FOLEY – An effort by a group of Foley women to collect 500 books to create a public library has grown into a community center with more than 88,000 items 100 years later.

The Foley Public Library celebrated its centennial Wednesday  This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Foley Public Library. Library supporters and other residents came by the library to talk to staff members and look over displays from the facility’s 100-year history.

Mayor Ralph Hellmich said the library has grown as Foley has grown. He said the city now plans to build a new library to meet the needs of the growing community.

“This is just the beginning,” Hellmich told library staff members during the City Council meeting Monday.. “It’s more of a community center and a library. So we’re very proud of this library and all the folks that do the hard work. You have many people that contribute to this and it’s something that I and the City Council are very proud of, that our library is so well thought of and we want to thank you.”

Library Director John Jackson said the efforts of library staff members, volunteers and other supporters have been a major contribution to the success of the center.

“It’s a group effort. It’s a team effort. We wouldn’t be able to do things that we do and accomplish the goals that we have set for ourselves without working together,” Jackson said. 

“We set our goals to be the best we can be in everything that we do and working together it’s turned out to be that way,” he added.

On May 3, 1923, the Community Welfare Club, which later became the Foley Women’s Club, began a project to establish a public library in the 8-year-old town. Each member was asked to contribute a book and to ask others to donate books as well.

By Oct. 1, 1923, the club had collected 500 books and opened the library and 50 people had paid subscriptions of $1 a year. The library opened in a space provided by the Foley Furniture Co., which was owned by the husband of Metta Christensen, a club member. Mrs. Christensen served as the unpaid first librarian.

In May, 1927, Herman Dreis donated a building on the south side of the Foley Park as the site for a new library building. The small house served as the library for 35 years.

In 1957, the Foley Women’s Club asked the town to take over the library. As the library collection and patronage grew, the Town Council decided to expand the library building. A new wing was added to the west and a reception area and circulation room was built in center of the building. The expanded library was dedicated on Nov. 18, 1962.

This building served as the library until the current facility opened in 1984.

Today, the former library building at the intersection of North McKenzie Street and East Laurel Avenue is the Foley Welcome Center building. The reception area was the former circulation room, while the original 1927 building makes up the offices on the east side of the building.

City officials are developing plans to construct a new library building near the Foley Dog Park. The planned building would have about 20,000 square feet of space. Current plans call for the new facility to open in 2025.