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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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CARNEGIE-STOUT PUBLIC LIBRARY. The Carnegie-Stout Public Library is a local landmark funded in part by Andrew CARNEGIE. It was placed on the NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES on August 1, 1975 becoming the fifth structure in the city and the ninth in Dubuque County to receive the designation. (1)

Early efforts at offering library services included those of R. Spaulding, a book seller, music dealer, and generally a patron of the arts. His book store was the first in Dubuque. Early in 1848 Spaulding established and maintained a library of standard periodical literature to which persons were admitted upon the payment of $3 annually.

One of the first attempts to establish a library came through the DUBUQUE LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, a group of young professionals and businessmen formed to bring a lecture course to Dubuque. At the same time, J. S. Blatchley, an attorney, made his one hundred fifty-volume library available to anyone for a fee of five dollars.

Funds from the lectures, first given in 1857-1858, were used to purchase additional books. By 1859, with the donation by the Blatchley library to the lecture committee, the number of volumes reached four hundred.

In 1859 the lecture committee reorganized as the YOUNG MEN'S LITERARY ASSOCIATION. Active in providing books for the library, the group in November 1863 established a goal of acquiring ten books daily for a month. Membership was available for $1.50 per year. (2)

In March of 1864 the firm of GILBERT AND TAYLOR'S renovated a room over their store to house the Law Library and the books obtained by the Young Men's Literary Association. The 55' x 16' room was supplied with shelves and tables and a partition allowed the two libraries to be housed in "separate apartments." A large collection of minerals were on display and the entire room was lighted with gas until 8:00 p.m. each evening. (3) W. J. Gilbert, owner of the store, was the first librarian.

It was a common feature of the newspapers to carry the names of new volumes added to the library. (4)

       Today's Additions.--The following are the additions to be made to the 
       library today: Abbott's Napoleon, 2 vols; Amber Gods, two copies; 
       Wing and Wing by Cooper; Western Annals; Mysteries of Paris; 
       Goldsmith's Works; Swiss Family Robinson, two copies

In November 1865 the Dubuque Herald announced that a movement was underway to raise $5,000.00 for the purchase of books, relocate the library to a room of its own, and hire a person to attend it. The newspaper was in support of relocating the library to a site of its own. As it existed in a business, patrons felt they "acting very mean if they did not purchase something" as they left. (5)

In December, 1865 the Young Men's Library Association announced that it had obtained a five-year lease on the north room on the ground floor of the Julien Theatre building. (6) Checked out books were called in prior to the library being moved and a new catalog of books "classified and arranged for ready reference, was published. (7) In January 1866 the Young Men's Library Association gave B. M. HARGER an order for $4,000 worth of books. (8)

Financial support of the Association in its work included entertainment in the homes of sponsors. On January 16, 1874 the first of these evenings was planned for the home of Alonzo J. VAN DUZEE. "The best music will be provided for dancing and a jam up supper. The price of admission, $1.50 per couple." (9) The second of these evenings of entertainment was held in the home of S. S. WEMOTT on January 27, 1874. (10)

Interest in establishing a free library grew during the 1890s. The Young Men's Literary Association maintained the library until 1901. In 1893 the books were moved to the ODD FELLOWS TEMPLE when the collection had grown to fourteen thousand volumes. After this relocation, the collection was cataloged according to the Dewey Decimal System. The library, while open to the public, was not municipally owned or free.

Andrew Carnegie, a person familiar with Dubuque, agreed to endow the city with a $50,000 building provided a lot could be found on which to build. (11) In response, Frank D. STOUT donated three lots on the corner of 11th and Bluff STREETS in memory of his father Henry L. STOUT. (12) Frank D. Stout was a director of the YMLA during this time and “for the consideration of one dollar and to perpetuate the memory of my father, Henry L. Stout, deceased, I . . . . hereby convey to the City of Dubuque . . .” and with this “the splendid and spacious site with an area of 158 feet on Bluff and 76 feet on Eleventh Street was obtained.” The special election for voters to approve the tax was held on November 26, 1900. The total vote was 3,238 and was approved by about 73% of the voters. Interestingly, while still two decades from winning the right to vote, Dubuque women participated in this election and supported the library by thirty to one! Twelve hundred twenty-four women voted for the library proposal and only 47 opposed. (13) A donation of $15,000 for the new building and $10,000 for new books was given by the Young Men's Library Association. In March, questions were already being asked as to when the public would be able to have access. Jacob RICH, president of the board of directors, reminded citizens that the board of directors would not even be receiving funds from the city until January. (14)

Construction did, however, begin in October 1901. The architect chosen was W. G. Williamson of Chicago. Williamson had been the architect of the BANK AND INSURANCE BUILDING, JULIEN HOUSE, and the mansion of Henry L. STOUT. (15) The library was opened to the public on October 20, 1902.

Photo courtesy: Carnegie-Stout Library-Through the Ages by Susan A.Hendricks Ph.D

The library quickly outgrew its space and requested additional funding from Andrew Carnegie. The response was recorded in the board minutes of June 12, 1905:

               Andrew Carnegie was giving an additional $11,500 “... for 
               the installation of a full set of metal shelves”  “Mr. 
               Carnegie’s generosity ... provide[s] for the future 
               needs of the Library ...  for many years to come, and 
               perhaps for all time, as the new set of stacks will give 
               shelf room for fifty-five thousand books.” (16)

The famed glass floor. Photo courtesy: https://www.facebook.com/ykyguidiiyr/

These stacks are no longer on the glass floor mezzanine, which were not original to the building, because the area could not be made Americans With Disability (ADA) compliant in the renovation. They are, however, stored in the library for a future renovation. (17)

Donations continued to provide the library with priceless material. According to the Library Board of Trustees' Minutes, on January 10, 1910:

                Recorded that Emma H. Ward donated a complete collection of 
                books and photogravures by Edward S. Curtis titled North 
                American Indian in memory of her husband Hiram Ward. At 
                this time she also donated the paintings “Last Gleam” by 
                Bruce Crane and “First Lesson” by Franz Charlet. (18)

On February 27, 1924, the minutes recorded:

                The Board of Trustees accepted $5,000 from the estate of Mary 
                E. Lull. The will specifically reads:  “I give and bequeath to 
                the Board of Library Trustees of the Carnegie-Stout Free Public 
                Library of the City of Dubuque, the sum of Five Thousand ($5,000) 
                Dollars for the benefit of said Library and direct that said 
                bequest be kept permanently and safely invested according to 
                their best judgment and that only the income therefrom shall 
                be used by said Board from time to time in the purchase of 
                pictures or other works of permanent value for the art room 
                of said Library, which work of art shall be purchased, and 
                appropriately marked as from this fund.” This is the complete 
                transcription of the will/bequest. (19)

According to the minutes, the library purchased "Appraisal" by Grant Wood on October 29, 1934 for $350.00. "Victorian Survival" by Grant Wood was purchased on December 14, 1934 for $800.00. (20)

Photo courtesy: Carnegie-Stout Library-Through the Ages by Susan A.Hendricks Ph.D

In 1929 the library exceeded every other city in the United States in the number of volumes (41,268) circulated per assistant. The next highest was just over 35,000. The second record did not bring pride. Dubuque ranked as the lowest payer of library assistants in the United States--thirty-four cents per hour. (21)

Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

The announcement was made in December, 1951 that bound volumes of old newspapers and other periodicals would soon be preserved on spools of microfilm and stored in steel cabinets with a humidity control device. A film viewer, presented by the Telegraph-Herald, was equipped with "sensitive focusing and page-turning instruments." At the time of the announcement, every page of the Telegraph-Herald since January 1, 1860 had been photographed. Since the viewer had been acquired, a complete alphabetical index of topics relating the Dubuque's history had been organized. (22)

Commemorative paperweight. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Image courtesy: Mike Day. Kendall C. Day family collection.

In the summer of 1981 a new wing designed by architect Charles Kurt of the Durrant Group, was opened to the public. The addition used limestone facing similar in appearance to the original building and allowed increased use of the library by the public. The additional space increased the capacity of the library by approximately 188,000 volumes.

In 1988 the Carnegie-Stout Public Library Foundation was formed. The goal of the Foundation was to raise the funds necessary to pay insurance premiums associated with displaying the library's Grant Wood and North American Indian collections. Both had been in secure storage since December 1986 cutbacks. The plan was to display the paintings and Native Indian materials in the second floor rotunda. The foundation would establish a trust fund to pay for the insurance and other programs. (23)

Budgetary concerns in 1992 forced the Dubuque city council to postpone plans to spend $750,000 for major improvements in the library. Expected to take twenty months to complete, the renovations would have brought the library into compliance with the federally mandated Americans with Disabilities Act. A consultant also wanted the middle level, then used for storage, periodic displays, and reading tables, to be restored "to all its splendor and returned to active public use. (24)

In February 1995 officials of the library announced that the library would be the first to offer free access to the Internet to all Dubuque residents. The service was made possible by a donation of about $3,600 from the Friends of the Library and the library board which spent another $2,500. While not all Internet services were available, residents would have access to colleges, government agencies and information from around the world. (25)

In 1996 the library spent $219,000 converting the library's garage into offices after the bookmobile was discontinued. A small space behind the reference desk was renovated to house computer terminals for public use. In 1997 Adult Services Coordinator Ann Straley, serving as acting library director, obtained over $400,000 from the city council for more renovations. This financing made possible new carpeting, reading-room chairs, circulation and reference desks, and the replacement of security and telephone systems. Walls were painted, the stacks were widened to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and an Iowa Communications Network conference center and audio-visual room was constructed and equipped. (26)

In January 1997 Midwest Communications Inc., a local Internet provider, donated a T1 Internet port/connection to the library. This provided the library with the ability to have more than one computer online at a time. (27)

In 2010 a $6.5 million renovation to the library was completed. The City of Dubuque was the single largest donor by committing to half the cost. The State of Iowa made a grant award of $250,000 from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs when Dubuque was named an Iowa Great Place in 2006. The private sector contributed to the remainder.

Planning for the Library’s second renovation began in 2000 and was actually started in December of 2008. The library brought aesthetics, function, and sustainability together and became the first City of Dubuque building to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification through the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

At the end of 2009 there were 31,535 projects registered with USGBC. Of these there were three libraries that had achieved LEED-Existing Building status. Carnegie-Stout Public Library was the first public library in the Mid-West to achieve this status and the first public library in the United States to achieve this designation while also being on the National Register of Historic Places.

The library’s Grand Opening was September 16 – 19, 2010.

In 2016 the library's Board of Trustees rejected an unsolicited offer of $6 million for Grant Wood's painting "Appraisal." That piece and Grant Wood's "Victorian Survival" were purchased in the early 1930s for $1,150 using funds from a bequest to the library for the purpose of purchasing art. Both paintings in 2016 were on loan and were exhibited in the DUBUQUE MUSEUM OF ART. (28) In 2017 "Appraisal" was valued at $12 million and "Victorian Survival" was appraised at $10,325,000. (29)

In 2016, the library was featured in "Amazing Libraries in All 50 States" at msn.com. According to the article, 101 libraries were built in Iowa between 1892 and 1917 using Carnegie Foundation grants including the one in Dubuque which in 2016 was believed to be the state's largest Carnegie building still in use as a library. (30)

In February, 2018 library officials announced that a $7,000 donation from the Carnegie-Stout Public Library Foundation would be used to purchase virtual reality technology later in the year. The library has historically played an important role in introducing the public to new technologies. The last example was the popular maker-space, a do-it-yourself lab that people of all ages could use to create and invent. (31)

The announcement was made in May, 2018 that the library would forgive fines on overdue materials for six months in a study to determine the long-term usefulness of a fine-free business model. Fees for lost or damaged materials, however, would remain in effect. Patrons who did not return materials within fourteen days would have their accounts blocked preventing them from checking out other materials, using computers, accessing databases or downloading digital materials. To offset the loss of revenue (estimated at $18,200 over six months), businesses might be asked to sponsor a month, small donations might be asked of those who fines were being forgiven, or money from the gift fund might be used. City council members would have to endorse the program to make it permanent. (32)

Library staff announced a home-bound delivery service to begin in August, 2018 for people unable to leave their homes. Items with three-week checkout periods including books, audio books and CDs would be eligible for the service. The library currently provided bulk loans to thirteen nursing homes and residential care facilities as well as the state correctional facility at 1494 Elm. (33)

Continuing to implement new ideas, library officials announced in July 2018 that a custom-built, three-wheeled "library" bicycle was being used to bring books and DVDs to citizens in different locations. Actually the bicycle had been in use since June carrying potential material for checkout to citizens at such paces as the DUBUQUE REGIONAL HUMANE SOCIETY, FARMERS' MARKET, and the Mississippi Riverwalk. (34)




1. Fyten, David, "Carnegie-Stout Library Wins Historical Designation," Telegraph Herald, August 15, 1975, p. 5

2. "Additions to the Young Men's Library," Dubuque Democratic Herald, November 1, 1863, p. 4, Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=A36e8EsbUSoC&dat=18631101&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

3. "Library Improvement," Dubuque Democratic Herald, March 5, 1864, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=A36e8EsbUSoC&dat=18640305&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

4. "Today's Addition," Dubuque Democratic Herald, November 5, 1863, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=A36e8EsbUSoC&dat=18631105&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

5. "The Public Library," Dubuque Herald, November 19, 1865, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18651119&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

6. "The Young Men's Library Association," Dubuque Herald, De. 7, 1865, p. 4

7. "Young Men's Library," Dubuque Herald, January 7, 1865, p. 4.https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18660107&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

8. "Library Association," Dubuque Herald, January 27, 1866, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18660127&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

9. "For the Benefit of the Library," Dubuque Herald, January 11, 1874, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18740111&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

10. "Library Association Hop," Dubuque Herald, January 24, 1874, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18740124&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

11. "The New Library," Dubuque Daily Telegraph, p. 3

12. "He Won't Appoint," Dubuque Daily Telegraph, February 5, 1901, p. 3

13. Hendricks, Susan. Library Director, Carnegie-Stout Public Library. e-mail, June 5, 2015

14. "The New Library

15. "Name Architect," Dubuque Daily Telegraph, p. 3

16. Henricks, Susan (Library Director), email, May 2, 2019

17. Ibid.

18. Henricks, email, May 1, 2019

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

21. "Local Library is Now the Holder of Two Records," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, November 3, 1931

22. "Dubuque's History in 'Movies,' Telegraph-Herald, July 27, 1952, p. 17

23. Kirchen, Rich, "Dubuque Library Forms Group to Get Collections on Display," Telegraph Herald, March 20, 1988, p. 3

24. "City Can't Afford Library Upgrade," Telegraph Herald, September 29, 1992, p. 3A

25. Eiler, Donnelle, "'Gateway to the World,'" Telegraph Herald, February 10, 1995, p. 1

26. Wilkinson, Jennifer. "Remodeling Opens New Chapter for Library," Telegraph Herald, May 26, 1998, p. 1. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19980526&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

27. "Internet Provider Donates Accessory to City Library," Telegraph Herald, January 7, 1997. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19970107&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

28. Barton, Thomas J. "No 'Appraisal' Worth Losing Wood's Works," Telegraph Herald, January 24, 2016, p. 17A

29. Montgomery, Jeff. "$22 Million," Telegraph Herald, October 18, 2017, p. 1

30. "Dubuque Library Recognized," Telegraph Herald, April 18, 2016, p. 3A.

31. Barton, Thomas J. "Carnegie-Stout to Offer Look at Virtual Reality," Telegraph Herald, February 25, 2018, p. 11A

32. Hinga, Allie, "Library to Forgive Fines for 6 Months," Telegraph Herald, May 25, 2018, p. 3A

33. Hinga, Allie, "Library Eyes Home-Bound Delivery," Telegraph-Herald, May 31, 2018, p. 1

34. Hinga, Allie, "Bikemobile?" Telegraph Herald, July 9, 2018, p. 1A

Dubuque 2.0. "Carnegie-Stout Public Library - Making History Being Historic and Sustainable." online

Dubuque Carnegie-Stout Public Library, IA. Homepage