The Salem Public Library has its roots in the Monday Night Club, a literary club of about forty persons who recognized the need for a collection of reference materials to support their research on various topics. In March 1895 they formed the Salem Library Association. Shares sold for $25.00.
The library opened with 1,200 books and was housed in the Gurney Building on S. Broadway Ave. It grew rapidly and in 1900 it moved to the Pioneer Block on the corner of what is now N. Lincoln Ave. and E. State St.
Recognizing the need for a permanent home, the first librarian, Mrs. Helen Carey, contacted Andrew Carnegie in January 1903 to request a grant of $17,500 to build a library. Within three weeks Mrs. Carey had his commitment. The new library opened September 1, 1905 at its present site, on land donated by the board of education. In 1931, the Carey Memorial Reading Room was added to the library, and in 1984, a $1.2 million expansion and renovation project was completed. In 2014 a lower level renovation was completed at a cost of $400,000.
Today the library is home to 85,000 physical items plus our eBook and digital audio collections of more than 300,000 items. Each year the library’s more than 18,000 patrons borrow over 350,000 items.