History of KPL
Welcome to the Kirkwood Public Library!
Interest in Kirkwood having a library of its own became community-wide in about 1922. In 1924, residents were asked to donate books and the first library was housed on the top floor of the original City Hall Building. It was described by Mrs. Maurene Guire, Library Director from 1953 to 1976, as a "lovely, sunny room. It was immense--we had to share it with the city's engineering department, but they didn't use it very often." The library began with 2000 donated books and on May 10, 1924 the library opened and 38 books were issued the first day. During those early years, it was solely staffed by volunteers. On Dec 11, 1926, a tax levy passed 351 to 11 and Kirkwood became the first tax-supported public library in St. Louis County. Cyril Clemens (a long-time Kirkwood Public Library patron and distant relative of Samuel Clemens) said of the first library, "it was right above the prison there. When I would walk to the library I heard a voice. It was my ex-gardener pleading for his release." He recalls the library as a comfortable place, despite the undesirables downstairs.
In 1940, the present library at the corner of Taylor and Jefferson was built. The first bond issue election in 1938 to build a library building failed--the first time the citizens of Kirkwood have failed to financially support their library when asked. The reason given for its defeat--library officials had chosen an unpopular location--now the site of St. Peter's Catholic School. But when the present site was selected, the second bond issue was successful and the building was constructed. There was a working fireplace on the west end and a window seat on the east end.
In 1955, a $130,000 bond issue was voted for a new addition and equipment (plus an additional $25,000 for an auditorium). This addition doubled the floor space, but it was outgrown before the dust settled. A second addition on the south (Argonne side) was built in 1964.
In 1994, work began on an elevator which brought the library into compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This construction was financed through a $75,000 matching federal grant administered by the Missouri State Library. In 1994, the Library Board voted to ask Kirkwood for a tax levy increase, from 13 cents to 24 cents. The tax levy passed in November of 1994 and the library opened on Sunday for the first time in January 1996; thus keeping one of the promises made before the election. In 1995 the Board of Trustees adopted this mission statement, "The Kirkwood Public Library is dedicated to providing information services and resources which enrich and enlighten the community."
On May 31, 1996, eight municipal libraries in St. Louis County formed the Municipal Library Consortium (MLC). Webster Groves Public Library later joined making Kirkwood part of a nine member group. Being a member of the MLC means we share a catalog and participate in a daily delivery service among all the public libraries in St. Louis and St. Charles Counties. A reciprocal borrowing agreement means that as a resident of Kirkwood you can obtain a free library card at any of these libraries.
In November of 2007, not only was the library named Missouri Library of the Year, but the library also passed a bond issue to renovate the building (since the 1994 renovation, the library remained largely the same). Before passing the bond issue, the library talked to residents to see what citizens liked about the library. Many residents reported that they liked the historic nature of the old building. As a result, the library Board of Trustees and library staff felt it was important to renovate, not replace the building. Drawings and plans were shown on the library’s web site to gain citizen involvement. Prior to the 2010 renovation, the library was just less than 23,000 square feet. After completion, despite a smaller footprint, the library now boasts 25,000 square feet. The second floor was formerly a mezzanine and is now a full floor. The lower level also underwent vast improvements. The original plan was only to take out the bumps and extra steps in the lower level but the timing of the library renovation allowed the library to get better value for their budget. The entire lower level was reconstructed with a better structure and more efficiency all at the same cost.
Two additional goals were also realized through the renovation. First, the library was able to install a folding partition for the meeting room, so two meetings could occur at the same time. When there’s a large community meeting the partition is removed and large meeting space is still available. Second, the library created more space for computer learning, adding a computer classroom.
After 15 months in a temporary location on South Kirkwood Road, the library moved back to the renovated building at 140 East Jefferson. A grand re-opening celebration occurred on Saturday, August 14, 2010.
We’re delighted to offer our patrons a long list of services. We are open seven days a week and online through our website, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We encourage you to come in and get to know the staff and the collection. Sign up for library cards for you and your family and enjoy!
- Books & More
- How Do I?
- Classes & Programs
Access current and past issues of library newsletters here:
or sign up and get it delivered directly to your email every month.