It is believed that interested businessmen started the first library in Marissa about 1891, in Mitze’s Harness Shop. It was a subscription library, consisting of 200-300 books. Members were entitled to free reading privileges while non-subscribers take books on a rental basis. Later the library was moved upstairs to the office of Mr. Millard McMurdo who served as librarian. Other interested men were A.J. Meek, Henry Mitze, Dan Zihlsdorf and W.M.K. Lyons. After that closed, book clubs were formed by small groups of readers and the books were passed around among the members. At the close of this library, the books ere combined with a large and well-selected group of books, which were placed in the Academy Building in 1886.
The next phase of the library’s history came with the Works Progress Administration, which started in 1938 and ended in 1942. Through the efforts of Theodore Charlwood, then principal of the Marissa Grade School, the library was housed in the school. Among the first librarians were Mrs. Bertram Jones and Mrs. Amanda Baird. When the W.P.A. ended, the school took over the library and moved the books to an upstairs room adjoining the office where Mrs. Ann Watt served as secretary and librarian.
In June 1959, Mr. James Montedonico, Director of the State Regional Libraries, met with a group of interested citizens to discuss the project of forming a library in Marissa. Marissa would be part of the Kaskaskia Regional Library System, taking in both Old and New Marissa and the surrounding areas. Books and a librarian would be furnished and the project operated by the state for 18 months with no expense to the citizens. Mrs. Helen Krebs and Tom Lee led the formation of the library and plans for its organization. The Marissa Messenger played a large role in the library program. A building was rented from C.E. Varns and volunteer workers built shelves and donated furniture with which to start the library. On October 24, 1959, the Marissa Library came into being. More than 3,000 books arrived and Mrs. Marjorie Hemphill was selected as librarian. Donations and pledges from citizens took care of additional expense.
In June 1960, Marissa and all voters in the Kaskaskia Regional Library System went to the polls to vote to retain the Library and to levy a six-tenths of a mill tax to support it. Although it carried in both, New and Old Marissa, it was heavily defeated in other areas. The Kaskaskia Regional Library came to an end. An election was held by both villages and with the help of Mayors Kratz (Old Town) and Gorman (New Town) and their Village Boards, they again went to the polls and voted in Marissa’s first Public Library. Mrs. Helen Krebs was acting president through these trying times. The first Board of Directors appearing on the ballot in the election was:
From Old Marissa – Helen Krebs, Elsie Matzenbacher, Virginia Lawder, Dorothy Groh, Connie Kunze and Rev. Emil Hotlz;
From New Marissa – Helen Walters, Isabel Norton, Margaret Irwin, Kathleen Lee, Harold Lloyd and Louis Pechenino.
The tax rate remained the same. It passed by a large majority and the tax levied.
In January 1962, Mayor Bollmeier and the Village Board of New Marissa began to make plans for a Municipal Building, which would house the Library and Museum. While the new building was being constructed the library was moved upstairs over the bank and continued to function in close quarters until the new building was completed.
In October 1963, the Library Board held a Smorgasbord to obtain money for fixtures. This was a benefit shared by both villages and a huge success creating untold enthusiasm for the library building and and its furnishings. Lions Club and Rotary Club bought book stacks and various other organizations assisted in purchases of equipment through the years.
On March 3, 1964 the Marissa Library moved into its new quarters, and although not complete, resumed business. On April 11-12, an Open House was held for the Municipal Building.
The museum, started by Mr. Thomas Keyworth, was kept in the Marissa Grade School until the space was needed for classrooms. It was then stored away until the Marissa Library came into being and it was reassembled, becoming a major part of the library. As more space was needed for library use, the last of the museum showcases were moved to the Academy Building. This made space for the addition of five public use computers. Additional bookcases were added as needed. Eldon Reuss, Don Lambert, and Emmett Laumbattus made some of them.
In 1998 at the spring election, the citizens voted for the library to become a district library. This increased the jurisdiction to take in all of the Marissa School District #40. In 2000, the library purchased the adjacent building, formally Erb’s Tom Boy, and began renovating it. In early 2002, through the help of a library construction grant, various memorials, and donations major renovations began. The addition now housed the children’s section, computer lab, staff work station, two handicap restrooms, boardroom, and tutoring room. The original library now houses the adult fiction, non-fiction, and two reading areas.