Summary: More than eighty years ago, community leaders had the foresight to strengthen the community with a new library building located in the heart of Oakwood, and Orville Wright, who served on the Library’s Board of Trustees, personally underwrote the campaign to pass a bond issue to support it. With its Tudor architecture, stained glass windows, and original wood shelving, Wright Library is a registered historic landmark and a reminder that Oakwood is steeped in history and tradition, as well as a unique place to live and learn.
As the Oakwood community grew over time, so did Wright Library. Additions to the original 1939 library building were constructed in 1964, 1972, and 1983 to meet the growing needs of the community. These additions provided more space for collections, a children’s area, and a community room for large library programs and group meeting space. The last major library renovation was in 1991, when the audiovisual room was added, with a lower level circulation desk and rear entrance for the public. Paint, new carpet and bookshelf endcaps were also added.
In 2017, the library successfully raised nearly half a million dollars in private donations and grants – including $250,000 from the Jack W. and Sally D. Eichelberger Foundation -- to complete a historic restoration and renovation project of the 1939 portion of the building. Three years later, in the spring of 2020, voters approved a 1.5 mill operating levy. The levy, paired with generous donations to a $1.5 million capital campaign, funded essential facility updates including HVAC, roof, and elevator repair. The teen and children collections move to a new home on the lower level complete with an ADA accessible parkside entrance with stroller parking. Updates to the main floor include a new community room and adult computer lab.
Early days- An Oakwood School Library was mentioned in 1913 in the Oakwood Village Record. In 1916, the Board of Education passed a resolution to organize the Oakwood Library. It was housed in a Harman School classroom, included books for both adults and children, and was open only a few hours a week.
At the end of 1923, John R. Fletcher, president of the Board of Trustees, deeded the Library a building at 45 Park Avenue. That building, called the "Library House" or the "Park Avenue Library" was a big improvement over the school room, but by 1928 it was already overcrowded.
Orville Wright was appointed to the Board in 1934, serving for the next twelve years.
Building Wright Library- In 1937, the Library Board of Trustees placed a $40,000 bond issue on the ballot for a library building to be built in a park named for Katharine Wright, Orville and Wilbur Wright’s sister. The land was leased from the city for $1.00 per year for 99 years, renewable. Orville Wright offered $100 to underwrite the cost of the campaign to pass the bond issue. The Oakwood Garden Club suggested the name Wright Memorial Library in honor of the three Wrights, and the Board of Trustees approved. The building opened February 14, 1939.
Many people are curious about the Egyptian hieroglyphics above the front door. Peter Dorman of the Egyptian Department of The Metropolitan Museum of Art advised in 1980 that "The inscription seems to make no sense in Egyptian or English transcription, although it is a fascinating bit of wood carving."
1964 and 1983 Additions- A new wing was added in 1964 to house an additional 8,000 volumes and air conditioning was installed. Staff facilities completed that project. In 1972, floor space was doubled to 13,800 square feet. The project enlarged the Children’s Department and areas of publicly accessible shelving, and added a meeting room, magazine storage area, book processing department, and staff lounge.
Overflowing book shelves, deterioration of the building itself, and increased demand for audiovisual materials led in 1983 to an addition of 9,850 more square feet and a complete remodeling. An Audiovisual Room, a new Children's Room, and a meeting room with a capacity of 75 were the major additions.
Entering the Digital Age- Library use continued to increase. In 1991, the audiovisual department converted to open shelving and Wright Library introduced the computerized catalog. Automation increased the speed and efficiency of repetitive tasks, including many behind-the-scenes library jobs, freeing more staff time for individualized service to patrons.
In 1997, the Library introduced OPLIN – the Ohio Public Library Information Network – which provides Internet resources for public libraries throughout the state. Also new in 1997 was the Electronic Notification System, which electronically calls to notify patrons when they have items on hold or overdue. The Library’s web site was launched in 1999. In 2002, Wright Library became the first library in the area to offer a virtual reference service. EBooks were added in 2003. The Library joined the Ohio eBooks project in 2005 and began offering downloadable audio books. Wireless Internet access and e-mailed Library notices via the LibraryElf web site were provided for patrons in 2007.
2018 Historic Restoration- In 2017, the library successfully raised nearly half a million dollars in private donations and grants – including $250,000 from the Jack W. and Sally D. Eichelberger Foundation -- to complete a historic restoration and renovation project of the 1939 portion of the building. The project, completed in 2018, restored the historic reading rooms, added meeting space that allows for technology classes, reduced operating costs with energy-efficient lighting, and improved usability of the space. In all, about 3,500 square feet, or about 17% of the building was renovated.
2019 marked the 80th Anniversary of Wright Memorial Public Library, and Wright Library continues its tradition of friendly, personal service while providing convenient technological advances for library users.