In the winter of 1905 a Chautauqua salesman promised to donate enough books to start a library if he could sell enough lectures in town. The salesman didn’t deliver the promised books so the last payment was withheld and used to purchase books instead. The first organizational meeting for the library was held in March 1906 and the library began May 19, 1906. In 1911, the board voted to charge a fee of fifty cents per family and invite everyone in town to become members (prior to 1911, it was a private library).
The library collection moved three times (two private residences and a church) before 1914 when Alice Cooper, then president of the library board, agreed to lease a lot on Desoto Street to the cause, so long as it was used for a library. When the ‘little white house’ library was built, it was 720 square feet and cost $600. The library opened its doors on November 14, 1914. In 1938 the daughter of Alice Cooper was president of the library board and donated the property; it was then officially re-named Cooper Memorial Library.
Cooper outgrew its home and moved again, taking over the Citizens Bank building on Montrose. The books were moved via a human chain between the two buildings and the library opened for the first time on December 8, 1980. The library remained in that building, with space added over the years, until it was closed in 2004 due to toxic mold. It re-opened in March 2005 in its current location, a former plumbing supply store. On June 30, we broke ground on our seventh location, moving into the next chapter in Cooper’s history. In partnership with Lake Sumter Community College and the University of Central Florida we will have a 50,000 square foot multi-use library. Local fundraising has been spear-headed by the Friends of the Library and has brought in almost $400,000 from the community in donations or pledges.