Bradford Public Library District Celebrates 100 Years

Bradford Public Library District

Bradford Public Library District Celebrates 100 Years

In October of 1900 fifteen Bradford women met to form a social club.  One of their goals was to broaden their reading experience.  The ladies each bought a book from Plummer’s Drug Store which was located at the west end of Main Street.  After they had exchanged and read all the books, they each bought another book.  Once they had accumulated 45 books, they decided to start a library so they could lend books to the public.

The women began having fundraisers in order to rent a room and purchase items needed for the library. They asked several community members to form a library board.  The board members were Cyrus Bocock, Mrs. H. R. Mayhew, Mrs. Streeter, Mrs. Boardman, D. J. Owens, and Dr. Minnick.  The club was able to raise $800, which they used to start the first village library in a room over the Fairbanks Harness Shop.  The library opened on Saturday, August 16, 1902 with Mrs. Streeter as librarian.

On Easter Sunday, 1923 the Fairbanks building, which housed the library, burned with all the contents inside.  Following the fire, the women began the process to secure a new library building. The Club contributed $1,500 from their funds, 4 corner stones were sold for $500 each, and bricks were sold for 25 cents apiece.  Mr. and Mrs. James Noyes, the James A Smith Family, the Hinman Memorial, and the Phenix Banking Company purchased the 4 corner stones.

Work started on the brick building in December 1923.  Pledges of $6,750 were collected and the Woman’s Club borrowed $2,500 to finish paying off the debt.  In July 1924 the Bradford Public Library was opened for business, where it still stands today.  And this is what we are celebrating this year.

In 1992 the voters of the Bradford School District voted to have the Bradford Library become a district library with services free to all residents of the district and with tax support from the entire district.  This allowed the village to transfer the assets held by the village for library purposes, to the Bradford Public Library District, including the library building and tract of land.

In 2021, the library became a fine-free library.  For many years, late fees created fear and anxiety, preventing people from coming to the library.  By going fine free, a very real barrier to library service was removed. 

Through the years, the library has taken on many maintenance and small renovation projects to ensure the integrity of the building remained intact and to keep current with the changing times. 

In 2023 the Board of Trustees voted to pursue having a lift installed in the library.  Through diligent handling of funds through the years, a grant from the American Library Association, and a community fundraising campaign this much needed renovation came to be.  In May of 2023 construction began for a lift, handicap restroom, wider stairs, outdoor ramp, and hand railings.  The project was completed in August 2023 and an open house was held September 28, 2023.  The library is now handicapped accessible.

When the library first opened it was only open for a few hours and only two days per week.  At present, the library is open every day except Sunday for a total of 40 hours per week.  The library is currently a member of the Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS).  We are also members of the Resource Sharing Alliance which provides software that enables us to circulate items to patrons.  This also allows us to request items from other libraries through InterLibrary Loan, offer digital platforms for e-books and e-audiobooks.  This membership also gives our patrons access to 1,085,215 unique titles and 4,338,779 items. 

We’re not just a library. We are a learning center for everyone from babies to senior citizens.  For a library to reach 100 years of service in the community is a great accomplishment.  So much has changed in our world over the past 100 years.  To have a library reach this milestone is truly a testament to the community and the desire of the people to maintain and preserve the idea that knowledge should always be available to all.

This year, 2024, the library at 111 S. Peoria Street, marks its 100th anniversary. To celebrate 100 years of providing free access to books, ideas, and resources, we are planning several special events.  Summer Reading will be centered around the library’s 100 years.  Trivia night and a special anniversary party will be highlights of the celebration.