150 years of Service
St. Louis Public Library (SLPL) traces its history back to 1865 when Ira Divoll, superintendent of the St. Louis Public Schools, established a subscription library for the citizens of St. Louis. Located at 5th and Olive, the Public School Library and Lyceum was open to the public for a fee. Many historic public libraries began this way. It wasn’t until 1893 that the citizens of St. Louis approved a property tax to pay for an independent St. Louis Public Library, free and open to all. Steel tycoon and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie believed in the creation of branch libraries, and his donation to SLPL in 1901 stipulated that branch libraries be created for the citizens of St. Louis. Carnegie insisted that libraries be spread throughout the city in order to reach all people. SLPL has served the population of St. Louis at various locations throughout our history and the Branches profiled here are a few of those. The “Then” photos in this exhibit come from the St. Louis Public Library’s Archives which are housed in the Rare Books and Special Collections Department at Central Library. The Library’s records date back to the founding of the St. Louis Public School Library. All of the images within are interactive. Click on them to transition to the next.