The Pittsburg Public Library first opened its doors in January 1902 when the west wing of the city office building was used to house a small collection of books. The citizens of Pittsburg quickly realized the value of a public library and in 1907 the Library Board of Trustees began looking for ways to secure funds for a larger building.
The Board approached steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie who was noted for his philanthropy towards libraries. Carnegie agreed to donate $40,000 towards a new building. Carnegie’s involvement angered area miners, and in order to appease them it was agreed that the Carnegie name would not appear on the façade of the building.
Designed by the Chicago architectural firm of Patton and Miller and completed in 1912, the new building was one of few Carnegie libraries exemplifying Prairie Style architecture. This design choice was another concession to the miners and residents who did not want an elaborate or ornate facility. The library building features an exterior of Carthage limestone and the interior furnishings reflect the Arts and Crafts style made popular during the early twentieth century. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Again outgrowing its space, the public library underwent an extensive addition and renovation in 1996-98 funded by a one-half cent sales tax. Details of the original building were incorporated into the addition, which more than doubled the library’s space. A new entrance was created facing Walnut Street. The original south exterior wall was preserved and is now inside the building, demonstrating the seamless transition between old and new. The expansion project transformed the historic building into a true community center by adding the children’s library, public meeting room, lobby space and more. The project also included the addition of an elevator and ramps which make the entire building assessable to all patrons. In 1999 the Pittsburg Public Library received the Award for Excellence from the Kansas Preservation Alliance.
As usage continued to increase, the library once again expanded in 2010, opening the East Entrance for public use. The new entrance includes automatic doors and access to additional parking, handicapped spaces, and convenient fifteen minute parking. Along with the entrance the library added a new media room.
Over 400 people walk through the doors of the Pittsburg Public Library each day (with twice that many in June and July). We are proud of our historic yet modern facility, and are looking forward to continuing our community services into the 21st century.