The origins of the library in Elmwood are difficult to trace: only fragmentary references appear in available records. Apparently the idea began in the 1850's and 1860's when several women's organizations set up an informal exchange among themselves, contributing their own books as a revolving collection. It has been impossible to learn the names of those responsible for the original plan or those who first conceived expanding the program for public benefit. The Elmwood Chronicle stated on April 19, 1867: The Elmwood Library will be found in the office of the Chronicle and books may be obtained at all hours from 7 in the morning to 6 at night.
The Elmwood Gazette stated on April 7, 1898: The school library will be open to the public every Thursday afternoon from 4 to 5 o'clock.
In 1910, a group of women formed the Library Association and housed books on the second floor of the Venn Building (113-115 West Main Street). Later the reading room was moved to a cottage at 205 West Main Street.
A tax levy of $900 was requested from the City Council on June 5, 1922 to support a fully functioning public library. The City Council approved the tax levy as requested and the library was supported by the city tax until 1951-1952 when the Morrison and Mary Wiley Library was opened.
In 1924, the building at 105 South Magnolia Street was purchased for the Elmwood Public Library. Construction of a new library building at 206 West Main Street began on November 16, 1949. Plans and specifications were completed by the Peoria architectural firm of Emerson, Gregg and Briggs. Elmwood's new library was made possible through the generosity of the late J. E. Wiley, who died November 18, 1920. In his will, he left a 640 acre farm, valued at the time at $150,000, to a corporation named the Morrison and Mary Wiley Library Corporation, with Dr. D. H. Morton, J. P. Bourgoin, Lee Miller, Charles E. Smith and Chas. E. McDonald named as trustees. After the death of Mr. McDonald, Mr. Harold Shissler was appointed by the board to fill the vacancy. See other board member information below.
The corporation was formed on June 2, 1926 and since that time has managed the affairs of the farm and the library trust fund. The income from the farm had been accumulating and when sufficient funds were available, the contracts were signed for the actual construction of the building. The total cost for the building was approximately $90,000.00.
The Morrison and Mary Wiley Library building contains a large reading room with mezzanine study areas. Over 20,000 books may be housed in the stacks located on two levels. Also, on the first floor is a children's room, which in earlier years was a small exhibition area where historical objects and artistic displays were shown to the public. On the second floor, a large meeting room and space for archival storage are available. The library also owns the corner lot just west of the library building.
The library was completed and occupied in 1950. The income from the farm continues to provide for the maintenance of the library. Over the years, the following people have served as head librarians: Lodisa Garner, Tillie Johnston, Pauline Kemp, Ruth Spicher, Jane Reed, Karen Miles and Mary Stenwall. In October of 2007 Michelle Armbruster became Library Director.
In 1998, the library was updated to comply with current codes with the addition of an entrance ramp and a handicapped-accessible restroom.
Two boards oversee the management and functions of the library: the Morrison and Mary Wiley Library Board and the Elmwood Township Library District Board.
-All of the above information is from the Elmwood History Book 2004.
The library is completely funded by cash rent from the farm land left to the library in the name of Morrison & Mary Wiley. The library doesn't receive tax money.
Dr. D. H. Morton passed away in 1960 and L. Richard Whitney was appointed. L. Richard Whitney passed away in 1965 and George Whitney was appointed. George Whitney passed away in 1987 and R. Wayne Slone was appointed. R. Wayne Slone retired in November of 2006 and Dale Runyon was appointed in March 2007. Dale Runyon retired in May of 2015 and Tom Herman was appointed in June 2015. Tom Herman stepped down in April 2019 and Stephanie Colgan was appointed in July 2019.
Charles E. Smith passed away in 1974 and Harry McFall II was appointed. Harry McFall II retired and Harry McFall III was appointed. Harry McFall III retired in November of 2009 and Doug Whitney was appointed in April of 2010.
J. Paul Bourgoin passed away in 1955 and Eugene Bourgoin was appointed. Eugene Bourgoin retired in 1984 and Bob Howard was appointed. Bob Howard stepped down in 2021 and Janelle Meyers was appointed. Lee E. Miller passed away in 1967 and George B. McKinty was appointed. George B. McKinty retired in 1993 and Harold Jehle was appointed .
Charles E. McDonald passed away in 1948 and Harold Shissler was appointed. Harold Shissler passed away in 1974 and William E. Foster was appointed. William E. Foster retired in 1976 and Bob Lott was appointed. Bob Lott retired and Pam Paige was appointed.