Norelius Library History
The Norelius Community Library has a rich history. Learn how the library was established and how it has evolved to become such an important part of our community.
J. Fred Meyers, who moved to this community in 1874, organized the first circulating library in Denison. His enthusiasm led to the formation of a library association who put on a series of amateur theatricals and entertainment to secure funds to purchase books. Thirty books were purchased with the proceeds and placed in West Brick schoolhouse. Soon after the library opened, 25 cardholders kept the 30 volumes in constant circulation.
In 1884 Mrs. Henry McKim left a bequest for the McKim Reading Room. In 1887 McKim Hall was built, with the reading room set up on the top floor. This served as Denison’s public library for several years.
In 1901, through the efforts of Superintendent of Schools H. H. Savage, a donation of $1,500 was secured from George W. Schee of Primghar, Iowa, provided the citizens of Denison would match this with $2500. J. P. Miller donated lots on the corner of Chestnut and Sweet Street, now 14th Street and First Avenue South, valued at $2,500. At this point an appeal was made to Andrew Carnegie for funds to build a library. The Carnegie Foundation gave the sum of $10,000, provided the town would vote to maintain the building. The Denison Carnegie Library dedication ceremony was held on August 10, 1904, with around 800 people in attendance.
In 1948 a new heating system and new flooring were installed. In September 1957 the library opened a Junior Library in the basement. A balcony was added behind the circulation desk in 1975, to house the library’s growing collection of books. By 1978 the library board acknowledged a pressing need for more space. In 1979 the City of Denison purchased the Mullenger property east of the library, and in January 1980 turned it over to the library to use for expansion.
In 1980 the Denison Library Friends organization was formed to promote fundraising activities for library expansion. Diane Norelius spearheaded the fund drive, with a goal to raise $580,000. Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Norelius and Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Schroeder gave major gifts. Additional donations from individuals, clubs, businesses and memorials, city and county revenue sharing funds, and a grant from the Kinney-Lindstrom Foundation made it possible to begin construction. With strong support from the community, the project was completed in the spring of 1985. Dedication of the new addition was held on May 4, 1985. At that time the name was changed to Norelius Community Library.
With the expanded space, the library has realized a tremendous increase in use of materials and services. Attendance at programs for children and adults increased dramatically. Summer Reading Program, for example, has grown from one session per week to six sessions per week.
The original Carnegie rooms are used as meeting rooms. The checkout process and library catalog was automated in 1993-94. Computers and Internet access are now offered for public use.
The Denison Library Friends have continued their efforts to provide funds for library needs. In 1999 they purchased the Gale Reis property east of the library. The loan on the property was paid with donations and fundraisers, and in 2002 the property was deeded to the City of Denison. Future uses for the property might include a reading park, additional parking, or still another expansion. The library remains dedicated to its mission of meeting the educational, informational, recreational, and cultural needs of our community.