The Independence Public Library is still located at the corner of Maple and Fifth, in the structure as it was built by the Carnegie Foundation in 1907. The Library currently houses 61,700 volumes of print and non-print materials, with a patron registration of 9,880 borrowers. The Library circulated 104,321 items in 1999. Today the Library is automated, offering more than adult and children’s books, it also circulates large print books, books on tape, videos, and CD-ROM’s. The Library also provides many other services, such as Internet access for the public, weekly programs for children, adult programs, outreach programs, interlibrary loan, and a genealogy research area.
On February 3, 1882, 12 women of Independence met at the home of Mrs. Edgar Hull to discuss the need for a Library in the community; thus the Ladies Library association was formed. George T. Guernsey donated $50.00 for the Library fund and the city offered the council room for the purpose of housing the books. The Library opened with 3,500 books. The books were moved almost every year to a new location, until the Library was built in 1907. In 1901 Mayor A. C. Stich offered to build a Library at the cost of $15,000.00, if the city would levy a proper tax for its maintenance. This was defeated, leaving the ladies “sorely mortified at this defeat.” So, the Ladies decided to apply to Mr. Andrew Carnegie to build a Library in Independence. Mr. Stich and Mr. Carnegie’s correspondence resulted in an offer of $20,000.00 and would increase to $22,500.00 if certain requirements were met by the City. Another election was held and the proposition passed by 18 votes.
The Ladies, after 25 years, having succeeded in their goal of obtaining a Library for Independence, did not stop or disband. They turned their focus to obtaining pieces of art work. The Library housed these pieces of work until the late 1920’s. Mrs. Stich-Johns left in her will $3,000.00 for the Ladies to erect a home for its meetings and repository for its paintings. The home next to the Library was purchased for that purpose. The Ladies Library and Art Association sold the Library and its contents to the City in 1962 for $14,000.00.