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© Downtown Mansfield, Inc. 2015

  • DMI Staff

Mansfield/Richland County Public Library, 1908

The current Mansfield/Richland County Public Library building can be traced back to 1887, when three women advocated for a cultured, well-stocked and staffed public library. These women, Mrs. E.O. Huggins, Mary B. Mitchell and Helen P. Weaver quickly formed the Memorial Library Association and began to enlist support of other prominent women. Together the Memorial Library Association collected materials, raised money and proceeded to hire a staff. On September 3, 1889 a library opened in the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building. In 1904, Mary Simpson McCallum, daughter of US Senator John Sherman, donated 700 books and a full set of the Congressional Record.

The library thrived, and by 1902, the head librarian Martha Mercer went to New York to solicit funds for a new building. After visiting the Andrew Carnegie Foundation, she returned to Mansfield with a grant for $35,000. The only condition for the grant was that the city would provide a building site and annual operating funds of $3,500 (10% of grant). The city agreed to the terms and the new library was built on the site of the Grace Episcopal Church. Designed by Mansfield architect Vernon Redding, the building was dedicated in 1908.

About 70 years later, the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library was already lacking available space. In 1978, Jeff Krull was hired as the library director and took responsibility for trying to solve the ongoing issue. After few failed attempts, the final plan had focused on preservation of the original Carnegie building. Support was strong enough to pass the bond and, in addition, the expanded library would cover branch locations throughout the county. The current building, located at 43 West Third Street, was dedicated on February 12, 1989.