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Library History

Since the late 1800s, we have been a fixture in the community. Follow our story to see our growth and continued commitment to serving the City of Appleton.


Elizabeth Jones spearheads the first successful attempt at a community reading room. At her own expense, Jones rents a room over Pardee’s Store (near the corner of College Avenue and Morrison Street), provides materials, and solicits donations of books, magazines and newspapers.


In 1888, materials are given to a new organization in town, the Young Men’s Christian Association. The YMCA operates the reading room until 1894, when a fire destroys most of the materials.


George Jones, Dr. Lummis, Mrs. J.S. Reeve and A.M. Smith open a new reading room on Oneida Street. Due to a lack of funds, the room offers only newspapers and periodicals. Funding remains an issue and the reading room closes on May 1, 1897.


The Free Library Association offers to donate materials to the City of Appleton on the condition that a public library organizes. The city council accepts the offer, using council quarters above Petersen-Rehbein Meat Market (106 W. College Avenue) to house the library. Mayor Herman Erb, Jr. appoints the first library board of trustees on August 4.

The first publicly-owned library and reading room opens on September 1. Agnes L. Dwight, trained at the Library School of the Armour Institute of Technology, is the library’s first professional librarian.


The City of Appleton constructs its first municipal building at 121 S. Oneida Street. The building houses the library on the main floor and City hall on the second floor.


Library Children’s Department forms to serve the needs of children throughout the community.


City hall offices move out of the municipal building giving the library additional space.


The library undergoes an extensive remodel, including space for teens and new formats such as record albums and microfilm.


The library joins with other public libraries of Outagamie and Waupaca counties to help form the Outagamie Waupaca Library System (OWLS) creating opportunities for sharing materials, technology and knowledge.


Friends of Appleton Library organizes to support library efforts.


Outgrowing the space at 121 S Oneida Street, a new 70,000 square foot library opens up at 225 N. Oneida Street.


The first online circulation system is installed.


The Appleton Library Foundation organizes to provide for additional funding for library activities.


The second floor expands to increase space and create a better, more flexible floorplan. The library develops the first public library website in Wisconsin.


The library conducts building studies that result in recommendations for a new or remodeled library facility.


The Friends of Appleton Library and the Appleton Library Foundation merge to form Friends of Appleton Public Library.


The library undergoes organizational restructuring with a focus on 21st century library ideas. The Community Partnerships Section is created to work directly with local organizations and initiatives throughout the Fox Cities.


The library completes a community-focus library planning effort resulting in the library’s long-term strategic plan.


The library building closed to the public off and on throughout 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A new, popular curbside service was quickly developed and launched. The Children’s Section and the Community Partnerships Section transitioned their programming online.

Mayor Jake Woodford announced a plan to move forward with the library building project – a renovation of the building on its current site – 225 N. Oneida Street.


The City of Appleton Common Council awarded a contract to Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) for design and engineering services for the Appleton Public Library at its current location.


APL moved temporarily to 2411 S. Kensington Drive for the duration of the building renovation at 225 N. Oneida Street.