The Stow Public Library was founded in 1924, prompted by the efforts of Lottie Peck. At first, the Library was housed close to the commercial center of Stow in the tiny former town hall building. It was a School District Library with a Board of Trustees appointed by the School Board of Education. On January 21, 1925, the Library opened to the public. The township of Stow and the village of Munroe Falls shared the school system. Stow and Munroe Falls were mainly farming communities, with a few service businesses, two churches, and a few organizations. They had a combined population of nearly 3,000. The Library's collection of 2,000 volumes was primarily fiction, with only a few reference books. The Library's first budget of $4,600 provided service not only to the general public, but also to the two local school libraries, as well.
In 1930, the Library Board purchased a house one-half block north of the former town hall building. The Library occupied this house until 1963. The house provided space for a separate children's room and more office and stack areas. The Library gradually added a higher percentage of non-fiction, but the reference collection remained weak. An increase in staff presented the need for an employee policy manual.
In the period of rapid population growth after World War II, the Library's resources were once again strained to provide adequate service to the schools and the public. In 1963, the Library relinquished its administrative role in the school libraries. This resulted in paving the way for better service to the public.
Circulation in 1935 for the Library was approximately 38,000 items compared to the circulation in 1963 at approximately 100,000 items. By 1960, Stow's population had exceeded 5,000, and it became a city. During the period from 1963 through 1974, the Library expanded its staff to twenty-two and initiated modern business procedures. An organization chart, formal job descriptions with qualifications, fringe benefits, and a structured pay scale were developed.
In 1968, a new building was constructed adjacent to the little house.
In 1973, a new addition provided the needed room for the Library's growing collection (62,640 volumes) and meeting room space for the public. The Reference collection and library services were upgraded at this time. Cooperation with other area libraries was expanded. During this period, the Library contracted with the Akron Public Library for the majority of book purchasing, cataloging and processing. The "Friends of the Stow Public Library" was organized.
In 1978, 20,000 square feet were added. Funding restrictions allowed only for the completion of the first floor (i.e., 10,000 square feet). This space was used to expand the children's department, to provide additional stack area for books in the adult department and to increase the space for technical processing and administrative offices. The additional 10,000 square feet, which occupied the second story, was left unfinished.
In 1982, the Library joined OCLC (Online Computer Library Center). In the early 1990's, the Library became part of CAMLS (Cleveland Area Metropolitan Library System). Both memberships allowed the Library to improve its bibliographic control and interlibrary loan services.
In December 1986, automated circulation began with the implementation of TLM, The Library Machine. The Library had previously used the Gaylord Checkout System, a manual card operation.
In May 1987, the first computer catalog was installed improving the way patrons could locate items. A separate department was created to handle audio-visual materials.
By 1990, the Library's circulation had surpassed half a million and reference questions more than tripled. The Library purchased Infotrac, Proquest and Prophone (disk-based services for accessing magazine articles and telephone directories). Word processing services were also made available.
The late 1980's and early 1990's was an era of planning to meet the needs of an ever-growing community. In 1989, "Project 2000" was launched. Over the next four years, a series of committees, including Board, staff and community members, met to determine the needs of the Library for the coming century. "Project 2000" resulted in a renovation plan that necessitated the purchase of adjacent properties north to Beech Street. This plan would allow for the utilization of the second story for the Children's Department and public meeting rooms and for the enhancement of the ground floor to accommodate a growing demand for increased technology. This plan also provided additional parking.
In 1991, Munroe Falls became a city.
In October 1993, Dynix, a more sophisticated automated system, replaced TLM.
In 1994, the Library added summer Sunday hours. This resulted in the Library being open to the public 69 hours per week for the entire year.
In November 1995, a bond issue was passed, and staff prepared for the immense changes that would follow.
During the renovation from November 1996 through November 1997, the Library occupied temporary quarters at the Stow-Kent Shopping Plaza. During that year, *OPLIN installed a T-1 carrier line, allowing the Library to connect its first computer to the Internet.
On January 28, 1997, the Board of Trustees changed the official name of the Library to the Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library. On November 17, 1997, the Library opened its doors to the newly renovated building of approximately 33,040 square feet.
* OPLIN is the Ohio Public Library Information Network. "OPLIN provides the residents of the State of Ohio fast, free Internet access through the state telecommunications network, as well as the use of high-quality research databases not freely available on the World Wide Web, through their local public libraries." (From the OPLIN web page)
In January 2000, a 75th Anniversary Open House was held. A time capsule was prepared.
By 2000, the combined populations of Stow and Munroe Falls had risen to 37,453. Both had become suburban communities; a housing development replaced the last farm in 2002.
Since the library's reopening in November 1997, many new services and areas have been added:NEW SERVICES:
The "Friends" continue to fund the Library's creative programming and special projects through their book sales and memberships.