The official opening of the Fairview Heights Public Library took place in Suite 7 of the Belscot Plaza at Highway 50 and Old Collinsville Rd. on Saturday, October 7th, 1972. Carol Turner, Miss Fairview Heights, issued the first library card to Mayor Everett Moody. The first book checked out was, “What your Mayor Does.” This was made possible through the dedicated work of so many who saw the importance of a library in the community to serve its residents of all ages.
In 1969, our collection of 500 books had to be stored in local resident’s basement while the Fairview Heights Women’s Club searched for a place that would serve as a library or “reading center.” The goal was to find a place that would qualify as a library and hence receive support from the Kaskaskia Library System. Being a qualified library under the definition of the State of Illinois enabled us to extend our services like other libraries had in surrounding communities.
Over the next couple of years, various funding events were held to raise money and support for a library in the community. With funds and support intact, the space at Belscot Plaza was secured in 1972, and the library was on its way to rapid growth. After a year and 1,000 library cards later, the collection had grown to 5,000 books. There was one small problem. In January 1973, the city of O’Fallon annexed the land the Belscot Plaza stood on, and the Fairview Heights Library was no longer in Fairview Heights. This would spark the first move of many in our library’s history.
It would take several years for a remedy, but in October 1976, the library and it’s now 8,000 books moved locations to Fairview Plaza on Lincoln Trail finally returning to its home city. The library would find itself moving again two years later once the City of Fairview Heights took over the former Pleasant View Sanitarium. The intent was to house the library in the former nurses’ quarters, (our present site), but at that time the concrete floors were insufficient to hold the weight of the collection which had grown to 11,000 books. The alternate site, which was the south wing of the first floor of the Sanitarium, was also insufficient to bear the weight. The only solution was to move the library to the basement of the building.
In April 1978, the collection was moved to the basement of City Hall and library operation resumed here with an all-volunteer staff and many generous donations from the community. As the community grew rapidly, so did the use of the library. In June of 1988, the ceremonial sledgehammers were swung and the destruction of the former nurses’ quarters began, thanks to State issued grants. Construction on the project did not start until May of 1989 when Mayor Lanxon dug out the first shovel full of dirt in celebration of the project’s final step beginning.
The Library was complete with its grand opening on October 22, 1990. Within 25 years the collection had grown to include not only books but also music CDs, VHS tapes, and audiobooks. These later items speak to how technology would change the library’s focus from just books. 1990 was really the dawn of the technology age that we live in today. The library has kept pace with these changes by offering computer access to all as well as wi-fi. The Internet changed the way libraries conduct business and made it necessary for us to move our holdings online as opposed to the paper card catalog of years ago. We now maintain a website and provide a wealth of digital resources in addition to our tried and true books that are still purchased and available for check out.
We value all the pioneers who laid the groundwork for the library our community has today. All the fundraisers held to support the library and its collection. All the volunteers who staffed the library so that community members could access the collection. All the civic organizations that supported the growth of the library over the years with financial support. All the elected officials supported the concept of a municipal library despite the objections of others.
The Library that stands today serves as a reminder that when a community comes together it can build something great. The staff and Library Board of the Fairview Heights Public Library welcomes you, and we are eager to help in any way we can.