As one of the oldest public libraries in the Fox Valley, the Batavia Public Library traces its beginnings to 1868 as a library association. Members paid a $5.00 lifetime membership and a yearly tax from which books were purchased. The books were kept in an upper room in the Harvey Block on South Batavia Avenue, between First and Main streets.
In 1873, F. H. Buck was appointed the first paid Librarian and held that post for 15 years. During this period the Library moved to the Buck Block at First Street and Batavia Avenue. The Library housed 384 volumes.
Led by board members John VanNortwick, John Burnham, and C. B. Conde, the Library continued to grow, reaching 1,000 volumes by 1882. During this year, the association became a township library supported by a one mil tax.
By 1888, the Library had outgrown its quarters and was moved to the new VanNortwick Block on Wilson Street.
Margaret Rockwell Twining became the Librarian and
remained in the position until 1911.
Following the wishes of her husband, Mrs. Don Carlos Newton presented the property at One North Batavia Avenue, the red brick Levi Newton homestead, to the Library Board of Directors. The Library moved to this location and remained until 1921.
Cassie Stephens, an assistant librarian since 1902, became the third Librarian and ran the Library until 1939.
Batavia continued to grow and Wilson Street, which ended at Batavia Avenue, was expanded west toward what is Randall Road today. The Levi Newton home was razed to extend Wilson Street, and the Library Board purchased the Don Carlos Newton property on Batavia Avenue across from the Methodist Church for $8,000.
Miriam Havighurst Johnson served as Librarian from 1939 to 1973. A building addition to the Newton House was dedicated in 1960 in her honor. At this time the Library held 17,000 volumes.
In 1973, the Library celebrated its 100th anniversary. In the Library's first one hundred years, only four people had served the community as Librarians.
The Batavia Public Library District was formed in 1975. Jane Gray Morning succeeded Miriam Johnson as Librarian.
Batavia Public Library 1981 - 2002
Batavia Public Library 1921 - 1981
Photo courtesy of Batavia Depot Museum
In 1981, a new library building was constructed at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Wilson Street. The Library moved west from the Newton House to its own facility and ushered in a new dimension of library services and materials.
Since then, Batavia has experienced explosive growth to its east and west. Throughout the Library's history, but particularly in this generation, the Library has been committed to remaining a centralized point of community service.
Once again, in order to maintain and improve library services to the community, the Library was required to seek new space. The Library Board of Trustees purchased property at the corner of Wilson Street and Batavia Avenue in 1998.
To serve a population of approximately 23,000 and still growing, voters approved by referendum the construction of the current 54,000 square foot building to house the collection of 126,000 volumes, audio-visual materials, and computer technologies. January 27, 2002, marked the dedication of the newest Batavia Public Library.
For more information see:
Batavia, Illinois, Past and Present 2000, by Robinson, Marilyn. Batavia, IL: Batavia Historical Society, 2002. [977.323 ROB]
John Gustafson's Historic Batavia, by Robinson, Marilyn and Schielke, Jeffery D. Batavia, IL: Batavia Historical Society, 1998. [977.323 GUS]
"Miriam Johnson," Conversations with Batavians 6 [videorecording], 1985(?). [977.323 CON (6)]