A Look At 100+ Years of History

written by JoAnn Swenson of the Oregon Area Historical Society
Library front desk

Prior to becoming a public library, a “subscription library” existed in 1898.  Thirty-five families belonged to the subscription library located in the Pease Drug Store.  Members paid $3.00 a month.  Every three months a box of 50 books arrived.  A subscription library, also referred to as a “social library”, was popular during this time as a way to share books among its members. Committees, elected by the subscribers, chose books for the collection. The first American subscription library, The Library Company of Philadelphia, was founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin and a group of his friends.

The first public library was established in Oregon by Mrs Jean Mennes Bennett as a lending library.  It was located in the front room above the Oregon Drug Co at 113 S. Main Street.  The rental price was $5.00/month. Monies for maintenance came from donations. The traveling library in Madison sent 100 books every three months, free of charge, with the Village paying for the cost of freight.   In 1910, the official Oregon Public Library was established as a part of the Village. The library is supported through tax dollars and donations/memorials. The Friends of the Library was organized by director, Joan Wethal.  The Friends continue to sustain the library with contributions and volunteer support for programs and events.


Over the years, the library has been located in several different locations including a room over the McDermott Store at 105 S. Main Street in 1914.  It moved to the Netherwood Block in 1916 and in 1941, it occupied space in the then new Village Hall.  In 1960, it moved to 219 Park Street, occupying the southern two thirds of the building that was formerly Paul’s Super Market (currently the Oregon Area Senior Center).  The  current library building was opened at 256 S. Brook Street in December,1995.

A year long celebration of its centennial year included a special program every month of the year including author visits and a series of storytelling programs.  The official birthday party was held on Saturday, October 9, 2010, and was attended by over 300 people.   It featured family entertainment with face painting, a juggler, and a balloon artist. Senator Jon Erpenbach presented a Senate citation to honor the library’s centennial.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the new circulation desk.  It was built by Paul Morrison of the Wood Cycle Shop.   Pieces of lumber to build the tops of the desk were donated by members of the community.  Each piece of wood came from several different species of trees that were found in the Oregon area.   Names of the lumber donors and the story of the tree from which the lumber was taken was compiled in a pamphlet distributed at the event. The three mosaic tiles that were added to the front of the desk were designed and built by Cheryl Adams of Adams Studio.

Today, the Library is still the place for checking out your favorite books and magazines as well as video games, movies, e-books and audio books.   Storytimes are offered for the enjoyment of everyone from young children to adults.  Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi printing service is available providing on-line access to numerous sites for information and research.  The library also maintains copies of the Oregon Observer dating back to 1881 that can be researched on microfilm.  The Library has become, over the years, an essential mainstay in the lives of Oregon residents with programs, events and services for all ages.