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Fargo Public Library

On this date in 1917 the Fargo Forum and Daily Republican announced that the public library in Fargo was doing a booming business. The number of books being checked out was steadily increasing. 1,878 books had been issued the week before – 100 books more than any previous week. The library had to hire an additional assistant at the loan desk, which freed up other staff to supervise the children’s room. The newspaper noted that the story hour held twice a week in the children’s room had become very popular.

The Fargo Library started modestly in 1900, occupying a single room in the Masonic Temple. It relied on individuals and clubs to donate books. Use of the little library increased, and Fargo residents recognized the need to expand. Aided by funding from Andrew Carnegie, the new library opened on January 26th, 1903. It stood on the corner of Roberts Street and First Avenue North on the site of the old Columbia Hotel, which had been destroyed in the fire of 1893.

In 1930 an addition nearly doubled the size of the library. Magazines were added, along with materials specifically for girls. These included stereotypical themes on homemaking and cookbooks, but also titles like “Occupations for Women,” “Woman’s Part in Government,” and “The Girl Who Earns Her Own Living.”

Andrew Carnegie played an important role in the growth of public libraries. State Legislator B.F. Spalding wrote to Carnegie in 1903 asking for funding for a library for the North Dakota Agricultural College, but Carnegie wasn’t working with colleges at that time. NDAC President Worst repeated the request in 1904. This time, the request was granted. The building, now known as Putnam Hall, is still in use on the campus of North Dakota State University.

Eventually, there were eleven Carnegie libraries in the state. Some of them no longer exist, others have been repurposed, and several are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. “Library Circulation Again Shows Increase.” Fargo ND. 3/13/1917. Page 10

Fargo History Project. “Fargo Public Library.   Accessed 2/3/2020.

North Dakota State University. “Putnam Hall.”  Accessed 2/3/2020.

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