By Macy Conley
The El Reno Carnegie Library came into existence by the will power of El Reno citizens during the turn of the 20th century. There was no library in the area and no funding from the city for a room, let alone books. The Athenaeum Club of El Reno was initially started to bring more culture to the community. The Athenaeum Club of El Reno pushed to start a small library in the early 1890’s. The Library Board was established and the first head librarian, Professor E. D. Cave, was hired on for a salary of $25 dollars a month. By 1902 they were able to persuade the city council to create a library space. The library co-rented a space with the YMCA for around $16 a month. Other clubs and organizations in town put forth money to purchase new books. The Library Board of Directors accepted Andrew Carnegie’s proposition of giving funds to build a library. The only thing he asked in return was for the city to maintain the library upon completion. The city accepted his offer on January 28th, 1904, and the library was completed on May 5th, 1905. The dedication ceremony for the library was held on June 14th, 1905, in the library’s auditorium. This was the State of Oklahoma’s third Carnegie library.
Anna Hall was the first head librarian to work in the new Carnegie building. The first floor of the library was for library use and the second floor was an auditorium with a stage. This was where graduation was held until the El Reno High School was built in 1911. The children’s area was established in 1912. The children’s story hour began on Wednesdays starting in 1921 and continues today. In 1927, the upstairs was no longer being used, so it was remodeled into the children’s area. This was also the time when the children’s librarian position became available. A bond issue was passed in 1964 that would later build the archives room. The archives would then be named the Edna Mae Armold Archives. This room was built specifically to hold and maintain documents, pictures, and books. This room has its own heating and air conditioning to maintain a temperature acceptable for storing documents. The last addition to the library came in 1980 and it included the Ashbrook Rooms, the new teen room and the current bathrooms. The Ashbrook Room is a multipurpose room used for community meeting space, library programs, and conference space. The teen space is a new addition to the library. This room contains the YA collection; fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels. This space is also used for teen library programs, office space for the Teen Librarian, and a study area.
Throughout the long history of the El Reno Carnegie Library, we continue to make improvements and great strides in the continual up-keep of this historic building. In 2017, there was a substantial amount of work done to the outside of the library. An elevator was added in 2018, along with a handicap accessible door. The library has come a long way in the 100+ years since its founding and will continue to move forward with the continued support of our community.