The origins of the library in Elmwood are difficult to trace: only fragmentary references appear in available records. Apparently the idea began in the 1850's and 1860's when several women's organizations set up an informal exchange among themselves, contributing their own books as a revolving collection. It has been impossible to learn the names of those responsible for the original plan or those who first conceived expanding the program for public benefit.
The Elmwood Chronicle stated on April 19, 1867: The Elmwood Library will be found in the office of the Chronicle and books may be obtained at all hours from 7 in the morning to 6 at night.
The Elmwood Gazette stated on April 7, 1898: The school library will be open to the public every Thursday afternoon from 4 to 5 o'clock.
In 1910, a group of women formed the Library Association and housed books on the second floor of the Venn Building (113-115 West Main Street. Later the reading room was moved to a cottage at 205 West Main Street.
A tax levy of $900 was requested from the City Council on June 5, 1922 to support a fully functioning public library. The City Council approved the tax levy as requested and the library was supported by the city tax until 1951-1952 when the Morrison and Mary Wiley Library was opened.
In 1924, the building at 105 South Magnolia Street was purchased for the Elmwood Public Library. Construction of a new library building at 206 West Main Street began on November 16, 1949. Plans and specifications were completed by the Peoria architectural firm of Emerson, Gregg and Briggs. Elmwood's new library was made possible through the generosity of the late J. E. Wiley, who died November 18, 1920. In his will, he left a 640 acre farm, valued at the time at $150,000, to a corporation named the Morrison and Mary Wiley Library Corporation, with Dr. D. H. Morton, J. P. Bourgoin, Lee Miller, Charles E. Smith and Chas. E. McDonald named as trustees. After the death of Mr. McDonald, Mr. Harold Shissler was appointed by the board to fill the vacancy.
The corporation was formed on June 2, 1926, and since that time has managed the affairs of the farm and the library trust fund. The income from the farm has been accumulating and when sufficient funs were available, the contracts were let for the actual construction of the building. The total cost for he building was approximately $90,000.00.
The Morrison and Mary Wiley Library building contains a large reading room with mezzanine study areas. Over 20,000 can be housed in the stacked located on two levels. Also, on the first floor is a children's room, which in earlier years was a small exhibition area where historical objects and artistic displays were shown to the public. On the second floor, a large meeting room and space for archival storage are available. The library also owns the corner lot just west of the library building.
The library was completed and occupied in 1950. The income from the farm continues to provide for the maintenance of the library. Over the years, the following people have served as head librarians: Lodisa Garner, Tillie Johnston, Pauline Kemp, Ruth Spicher, Jane Reed, Karen Miles and Mary Stenwall.
In 1998, the library was updated to comply with current codes with the addition of an entrance ramp and a handicapped-accessible restroom.
Two boards oversee the management and functions of the library: the Morrison and Mary Wiley Library Board and the Elmwood Township Library District Board.
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