Marion Carnegie Library was opened to the public in 1916. It has undergone several renovations in the 92 years since, including a major expansion in 1997 that added 12,000 square feet. The library’s collection now exceeds 75,000 items, there are over 9,000 registered borrowers and it averages more than 141,500 visitors each year. The library has an automated circulation system as well as multi-media workstations and Internet capability. There is a public meeting room with computer workstations. A full-service coffee bar is located on the main floor. Marion is located in Williamson County in southern Illinois at the intersection of Illinois Route 13 and Interstate 57.
The library stands on the site of the former "Grandma Cline" residence. This property was acquired in 1914 for the sum of $5,003.17 from Sarelda Cline and her heirs. The building was constructed in 1915 with a grant of $18,000 from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. Clifford Shopbell of Evansville, IN, designed the building, which was constructed by Robert Sparks of Marion. It was opened to the public on February 29, 1916 with 1,162 volumes and 680 borrowers. Marie Williams Roberts was the first librarian. Mark Woodley was the first president of the board of trustees.
A mezzanine existed above the entrance to the library until it was replaced by the present stairs in the east entrance in the late 1930's. The top floor was an attic until renovation on the south half made it the children's area in 1962. In 1967, the children's area expanded to include the north half of the top floor. In 1984, the Children's Department was moved from the top floor to the lower level so it would be accessible for the handicapped. This move eliminated the meeting room which existed on the lower level. This renovation also added a ramp to the entrance and one of the marble staircases at the entry was removed to accommodate a chairlift.
Almost all woodwork on the main floor and lower level of the original building is the original walnut. The woodwork and fireplaces have been retained. The bricks on the exterior of the existing building were made locally and were matched for the addition. The clay roof tiles are the original, and the same manufacturer provided identical tiles for the expansion.
Marion Carnegie Library is home to spaces for children, young adults and adults. The Children’s Department is housed on the library’s lower floor. It features a pet rabbit and hamster, games, computers, toys and DVDs, as well as books. A family program is usually offered once a month. Weekly storyhours are offered in the fall and spring and summer reading is a yearly occurrence.
Marion Carnegie Library’s Young Adult Department was first opened about five years ago in a small room near the Children’s Department. Then, to meet a growing need, the library decided to remodel a space on the second floor, which was largely unused, to house the new teen department, which opened May 30, 2009. The 2,600 square foot area was designed by a committee of teens and other young adults. The unique space contains a café area with a graffiti wall and vending machines, comfortable seating, computers, a large screen television that is used with PS2 and Wii games, plus a slat wall for artwork.
The main floor also houses computers for adult use, as well as a paperback and magazine exchange. Comfort seating is available, and visitors may relax with newspapers and magazines. Two study rooms are located to the west of the main circulation desk. Adult fiction and nonfiction, genealogy, reference, audiobooks, videotapes and DVDS are located on the main floor. Waiting lists and holds are available for popular titles.