Mr. Andrew Carnegie, and in addition to funds donated by Henry St. Clair as well as the Greenville school board, construction of our current location began. On October 30,  The Grandmaster Masons of the State of Ohio laid the cornerstone at a grand ceremony attended by hundreds of people.


Museum collection grows

From the building's opening, the basement floor housed a museum curated by Charles Katzenberger. During this year, Katzenberger and two members of the board of trustees brought back a priceless collection of firearms and military relics of the St. Clair and Wayne armies from Fort Recovery.


Museum moves to Garst Home

Running out of space to put the numerous books added to the library over the years, it was decided that the entire museum collection housed in the basement would be relocated to the old Garst Home.


GPL added to the Historic Register

Along with neighboring Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall, GPL was added to the National Historic Register of Historic Places on November 26.


Renovations continue

Renovations to the attic are completed and plans were made for the renovation of the old office area on the lower level.


Computers added to library

A computer was added to the Reference Room to help bring the library into the modern days. The computer allowed access to the Internet, and also CD-ROM programs such as phone directories and encyclopedias. At this time, staff member were converting the card files to computer to get the library ready for automation.


Circulation and Reference changes

The library designates the lower level desk as the Circulation area and the main floor desk as the full-time Reference area.


Computers added as need grows

More computers are added to the Reference Room to accommodate the increasing demand for Internet access.


Library relocates to allow for additions

The library moved to the Old Biddlestone building so renovations and construction of the east and west wings could begin.


Budget cuts affect operations

The library's budget was cut almost 30% as the state struggled to allocate funds to the public service departments. GPL saw shorter hours of operation along with cutbacks to materials and staff.


Upgrades improve library for patrons

GPL updated the computer lab to allow patrons to sign themselves in using their library cards. The library also saw some much needed upgrades to its security system.


New Circulation Desk installed

A new Circulation Desk was installed by Stull Woodworks beginning on June 25. Made of oak, the new desk was stained a dark, rich color to match the existing woodwork. 


Original front doors replaced

On September 5 & 6, the library had new front doors installed. The beautiful new doors are the result of a long-term project to update the historic front entrance at the top of the steps. They replaced the original set dating from the building’s construction in 1903, which are being stored for future re-purposing. The new doors are of a top-of-the-line, fiberglass construction that resists environmental abuse and guarantees decades of service.

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