Our Story

The library was first established in March of 1872 by 15 members of the Ladies' Reading Club with 9 members paying $1.00 in dues. By October of the same year, it had grown to 57 ladies paying dues.

In 1902, Andrew Carnegie offered $15,000 for a library building. The city accepted the gift and pledged $1,500 annually for maintenance of the library. A beautiful building, designed by George P Washburn, was completed in 1903. The building, now home to Ottawa Community Arts Council, still stands in City Park at 5th & Main.

During the summer of 1996, the Ottawa Library moved to its current location with City Hall in the former Franklin Savings headquarters on South Hickory street. The main collection was placed in the basement and the reference materials on the ground level. 

The community's needs have changed over the years but the our mission remains the same:

Ottawa Library is a community library that links everyone to free educational, informational, and entertainment resources through responsive, quality service that supports lifelong learning. 

It is time to look to the future. The Ottawa Library is proud to announce that we are working with Sabitini Architects of Lawrence to develop the next chapter of our story. Follow the process with our Building Project page.

Original Carnegie Library

Current building shared with City Hall

Artist's rendering of proposed new library building


The Ottawa Library is a member of the North East Kansas Library System, a network of academic, public, school, and specialty libraries across the north east corner of Kansas. ​Being a member of this system gives our patrons access to an expanded collection of resources that would otherwise be beyond the ability of our library to provide on its own.


The library is open to the public Monday through Thursday 9am - 8pm, Friday 9am - 5pm, and Saturday 9am - 1pm. The library is closed on Sunday. These hours are subject to change based on holidays, inclement weather, and the occasional all staff / all building training events.