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Sixty years after the founding of Dallas, residents acquired their first public library building through a philanthropic gift from Andrew Carnegie. The new Carnegie Public Library, located on Commerce Street at Harwood, opened its doors in October, 1901, serving a city that was by then ten times larger.
By 1940, the Central Library Building was not only overcrowded, but in dire need of repair. It also held a book collection that was woefully inadequate for meeting the needs of the growing population. Even with a $1 million bond program for a new building approved in 1945, five years later a new structure still seemed far away. The Dallas Public Library badly needed "friends."
On March 13, 1950, a group of twenty-three spirited and civic-minded citizens organized the Friends of the Dallas Public Library. They shared a deep sense of urgency and responsibility for growing the library system. After only one year, Friends membership stood at 1,000 and the organization was ready to begin an ambitious campaign. The new central library opened it doors on September 25, 1955.
Dallas continued to grow at unprecedented rate and soon again outgrew its central library. The City of Dallas and the friends formed a private.public partnership to raise $40,000,000. The Friends goal was to raise $10,000,000 of the $40,000,000. It grew to become a true community effort, built on the conmtributions that ranged from modest gifts from earnest school children to significant donations from individuals, organizations and foundations. The result was the opening of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library in April 1982.
The Friends continues its pledge to ensure that citizens of Dallas enjoy the vital and robust library system it deserves. As special cultural and economic changes have occurred over the years, the Friends has re-evaluated its structure, updated By-laws, received non-profit (501(c)(3) status, but has always remained flexible and steadfastly committed and in its support of the Library System.
The Friends is currently engaged in a $3,000,000 capital campaign to match funds with the City of Dallas for the renovation of the 7th floor of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, which houses an outstanding collection of rare books and Texas history documents. Among other treasures, this floor is home to the only original copy of the Declaration of Independence west of the Mississippi.
The history of the Friends will continue to evolve with changing needs, but one thing will always remain constant: the dedication of its board, staff and membership to provide Dallas citizens with a library that meets current and future needs.
Friends of the Dallas Public Library, Inc.
1515 Young Street, Dallas, TX 75201
P: 214.670.1458 | F: 214.670.1453 | Friends@FoDPL.org