Library History

Flagg-Rochelle Public Library District
Rochelle, Illinois

The April 1889 election established the Flagg Township Library and as early as 1892 the Library was operating out of a room in the Town Hall which is now the Flagg Township Museum. As the Library began to grow, it became obvious it needed its own “home.” In 1912, the Library Board obtained a $10,000 Carnegie grant to build a library.



The firm of Claude and Starck from Madison, Wisconsin designed the original 1912 building. Louis Claude worked for several years with Frank Lloyd Wright in the Chicago firm of Adler and Sullivan. The Library building is an excellent example of “Prairie School” architecture and is often mistaken for a Wright building. The Library is a one-story structure set on a raised basement. A limestone stringcourse runs around the building just below the windows. Between this course and the eaves are panels of a cream-colored Sullivanesque frieze. An orange tile roof completes the building. The main floor was a reading room featuring a fireplace and built-in oak book shelves which ran around the room to the high band of windows. The decorative glass windows, which form almost a continuous band around the room, are leaded glass in a rectangular design of milky glass plus a clear glass of three different textures. A meeting room, complete with a small stage, in the raised basement was accessible through a separate entry. The Library Building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.


Early photographs of the Library show a handsome fishpond on the front lawn. When Betty Neal began working at the Library in 1948, she found a hole in the floor of the Library and a number of half-empty boxes of fish food. It was explained that the hole had been for the pipe of the indoor fish tank. When winter came the fish would be brought inside the building. Local people also brought their fish to “winter” in the Library!



The Library collection and services grew over the years and by 1964 the Children’s Department had moved into the basement. By the mid-1980 the Library, which was designed to hold 16,000 volumes was “crammed” with over 30,000 volumes.


At the end of its first 100 years of service to the Rochelle community, the Library celebrated its centennial in 1989 by moving into a new $1.8 million addition. The addition was designed by Frye Gillan Molinaro of Chicago and increased the 4,200 square foot original building to over 20,000 square feet.


Extreme care was taken to reflect the historic quality of the original building in the design of the new addition. The “crowning-glory” of the construction project was the discovery of two original frieze panels at the Detroit Lakes (Minnesota) Public Library which were “borrowed” and used to produce a mold for the new panels on the Rochelle addition. Seven of the decorative glass windows that were removed from the original building will be restored and placed in the new addition to complete the historic bond with the original building.


One hundred years after its establishment, the Library now serves over 13,000 residents and a growing number of non-residents. The Flagg Township Library converted to a District Library in the summer of 1990 and began its second century as the Flagg-Rochelle Public Library District. The original 1912 Carnegie Library celebrated its 100th birthday in 2012.