The Rice Lake Library, one of the finest educational and resource centers around, began in July of 1896 in the city-owned building on West Messenger Street just off Main, Which was also being used as a training school and high school. The Rice Lake City Library Board was formed simultaneously, and James Bracklin served as the chairman for the initial meeting. The officers elected at that session were F. T. Watson, president; Dr. O. M. Sattre, vice president; Judge James Robbins, secretary, and George Blystone, treasurer.
The next year the library board asked for donations of books and periodicals. The Rice Lake Manufacturing Co. put in 215 feet of shelving for $26 and furniture came to $31. The city council appropriated $30 for fitting up the rooms, two at the time, later converting them into one. Corrine Howard was named the first librarian in April of 1897. The library was open only on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 2-5pm and 7-9pm.
In 1899, the wives of three of the original board members, Mrs. C. H. Inghram, Mrs. Sattre, and Mrs. Robbins, were among those who started the Fortnightly Club with a goal of "Intellectual and social culture." Mrs. Robbins became the librarian in 1899 and served for 14 years. She witnessed the growth from a few hundred books in one room of the city's building on West Messenger to several thousand books.
In 1901, the board solicited funds for a new city library and in 1903 Mr. Carnegie made a gift of $10,000 contingent on a suitable site for the building and an annual appropriation by the city of ten percent of maintenance costs. The new library opened to the public at Main and Messenger on May 26, 1905, and by 1907 was open daily.
In 1902, the library circulated 9,586 books and in 1919 it rose to 24,000. By 1932, circulation rose to 71,426, then increased slowly to the 1971 count of 75,173. In 1972, the board considered the renovation and modernization of the library, but found that was not feasible. The board looked at adding on to the west to preserve the library's architecture, but when the Erickson firm offered to sell its grocery store building at Main and Marshall Streets for $150,000, the board opted to make the move.
The city purchased the Erickson building and sold the Carnegie library to the adjacent Dairy State Bank. The old library was razed in the summer of 1985. The new library was dedicated in April of 1978 and in 1980 the board received a $15,000 grant from the Hartzell Manufacturing Co. to finish the library's lower level. The Friendship Room was the winning choice in a contest to name the remodeled areas.
Growth at the library has continued and in 1996 the circulation had risen to 169,410. The budget has grown as well, from a scant $3,372 in 1902 to $347,831 in 1997.
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