Alice Glore Evans and the Early History of the Library
In 1867 a small group of women called the Ladies Library Association inspired the birth of the Decatur Free Public Library in 1875. The first Library board contained the names of many men who still have standing legacies in Decatur, including William A. Barnes. However, a provision in the board’s governing laws dictated that a third of the board be comprised of women.
Women have inspired the growth of the Library throughout its existence. One woman who made great contributions was Alice Glore Evans. Mrs. Evans’ husband, Richard L. Evans, accepted the post of the first city librarian of the Decatur Public Library in 1875. In his first written report to the board, Mr. Evans noted, “Indeed, since the first week of the opening, I have been obliged to have my wife’s assistance every evening.” Working beside her husband day and evening, Mrs. Evans was an invaluable asset to the Library. Upon her husband’s death in 1881, Mrs. Evans was named his successor.
For more than 50 years, Mrs. Evans served the Decatur Public Library. Under her administration, the circulation of the Library continued to increase, outreach services at local schools were developed, and the Alice G. Evans branch library was constructed. Her friends and community members remember her as being cheerful, kind, and courteous. Many shared fond memories upon her death in 1926. One particular note captured the essence of who Mrs. Evans was and what she meant to the Library.
“I cannot put her away in the lavender scented leaves of my mind, but rather she is there an alert, eager spirit forever dusting the shelves of my memory just as I used to find her in her little room. I like to think of her leaving us suddenly in the midst of her activities and happiness, but not too far away from her work and the people she loved. I would have her coming back to the public who loved her and the place where she will be the first to feel the throb of April beneath the ground.”
In honor of Mrs. Evans’ contributions to the Library, her portrait is prominently displayed on the wall outside the Library’s administrative offices on the second floor.
As the library grew, the need for a new building arose and by the turn of the 20th century, plans were in place. The Decatur Public Library Building, located at 457 N. Main, was built at a cost of $65,000. A grant from Andrew Carnegie paid for most of it. The cornerstone was laid on June 16, 1902, and the building was opened to the public on July 1, 1903.
By 1970, the library was in need of a larger facility and obtained the building on 247 E. North Street which had recently been vacated by Sears. This building served until 1999, when the library moved to its current location on 130 N. North Franklin Street.