The Rapid City Public Libraries



Library Buildings       Rapid City Library - Timeline of Historical Events

Library Hall

Rapid City Carnegie Library

Rapid City Public Library Downtown

610 Quincy - Expansion

1879  |  Located in the Sweeney Building, a volunteer reading room was organized by community women with $45, donated books and periodicals, and a free subscription to the Minneapolis Journal.

1881  |  Newly chartered by the territorial government, the Rapid City Library Association built Library Hall on the corner of 6th and Kansas City Streets on land donated by John Brennan. A finance campaign raised the $600 seed money to begin the project in February; the flag pole was erected in March.
       Library Hall was a 32’ x 85’ wood frame building for use as a reading-room, library, and theater. It featured a 25’ stage, seated 450, and its bookcases were furnished with 500 purchased volumes of biography, poetry, science, and fiction. Its librarian, Lida Mitchell, earned $5 a month. The reading room was open six hours a week, and only one book could be checked out at a time.
       Membership was limited to 100 persons for a $12 share plus a $9 initiation fee and $4 annual dues. The Association was free of debt by 1887. Until the turn of the century, Library Hall served the community, not only as a library, but as the Methodist and Congregational churches, as civic center for social, political, and civic activities, lectures, concerts, ballroom dances, and funerals.

1903  |  Members of the Currents Events Club (still active today) proposed a tax levy to revive library services and to ultimately pave the way for a Carnegie Library. A letter to the editor that year compared the tax per citizen equal to the value of two cigars. In a municipal vote of 115 to 88, a one mill levy was passed and free library services were then offered in a succession of rented locations. The 6th and St. Joe corner room of the Flormann Block was rented for $15 a month and Miss Rose Bower was appointed librarian. John C. Bower, her father and president of the Rapid City Free Library Association, maintained an apartment behind the library room for Rose and her sister Laura.
1904  |  Rose Bower resigned, passing the librarian job to Laura Bower.
1905  |  169 new books were purchased with $30 from the library fund and $70 raised from a talent show benefit play called Captain Racket.
1909  |   It is believed that the library moved next door into what was the Todden-Worth Building on 6th Street and then back again into the Flormann Building. Laura Bower married Claude C. Van Nuys - whom she met at the library. Their son, Maxwell Van Nuys, later wrote, “Lillian Nyswanger wanted the librarianship at the same time and resented it going to Laura, who had been her friend, and never forgave her. (Thereafter, Lillian could never pass my mother in the street without making a face.)” Lillian Nyswanger, to whom legend assigns a quick temper, finally became librarian. Several histories claim she was forced to resign after throwing a book at a patron. In 1973, Laura Van Nuys told interviewer David Super that Lillian Nyswanger was “one of the few people in those days that had read every book we had in the library...she had a different personality, but was certainly not given to such brash actions as (throwing a book at a patron).”
1910  |  Leora J. Lewis was appointed librarian.
1912  |  The library moved into a corner room in the Elks Building for $60 monthly rent - which was later reduced to $35.

1914  |  The Library Board, which was by that time appointed by the city according to state law, formally applied to Andrew Carnegie for a grant. The ensuing process to meet requirements resulted in a site dispute which was ultimately settled in State Supreme Court. Library Hall was removed to make way for the new Carnegie Library on the NW corner of 6th and Kansas City Streets.

1915  |  The building of the new library began with a $12,500 Carnegie grant. The Rapid City Journal wrote of the opening ceremony, “... all expressed themselves as being pleased with everything from the large library room with its many shelves, books, drinking fountain, chairs and tables, to the conveniences below including the charming little assembly room for the use of clubs and committee meetings.
1917  |  The new Carnegie Library opened its doors. The Rapid City Journal wrote of the opening ceremony, “... all expressed themselves as being pleased with everything from the large library room with its many shelves, books, drinking fountain, chairs and tables, to the conveniences below including the charming little assembly room for the use of clubs and committee meetings."
1918  |   Leora Lewis moved to Pierre to become the State Librarian and was eventually replaced by Marjorie Smith, who held the position until her death in 1956.
1921  |  The library report showed a collection of 4120 volumes and 16,974 loans. The assistant’s monthly salary was raised to $75 and Marjorie Smith’s to $100. Smith continued to managed the Library until 1956 when she was succeeded by Helen Hoyt.
1930's  |  The Carnegie Library underwent a WPA project expansion.
1965  |  Discussion began about replacement of the Carnegie Library due to insufficiency of physical space, increased population and needs of the Rapid City area. Planning began for a new library to serve the growing community. The planning commission that was instituted was comprised of library trustees, city and state officials, an Omaha library consultant and Chamber of Commerce representation. The Rapid City Civic Library Building Association incorporated under state law, and efforts began to build a new library at 610 Quincy St.
1972  |  On October 24, 1972, the doors opened to a new 28,000 sq. ft. building to serve Rapid City library patrons. The new facility boasted reading room seating for nearly 200 people, a spacious children's area, ample office and work space, a periodical/reference room, an art loan display wall, a board/conference room, and a meeting room for groups of up to 60. Rapid City Public Library Board of Trustees members were Faye Crawford, James M. Kuehn, Curtis D. Ireland, Beverly Linderman, and William G. Porter. Serving along with the trustees on the Rapid City Civic Library Building Association, Inc. Board of Directors were Stanford M. Adelstein, Barbara Gunderson, and Dean S. Nauman; Helen Hoyt was Library Director.
1979  |  The Rapid City Public Library joined the computer age with a database system for its holdings.
1984  |  Helen Hoyt retired as Library Director after nearly 30 years of service. Susan Sandness became the head librarian.
1989  |  Circulation had increased by 41% and reference/periodical usage by 89% from 1979. Staffing was down by 11%, and the Library relied on over 500 volunteer hours to maintain customary levels of service.
1995  |  Kathy Fredette became library director
1997-98  |  Technology grants provide a foundation computer network and the library launched its first website which enabled Internet users to browse the South Dakota Library Network.
1998  |  Greta Chapman was appointed Library Director.
1999  |  The Electronic Resource Center, a computer area of Internet access machines, was dedicated. A contract with Pennington County was signed to provide library services to Pennington County residents.
2000  |   After several years of planning, the Rapid City Public Library presented an expansion plan to the City’s Vision 2012 capital improvements program. Approval for a new 19,000 sq. ft. addition to be built above the west parking lot was given on the condition of the library successfully raising $500,000.

2001  |  The Library Foundation successfully raisedover $650,000.. On March 19th, the Rapid City Library Foundation Board presented a ceremonial check to the Rapid City Council symbolizing the completion of their capital fundraising campaign. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new addition took place on August 27, 2001. The project also provided renovation monies to convert the old entrance to a solarium, the creation of a South Dakota Research and Genealogy Room, study room additions and Reference Desk improvement.

2002  |  On August 30th, the Youth Services department was moved upstairs into the new Youth Services Department which included an expanded Young Adult area, study rooms, aviary, and reading loft for young children. Dedication ceremony for the new expansion took place on September 21. Rearrangement of the Adult collection stacks, audio and video collections, and adult reading areas concluded in November. The solarium was finished and furnished with western décor and an aquarium of native game fish.
2003  |  In March 2003, wireless access became available in the library. The dedication of the final phase of the expansion: the South Dakota Research and Genealogy Room took place on April 12.
2008  |  On January 14, 2008, a milestone in library history is marked with the opening of the first satellite site, Rapid City Public Library North, offering library materials and resources to the public from the school library at the new General Beadle Elementary School. The school was planned to meet not only the needs of students, but to benefit the entire North Rapid Community. Grand Opening and Dedication Ceremony for Rapid City Public Library North took place on March 8. Speaking at the ceremony were Library Director Greta Chapman, Library Board Chairman James Olson, Mayor Alan Hanks, Superintendent of Schools Peter Wharton, City Councilman Lloyd LaCroix, and Mark Kenefick representing General Beadle Elementary School. Entertainment was provided by the Standing Horse Drum Group and RCPL library personnel served up a free chili lunch to those from the community who attended the presentation.