History of the Conway County Library
In 1897, a ladies club was formed in Morrilton known as the Pathfinder Club. From its very beginning, the club’s primary goal was to establish a library for the citizens of the community. This goal began in a small way as club members collected books, appointed a “librarian” from among themselves, and moved books from one member’s house to another. During this time, only club members could get and use books.
In 1914, a town meeting was called and community members pledged to help the club obtain and maintain a library. Funds were solicited to purchase the Old School Presbyterian Church. Local residents offered their services, shelves were added, and the club’s books were moved into the newly purchased building. Anyone in town who was sponsored by a club member could use the Library for a small charge.
During this time, a Morrilton resident, Mr. W. S. Cazort, had purchased a collection of 1,800 rare books from a reclusive Chicago engraver and book lover, Mr. William H. Porter. Cazort gave them to the Pathfinder Club, who eventually paid Cazort a modest sum for the books, which became known as the Porter Collection.
The book collection, along with a downtown Morrilton lot that the club had bought with proceeds from the sale of the Old School Church building, qualified the Pathfinder Club to apply for an Andrew Carnegie Foundation grant. On September 29, 1915, the Andrew Carnegie Foundation granted the city of Morrilton $10,000 for the purpose of building a free public library, making Morrilton the smallest town, at least in the South, to be able to boast of a Carnegie Library.
From the $10,000 Carnegie grant, the present 3,628 square foot facility was built using $7,500, with the remainder of the grant used to purchase furniture and coal. The facility opened in October, 1916. Only the top floor held books. The lower floor contained a meeting room, a small kitchen, a furnace, and a coal bin.
Many years later, the Library expanded to include an additional 1,300 square feet, an elevator, handicapped accessible restrooms, and a complete refurbishing of the lower floor. Once again, the members of the community showed their support for their library and gave generously. The new addition was completed in 2000.
In 2007, the Conway County Library continued its history of serving the community by becoming automated. Now patrons can access the catalogue of about 35,000 items online.
In the early 1900’s, the Carnegie Foundation built 2,509 libraries in the English-speaking world. Of those, 1,412 were built in the United States. Today, the Conway County Library is one of two public libraries in the state of Arkansas functioning from its original Carnegie building. It continues to grow and seek to serve the changing needs of the community.