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Library History

Peru’s first library was started in 1886 and supported entirely by fees paid by library borrowers. The German Association Library also hosted a fee-based library about the same time. In 1910 the two libraries joined to form the Peru Public Library, funded by local property tax dollars. We celebrated our Centennial throughout 2010.

The Peru Public Library requested and was awarded a matching $15,000 Carnegie Grant to build a library facility in 1910. The Peru Public Library’s facility was built on Putnam Street, opening on 1 December 1911 with a collection of 2,000 books. In 1953 the historical room was opened on the second floor and the children’s room moved to the lower level.

After serving the community for 74 years, the Putnam Street building was not adequate for community needs. As before, a matching grant was requested and awarded from the Illinois State Library. The new building, completed in 1985, is located on 11th Street, next to Washington Park.

We have a collection of approximately 40,000 physical items available for borrowing by the residents of Peru. Books were the first items purchased and remain popular. Other early and enduring formats are magazines and newspapers. Records were added to the lending collection in 1950/51. Other additions included VCR cassettes, audiobooks, large print, music CD’s, DVD’s, full-text databases, ebooks, Nooks, and Hotspots.

Since 1910, the library has been an active member of the community. Some of the events and activities hosted by the library include:

  • The Library maintained a branch or satellite library at the Westclox complex in the early-1930s.
  • During the 1950s, the Peru Library Experimental Theater, led by Librarian Dorothy Bieneman, presented interpretive readings and plays.
  • In 1958-59, the Library used grant funds for a bookmobile in areas of South La Salle County without library service.
  • The library has hosted displays of local artists and national touring exhibits, such as Produce for Victory in 1995
  • Children’s storytimes have been a regular library feature for nearly 100 years.
  • Regular programs include Peruvian Purlers, Teen Game Night, and Children’s Storytimes among others. Our first Open Mic Night was held in 2010 and Animinicon began in 2007.
  • Public computers were added in the 1990’s; currently, we have 9 public-use computers. Free WiFi is also offered to patrons 24/7.
  • The library celebrated its centennial with a year-long celebration.
  • In 2016 the library converted to library district.
  • In 2024 Youth Services was updated.


Fanny Snyder 1911-1939
Evelyn Ball 1940-1942
Amy Plym 1943-1944
Dorothea Hess Gillmann 1943-1950
Dorothy Bieneman 1951-1973
Kenneth Hansen 1973-1982
Mary S. Hahne 1982-1983
Carl Berry 1983-1986
Carol Bird 1986-1989
David Green 1989-1996
Marydale Stewart 1996-2005
Mary Jean Hauger 2007-2010
Charm Ruhnke 2010-2022
Melissa Keegan 2022-
Emily Schaub 2022-
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