HAPPY 100: My Hometown Carnegie Library Celebrates Centennial This Year

  • By David M. Kinchen
Photo: Debbie Ramsey

Photo: Debbie Ramsey
“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” ― Jane Austen, “Pride and Prejudice”

Thanks to a Jan.3, 2012 column by www.huntingtonnews.net contributor (and outstanding mystery writer!) Shelly Reuben in which she paid tribute to her hometown Glencoe, IL public library (link: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/18175) I decided to check out my hometown library in Rochelle, IL, about 75 miles west of Chicago.

Wonder of wonders! The library where I — along with my brothers and sisters — spent many a delightful hour celebrates its centennial this year. Construction was partially funded by a $10,000 grant in 1911 from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and was constructed in 1912 to plans by the celebrated Madison, Wisconsin architectural firm of Claude & Starck.

The Flagg Township Public Library, 619 Fourth Ave., is in the Prairie School style, constructed of  brick with a tile roof  and — except for a matching addition — still stands as it was completed in downtown Rochelle, a railroad town of about 9,500 about 25 miles south of Rockford. The Flagg Township Public Library is on the National Register of Historic Places, joining the Register on Oct. 25, 1973.

According to the library’s Wikipedia site: “As a Carnegie library Flagg Township Public Library was the beneficiary of a grant from Andrew Carnegie for its construction. Often smaller towns and rural areas would band together to petition Carnegie for a grant for a county or area library. Flagg Township Library is one such example of an Illinois township library obtained in this manner.”

If you want to find out if your library is a Carnegie one, check out this site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Carnegie_libraries_in_the_United_States.
My sister Debbie Ramsey, who still lives in Rochelle,  is a regular at the library. She contributed a photo of the library and wrote me on Jan. 5:

“I was just there last night. Except for the new addition, it hasn’t changed much in all the years I’ve gone there. Of course everything is computerized now as of about a year ago. They have many of the new books that are out. People here don’t really take full advantage of the services [of the library]”

My other sister, Natasha Yuhas, lives in Chicago, so she reads books from the Chicago public library system, one of the glories of this magnificent city. When informed of the centennial, Natasha emailed: “I remember Betty Neal!   what a great place…it’s in the Prairie style made famous by Frank Lloyd Wright.”

So whether your library is 100 years old or not, visit it often and discover what a joy a library is — and what wonderful people librarians are. They’re among the most helpful people you’ll ever encounter and I love them! You’ll be surprised at the resources modern libraries have, especially if you haven’t visited one in a while.
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