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Library History

North Platte Public Library History

One of the earliest mentions of a library in North Platte is found in The North Platte Nebraskian on July 22, 1882, page 3. This library, known as the North Platte Reading Room and Library Association, was membership based.  Another attempt at a membership based library was made in 1888 by A. F. Streitz in his Drug Store on Spruce Street.

National Circulating Library was located within the A. F. Streitz Drug Store in 1888.

Lincoln County Tribune, June 16, 1888, page 3

The First Public Library in North Platte

Letter to Citizens of North Platte in 1910 about the Public Library

The North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune, May 31, 1910, page 5.

Carnegie Library for North Platte appearing April 12, 1910.

The North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune, April 12, 1910, page 8

On July 27, 1904, Wm. H. McDonald sent a letter on McDonald State Bank stationary to the Librarian in Cheyenne Wyoming asking for information on how to procure a Carnegie Library for North Platte.

On April 12, 1910 there appeared an article titled “Carnegie Library for North Platte” in The North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune on page 8. Mr. Andrew Carnegie’s secretary sent a letter to Mayor T. C. Patterson stating that “If North Platte desires the gift of a $12,000 public library from Andrew Carnegie it can be had by complying with the provisions exacted by the donor.” The primary provision was that the city of North Platte was to purchase a suitable site and was required to provide $1,200 in revenue per year for the maintenance of the Library.

On May 6, 1910 there appeared an ordinance in The North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune on page 4. The ordinance was to “provide for the establishing of a public library, reading room, art gallery, and museum for the use of all inhabitants of the city of North Platte.” The ordinance further stated there “shall be levied and appropriated for the support and maintenance of a public library [..], a tax of not more than two mills on the dollar valuation of the assessed property, real and personal, in the city of North Platte”. The levy must raise not less than $1,200 per year and was to be known as “The Public Library Fund”. Nine (9) directors with staggering terms (3 for 1 year, 3 for 2 years, 3 for 3 years) were chosen from the community at the next City Council meeting in June. The ordinance gave the board due power to establish  the library but stipulated that “any person who shall willfully and maliciously writes upon, injure, deface, tear, or destroy any book, newspaper, plate, picture, engraving, or any property of the Public Library shall be liable to a fine of not less than one dollar nor more than fifty dollars for each offence, and shall stand committed until such fine and the costs of prosecution are paid.”

On July 25, 1911 there appeared a Notice for Bids in The North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune on page 8. The was for the construction of the Public Library that was designed by Carl E. Schaeffer, architect. The Library Board reserved the right to reject any and all bids.

On August 4, 1911 there appeared an Award of Contract notice in The North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune on page 1. The bid was awarded to Howard McMicheal at the cost of $8,676.60. The contract for heating and plumbing went to Platte Plumbing & Heating Co. for $851.50. Wiring was estimated at $86.20 and given to North Platte Electric Lighting & Heating Co.

On Tuesday, April 2, 1912 at 8:00 p.m. the North Platte Public Library opened to the public with an informal reception. Library hours were 2:00 – 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9:00 a.m. – noon on Saturday. The Library opened with 480 volumes on the shelves. The first librarian was Mrs. J. E. Jones.

North Platte Public Library 1912

Original North Platte Public Library courtesy of Nebraska Library Commission

Undated interior photo of original North Platte Public Library

Original North Platte Public Library interior courtesy of Nebraska Library Commission

Note that in the interior picture there are both gas and electric lights. The discussion around which type of lighting should be installed in the first public library filled pages in the minutes. At the time, electric lights were seen as a fad and the tried and true lights were lit by gas.

This original Carnegie Library building currently houses the North Platte Area Children’s Museum and is located just behind to the East of the current North Platte Public Library.

On October 1, 1936 the Junior Room opened in the basement of the public library. Children’s books were not allowed to be checked out after 6:00 p.m.

In 1940, there was an addition to the Carnegie Library added to the West side of the building.

On April 5, 1955 the citizens of North Platte turned down a vote to create a $100,000 sinking fund for a library addition that would have provided an expansion north and an entrance from 4th Street.

The Current North Platte Public Library

Photo of the recently built 1967 (current) libraryOn April 7, 1964, the citizens of North Platte voted on a $350,000 bond issue for a new library. The result was 2,759 votes (54.5%) FOR and 2,295 votes (45.5%) AGAINST. While this was technically a majority in favor, the issue failed due to laws at the time requiring a 60% majority for an issue to pass. The City Council approved a $150,000 transfer of funds held in escrow by the Board of Public Works to the general fund for a new library. A Federal matching funds grant in the amount of $150,000 was also received through the Nebraska Library Commission.  This was enough to allow the community to move forward and build the current library.

The current library was designed by Clifford L. McKellips, Architect, and dedicated December 3, 1967. Members of the Board of Trustees serving when the current facility was dedicated included Dr. M. Fred Mack, Frank E. Piccolo, Howard A. Miller, Mrs. C. F. Heider, Sr., and Miss Janet McDonald. Kenneth W. Huebner was Mayor. According to board minutes, the heating systems as well as electrical systems continued to be issues after the new facility was built for several years.

On May 14, 2002, a bond issue to raise not more than $9.875 million for the acquisition, renovations, refurbishments, and improvements to North Platte School District’s 1930 High School Building for the purpose of serving as a new home for North Platte Public Library was voted on by the community. The issue failed with 2,229 voting (41.5%) FOR the issue and 3,134 (58.5%) AGAINST.

In 2007, the current facility received a face lift in the form of fresh paint and carpeting during a two phased process. This renovation also included moving the circulation desk into a front and center location service desk and additional infrastructure cabling for technology.

In 2017, North Platte Public Library applied for a Nebraska Innovation Studios Grant through the Nebraska Library Commission. Upon word that the library was awarded a grant, the motion was set to create a permanent makerspace/innovation studio in the Library. On October 1, 2018, the Creation Station constructed at a cost of $91,103 and designed by Stephen P. Granger, Architect, held an official grand opening with Nebraska Library Commission Innovation Studio trial equipment. In 2019, when the trial equipment left, staff privately fundraised in the community to purchase over $42,000 of permanent equipment for the Creation Station. Just as the equipment was coming in late 2019 and being installed in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the momentum of the Creation Station. The Creation Station is considered one of the Library’s best kept secrets in 2024.

Additional minor renovation projects carried out in recent years include several new windows and window treatments, and new furniture in all three age spaces (Children’s, Teens, and Adult). Exterior changes including removal of the walk awning and north window grate, and the addition of architectural EIFS design elements have kept the facility updated. A new drive through Book Drop was added in 2023 as well as a new Seed Library service.

Mechanical systems continue to be evaluated and updated including an elevator re-modernization project, HVAC systems, parking lot renovation, new roofing, upgrades to the lighting system, and attempts to stifle ground water seepage in the basement have also occurred in relatively recent years. Most of our latest renovations have been at least partially funded by grants and our supporting organizations, The Friends of the North Platte Public Library and the North Platte Public Library Foundation, with additional support from the City of North Platte general fund.

Photo of Library from intersection of 4th and Vine ST