Stillwater Public Library celebrates 100 years | News


This year marks the Stillwater Public Library 100th year in existence.

The library plans to celebrate throughout the year with Centennial Celebration events.

Although much has changed about the library in 100 years, much has remained the same.

From the formation of The Ladies Reading Circle (later, The Stillwater Browning Society) in 1892 to the pages of the Stillwater Woman’s Club meeting with notes scrawled in cursive next to names and dates, to today’s meetings held in air-conditioned rooms and StoryWalk for kids, the library represents what it always has – access to free resources that curate, educate and inspire a world of knowledge for individuals.

“At its core, the library provides the very same essentials now that it did 100 years ago,” Stillwater Public Library Director Stacy DeLano said.

Stillwater Public Library Director Stacy DeLano shares information about original library board meetings on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. Here she is pointing to original board member names in minutes from board meetings after the library was officially organized.

Those essentials include things like free community access, reliable information, great stories and a warm and smiling welcome, she said.

They also include the formats in which reliable information and great stories come and instruction on using those formats.

“This is what we provide today and it is what Harriet Woodring (the first librarian hired by the city of Stillwater) provided in 1923—it is simply that the formats have so vastly changed,” DeLano said.

From its beginnings, SPL has been steeped in the love of literature, education and culture.

Patron checks out at SPL

Roseanna Recchia, a library aide at Stillwater Public Library, checks out books for Karen Anderson, a Stillwater resident. Although much has changed in technology since the library officially opened in 1923, much has remained the same.

The roots

The roots of the Stillwater Public Library dates back to The Ladies Reading Circle in 1892, which was later renamed The Stillwater Browning Society, said Dianne Adams, current historian for the Stillwater Browning Society.

The society was based on the original Browning Society founded in London in 1881.

The 1881 Browning Society’s original intention was to read and study the works of Victorian poet Robert Browning, but the Stillwater branch soon expanded to include other literary genres and popular social issues of the day.

As Stillwater’s oldest organization, the society was responsible for helping to establish what would become the forerunner to the Stillwater Public Library.

Emily States looks at archives

Emily States, the Adult Services Supervisor at Stillwater Public Library, looks through boxes in the archives on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. The Stillwater Public Library is celebrating its centennial this year and the team is preparing for upcoming events. 

Paula Long with stamps and ledgers at SPL

Circulation Services Supervisor Paula Long showcases old stamps and ledgers from the archives at Stillwater Public Library on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. The library is celebrating 100 years in existence and plans to hold events throughout the year.

Historians recorded several attempts at organizing a library in Stillwater.

• The Stillwater Browning Society established a “traveling library” that consisted of 20 cases of books.

• In 1895, the Congregational Church made over 300 volumes available to the public, according to a July edition of “The Populist,” Stillwater’s newspaper at the time.

• In 1898, the Stillwater Browning Society began a project called the Browning Public Library of Stillwater, which they founded and directed until 1901, when they transferred the project and funds to other sponsors. 

• In a May 1900 edition of “The Payne County Populist,” the Y.M.C.A., which was in the process of opening and planning, announced plans to put in a “good and substantial library and reading room” for the public’s use.

• In June 1904, “The Stillwater Gazette” reported that a plan for a new library club was briefly discussed. Dues were one dollar for two years.

• “The Stillwater Advance” reported in April 1905 that the Grand Jury of the District Court of Payne County recommended that a library be maintained for the jail and that books should be solicited from local churches and societies.

• The Stillwater Browning Society and the Stillwater Woman’s Club both contributed to provide funds and donations for the library, DeLano said.

Then in 1922, the Stillwater Woman’s Club, the primary driver in raising funds for the library, opened a small library, charging dues of $1 per year. And on January 15, 1923, they opened the first official library in the former parsonage of the United Brethren Church.

In July 1923, Stillwater Mayor Holger appointed the first official library board, including members like Clarence Bullen, Rev. Allen Davis, Mrs. I.O. Diggs, Aurora Terwilliger and Pearl Good. The city hired Mrs. Harriet Woodring to be the first librarian, with a monthly salary of $25.

One of the first orders of business was the purchase of a new chair for the new librarian. A Miss Wright from the OAMC helped catalog the books.

The legacy

When trying to measure the legacy of the Stillwater Public Library, one thing is clear, DeLano said.

“Ultimately, it’s the Stillwater community who has shaped what the library is today,” DeLano said. “(It’s) the families who use the library generation after generation, bringing their children and grandchildren to borrow books, read and attend programs.”

In addition, DeLano said those who work behind the scenes have made the library what it is today.

The volunteers, library and trust board members, organizations in Stillwater, professionals at OSU, Meridian Tech and other businesses, the library staff and directors, ongoing funding and expertise from the city of Stillwater, volunteers with the Friends of the Library and state and federal agencies are all responsible for shaping the current Stillwater Public Library.

The future

The staff looks forward to celebrating with the community at upcoming events.

The first is a pop-up history exhibit at the History Museum at the Sheerar on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 5:30 p.m.

Other events include:

• An after-hours library lock-in for families on Friday, March 17. There will be board games, video games, movies, reading and s’mores in the outside fire pit (weather permitting).

• A “Haunted Library” in October.

• Local breweries promoting a special library beer release (details upcoming).

• Behind the scenes, SPL is raising Centennial funding to grow the Stillwater Public Library Trust. The goal is to increase the endowment so that SPL can complete near-future dream projects and continue to provide excellent library services for the next 100 years.

For more information about this event and upcoming events, visit