© Shelbyville Public Library, 2003

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In 1902 the Shelbyville Women's Club, encouraged by an offer of $10,000 from Andrew Carnegie, presented a petition of more than 500 names and organized the movement for construction of a Library.

Carnegie designated that the city establish a building site, maintenance fund, and a governing board in order to receive an endowment.The city appropriated matching funds, and the site of the old Shelbyville Seminary was proposed for the location of the new library building.

The Library was officially established April 7, 1902, and the first governing board was organized under T.F. Dove. A nine-member board appointed by the mayor and approved by the city council supervises all library business. Members are appointed for three-year terms, the librarian is chosen by the board.

"The dedication and transfer of the Free Public Library and Reading Rooms to the city of Shelbyville took place in a blaze of glory at the First Methodist Episcopal Church Wednesday evening. The exercises at the church began at 7:30 and lasted an hour.Immediately following the dedicatory services a reception was held at the library building. For the city of Shelbyville the hour was supreme.The magnificent audience which taxed the capacity of Shelbyville's largest church edifice and which afterwards went en masse to the classic-looking structure on North Broadway, was an unmistakable testimonial.It was a splendid exhibition of the people's attitude with regard to the city's latest triumph and showed that the public was heartily in sympathy with all that had been done."

The Shelbyville Free Public Library was dedicated May 3, 1905 and opened with an inventory of approximately 3,000 books and 25 periodicals.Grace Westervelt, daughter of the mayor, became the first of nine librarians who have been employed by the Library.

Although initially independent, the Library's growth has been aided since 1965 through affiliation with the Rolling Prairie Library System.The library joined the RPLS Local Library System Automation Project in 1995 and has increased its level of service to its patrons tremendously.

In 1987, the Library Board applied for and received a Build Illinois Grant. These funds provided the assistance needed to construct an accessible entrance to the facility and completed Phase I of the Library's building program. Because this program was ambitious, it had to be divided into two phases. Phase II was completed with another LSTA grant in 2000. Phase II added much needed space, a second meeting room, a kitchen area, new storm windows, and interior decoration that was in keeping with the style and elegance dictated by the building's age and beauty.