Pontiac Public Library

211 East Madison Street
Pontiac, IL 61764


About Us:

The mission of the Pontiac Public Library is to provide educational, informational, cultural and recreational resources and services to all ages of people in the community. The library will provide access to the universe of information and especially that information which is of immediate relevance and interest to the community it serves. The library seeks to accomplish its mission through prudent management and development of its resources and by providing access to materials and services to meet the present and future needs of the community it serves. In this effort, Pontiac Public Library cooperates with other libraries and with other educational and governmental institutions. The library serves as a learning center and educational center for all residents of the community.


The Pontiac Library Association, the predecessor to the Pontiac Public Library, was formed in 1858. In 1892 the Pontiac City Council passed an ordinance to establish a public library and the Pontiac Public Library Association agreed to turn over its collection of books to the newly created Pontiac Public Library.

Construction of the first library building was completed in 1894 and the doors opened to the public that July. The library was constructed just 5 years after Andrew Carnegie spurred a public library boom in the US by offering grants to construct libraries. However, due to local support, Pontiac did not require a Carnegie grant. As would happen multiple times in the subsequent history of the Pontiac Public Library, internal community support was a key element in creating a public library for the City of Pontiac.

The Pontiac Public Library was supervised by only 2 different directors for the first 66 years of its existence. Nell Thornton was elected the first librarian from a list of 9 applicants in 1894. She was instructed in library methods by a woman from the Armour Institute of Chicago. When Nell Thornton left the Pontiac Public Library in 1931, Lois A. Farr, a librarian from Mitchell, South Dakota, educated at the University of Illinois, was hired as library director. Ms. Farr served as director of the library until 1960 and is still remembered fondly by many Pontiac residents.

The Great Depression of the 1930s was a difficult period for Pontiac and for the public library. Although short in funding, personnel and forced to reduce hours, the Pontiac Public Library still made strong efforts to help residents of Pontiac cope with the hard times. It was during this time that the library stacks were opened for the first time. Previously, all books were retrieved by librarians based on specific requests by customers. In the 1930s, Lois Farr chose to open the stacks so that library patrons, unsure of which specific book was of interest, could browse for a book to read. Circulation of books from the library rose dramatically during this time and many books were quickly worn out. Limited funds meant the library had difficulty replacing the worn out books, but grants from the state of Illinois helped ease some of the difficulty.

After World War II, it became evident the Pontiac Public Library was short on space to maintain its collection and provide services to Pontiac residents. In 1952, with the assistance of funds from the Fred Bolander Trust, a new library building was constructed. The dedication ceremony was held October 12, 1952. The Pontiac Public Library was a charter member in the founding of the Corn Belt Library System in central Illinois, an organization formed to facilitate sharing of resources among public libraries. This organization has since become part of the larger Reaching Across Illinois Library System. In response to further growth in the library over the next 2 decades, the library building was expanded in 1976 with partial funding from the Apollos Camp and Bennett Humiston Trust.

In the early 1990s it became evident that the Pontiac Public Library had once again outgrown its available physical space. The library board sought voter approval in 1992 for a bond issue and tax rate increase to convert a former Sears department store at 211 East Madison Street into a new library building. That effort failed, but local financial support came to the rescue. With the assurance of a $100,000 gift from the Floyd A. and Alta Byrne Trust, the library secured a $250,000 grant from the state of Illinois. The remainder of the funding for the $750,000 project was raised from local contributions. In November 1995, the Pontiac Public Library opened its doors at its current location on East Madison Street, one block from the Livingston County Courthouse.

The most recent 10 years have been a period of strong growth and change for the Pontiac Public Library. The number of library materials circulated to the public has increased by over 60% since the year 2000 alone. More than 100,000 items (approximately 10 for every Pontiac resident) are checked out from the library each year. In 2000 the Pontiac Public Library hired a full-time children’s librarian for the first time in the library’s history. This has precipitated strong growth in services offered to children. The library has also been a leader in providing computer technology for the needs of Pontiac residents. In 2005 Pontiac Public Library became the first public wireless Internet hotspot in Pontiac.

Pontiac Public Library Building

Constructed in 1923, the building at 211 E. Madison St. was originally designated to house the Abbott Motor Company. In 1927 the building had become Pontiac Auto Supply, a Goodrich dealership. A variety of automobile related businesses were housed in the building through the years. This was facilitated by the existence of an industrial elevator that could transport automobiles to the upper floor of the building.

Eventually the building became a Sears Roebuck department store. This was the final commercial use of the building before purchase by the Pontiac Public Library. In the early 1990s, the Pontiac Public Library purchased the building and began a $750,000 renovation project to turn the brick and concrete structure into a public library.

The Pontiac Public Library was opened in November 1995 in the first floor of the building. Since that time Heartland Community College has leased approximately 60% of the second floor of the building for a Pontiac extension campus. Livingston County leases the remaining portion of the second floor for office space.

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