History of the Brookings Public Library

The Historic Site

- Brookings County History Book page 184

Clara Morrison Brookings, wife of W.W. Brookings, made initial contact with Andrew Carnegie in 1902, asking him to provide money for a library building in Brookings, her husband's namesake community. On October 9,1907, Pastor Hugh Robertson, of the Presbyterian church, and South Dakota State College librarian William H. Powers penned a similar request to Carnegie who offered Brookings$10,000 for a library building on December 13, 1907. Alas, as Powers remarked later, those interested in a library "could not get public opinion sufficient to make action possible."

By 1913, however, conditions had changed in Brookings, and Powers could accept Carnegie's $10,000 offer on behalf the the Brookings Free Library Association. The Association retained G.C. Miller of Chicago to design the new building. With his partner Normand Patton, Miller, and experienced library architect, fashioned over 100 Carnegie libraries throughout the Midwest.

Miller worked alone the Brookings design, however, to create a one and one-half story rectangular building with both Prairie style and Tudor elements. Miller specified brick construction, laid in a stretcher bond patter and topped by stucco panel faced with wooden beams, giving the building a half-timbered appearance. He covered the hipped roof with wide eaves in red tile. The entrance, with a central opening, provided for a balanced interior plan, with librarian's desk at hte center and reading rooms flanking it on either side.

James Bertram, Carnegie's secretary, scrutinized the plan for any impracticalities or wasted space. Aware of this, Miller used the most current library design. J.H. Robert, a local contractor, completed construction in Feb 1915.

One of the 25 Carnegie-funded buildings in South Dakota, Brookings Library is important because Miller designed it. It served as the City's library until 1976, When the "Carnegie" became the Brookings Community Cultural Center. It was nominated to the Nation register of Historic Places May 7, 1980.


The first recorded history the BPL is from November 27, 1911 minutes of the Brookings Free Library Association. This Association established a new library, which was open 14 hours per week in the upstairs assembly room of City Hall, which was located on 4th Street. 

In 1913 Brookings citizens approved a one-mill levy for the library and it officially became the BPL. A lot was purchased at the intersection of 6th Avenue and Williams Street (now 4th Street) and a $10,000 grant was received from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation for a building. The Carnegie Library was completed and dedicated on February 18, 1915. 

By the early 1970’s it was very obvious that the community had outgrown the Carnegie Library. However, it too three bond issue elections before voters approved the construction of a new library. The new library was build directly south of the original library. The library was dedicated on November 21, 1976. 

In the mid 1980’s the Library board determined that due to steady and continuing growth in both use and public support of the library, and addition should be planned, a bond narrowly failed in 1989. Funding for the expanded Brookings Public Library using second penny sales tax revenues was approved in 1997. Construction began in March 1998.  During the 18 months of construction the library doubled its size from 16,000 to 32,000 square feet. The cost of the project was $2.8 million the Friends donated $2,500 towards the expansion and a $78,000 grant was received. Over 160 volunteers helped move the library twice.  The collection was moved in April 1999 from the old part to the newly constructed upstairs and again in July 1999 so the upstairs could be completed. 

Early in 2008 the library was rearranged to expand the Young Adult section and to make the library more user friendly. New flooring was added  Joyce Wrage Children's Activity room.