History of the Conway County Library
Location & Hours
101 W Church St. Morrilton, AR 72110
Mon – Fri: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Saturday: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
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 the 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 where 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 1800 rare books from a reclusive Chicago engraver and book lover, Mr. William H. Porter. Cazort turned the books over to the Pathfinder Club who eventually paid Cazort a modest sum for the books which became known as the Porter Collection.
Using the rare collection as a bargaining chip, along with a downtown Morrilton lot that the club had bought with proceeds from the sale of the Old School Church building, the Pathfinder Club applied to the Andrew Carnegie Foundation for a grant with which to build a new library. 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 $7500, 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.
In 1938, the Library became a part of the state-wide library system. In November 1948, a one-mil library tax was passed to replace the voluntary one-mil tax that was granted twenty-five years earlier by over ninety percent of the voters of the county.
In 1972, a major building renovation was accomplished, with the lower floor becoming an integral part of the Library, housing a portion of the Library’s collection and offices.
The Library celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary in 1991 by initiating a building fund drive to raise funds for a building expansion. Over $100,000 has been pledged or donated by the community in the hope of enlarging both the Library’s services and its historical building.
In the early 1900s, the Carnegie Foundation built 2509 libraries in the English-speaking world. Of those, 1412 were built in the United States. Today, the Conway County Library is one of two public libraries in the state of Arkansas functioning from it original Carnegie building.