In November 1934, the Knox Junior Civic Club decided to sponsor a membership library. Located in the front room of the Knox Herald Office on the second floor of the Wilson Building, the Knox Library opened on March 1, 1935, with an inventory of approximately 500 books and $500 capital and 75 members. Civic Club members volunteered to act as librarians and the library was open to the public 2 days per week for 8 hours.
In January 1936, the first paid librarian was hired and the library continued to grow through 1938 when it was open to the public 15 hours per week. With 938 catalogued books and 263 borrowers, it was decided to rent a second room and become a free public library. The first contribution drive for maintenance was held in October 1938 with good results. In March 1939, the use of the library was extended to the residents of Beaver, Elk, Ashland, and Salem Townships, and Turkey City and vicinity, and library hours were increased to 25 hours, 5 days per week.
In August 1940, the library was moved across the street to the Harry Klingler building. In May 1942, 477 books were collected for the Army. The book inventory reached 1,718, with 543 borrowers and circulation of 7,137 on a $1,000 annual budget through substantial contributions from community organizations and a door-to-door canvas.
In the summer of 1959, a revitalization of the library was desperately needed and a new governing Board of Trustees and bylaws were adopted. The library was closed for six months to move to the large council room of the Municipal Building with men, women, and high school students of the community giving their time in physical work, talents, abilities and learning. Carpenters arrived to renovate the old and build new fixtures. A charging desk and catalogs were moved from Carnegie Library of Oil City. Other volunteers cleaned, mended, catalogued, and inventoried books, and the library reopened in December of 1959 with a Christmas cookie tree (which proved to be far more popular than the books offered).
Through the following years, the library gradually developed a network of services for children with Keystone Schools, providing story hours, vacation reading clubs, and library visits for area elementary schools. For adults, a Great Books Discussion Group and art classes for 2 different groups. Both activities and services helped to stimulate, almost beyond belief, usage and growth of the library. In the early 1960’s, the Clarion County Library System was established to provide free library service to all residents of the county with the Knox Public Library serving the boroughs of Knox, Shippenville, and Callensburg, and the townships of Ashland, Beaver, Elk, Licking, and Salem. The plan was devised to use forthcoming direct county and state aid to benefit the existing libraries, which would be based on local effort, the amount of money expended through locally raised funds and government appropriations, including tax revenue from Knox Borough and Keystone Schools.
In November 1982, discussion was started on a renovation and expansion of the library adding 1511 square feet formerly occupied by the Knox Volunteer Fire Department. With a tentative floor plan, fund drive efforts began in earnest in 1984, including a variety show, Knox Home Tours, Keystone Elementary Read-a-Thon and letters to the community. By March 1986, Knox Borough Council and the Library Board of Trustees approved the proposed plans for renovation to include energy efficient windows, new doors, lowered ceilings, carpeting, new lighting, a kitchenette, new shelving, and furniture totaling of $53,000 in local funds. In October 1987, a grant of $11,000 from the Phillips Charitable Trust created the finishing touches, which included additional furnishings, handicapped access, media equipment, and the library’s first computer. The final touch, Knox Public Library aluminum letters were installed on the side of the building in September 1989. During the entire project of removing old walls and building new, painting, laying carpet, suspending ceiling and lights, moving shelving and books from one room to the other, the library was open and serving the community (even if it was a bit dusty at times).
Beginning in 2002, technology came to the library. Through the Gates Foundation, Clarion County Library System, Federal LSTA, and Pennsylvania DCED, the library received 4 fully loaded, patron-use computers on a local area network server, a library automation system and 2 children’s computers, and later 2 additional patron-use computers. And again in August 2009, additional grant funding was secured from Gates Foundation, LSTA, and State DCED to completely update the current network of 7 patron-use computers and 4 circulation/staff computers with broadband internet connection and software applications, 2 printers, and a new circulation system.
In late 2010, the Knox Library Board of Trustees learned an anonymous donor was giving the library $120,000 to be used to purchase the former Clarion Forest Visiting Nurses Association building in Knox. That donation from Wilma “Wid” Logue, a member of the Junior Civic Club that founded the library, and others from community members and businesses, enabled the renovation of the main level. The library moved out of the Knox Municipal Building in late April, 2012 and, after almost 500 man-hours by 98 volunteers and staff, the library opened at 305 North Main Street on May 1, 2012. Proceeds from the Logue Endowment, established in 2013, will ensure the ongoing maintenance and improvement of the library building. In September, 2015, the first major improvement to the building was the addition of a dormer extending over the handicap ramp and side entrance, along with a new roof on the entire building replacing the original. A new, more efficient air conditioning system and heating boiler were also being installed, replacing original equipment.
With preschool story hours for area children and children’s centers, 8-week summer reading programs for ages 3 through adult, book discussion groups, books on CD, large print books, magazines & area newspapers, DVDs, E-book and E-audiobook access, public access computers, Wi-Fi, photocopy and fax services and over 19,000 books, the Knox Public Library has changed since its humble beginnings in 1935. The commitment to serving Knox and the surrounding areas remains the same.
“It is, after all not the few great libraries,
but the thousand small ones,
that may do the most for the people.”