Library History

The Ella Johnson Memorial Public Library has served its community since 1936. The library has actually been located on five sites prior to its current site. The first public library in Hampshire was conducted as a W.P.A. project from 1936 to 1942, during which time it was located in the community room of the high school.

At the beginning of World War II the collection was moved to the village hall, which then was located on the second floor of the building which now houses the village hall on the first floor. This move was conducted by the Wednesday Club, and involved 788 volumes. However, the upstairs village hall location was inconvenient, and the building was unheated. Fortunately, an abandoned hat shop, the lot on which it stood, and the sum of $5,000 were donated to the library by Mrs. Bertha Farrell Watts of Elgin in December 1942. She stipulated it be called Ella Johnson Memorial Public Library in memory of her sister, Mrs. Ella Johnson, who had conducted a millinery shop there many years ago, and that there be an emphasis on children’s books. In a special township election held in February 1943, a one mill tax was passed in a township election to make the library a tax supported village library. Mrs. Watts died in 1947 and bequeathed an additional $10,000 to the library.

On July 7, 1950, the contract for a new library building was signed. In March 1951 the new building opened with some 5,000 volumes on the shelves.

On November 5, 1985 a referendum to convert the township library to a district library was passed by an 86% affirmative vote. The present 7,200 sq. ft. library on a single level was completed in 1990 at a cost of approximately $545,600, and was dedicated in honor of Emily Duchaj, its long-time director (1968-1990). Today, the library houses over 40,992 print and audiovisual items and subscribes to over 250 newspapers and magazines. The library also houses public computers, a mobile learning lab, a microfilm reader, copiers, a fax, and printers.