For over 100 years, people in Cloquet have enjoyed using the services of a public library. In 1895, a petition was made to the village council to appropriate money for a public library. The first library was contained in one room of the Nelson House building on the west end of Cloquet. The first library board consisted of some of the most prominent people of Cloquet’s lumber industry including George S. Shaw, Charles Stolbert, Mrs. S. S. Johnson, Mrs. H. C. Hornsby, J. E. Lynds, C. N. Nelson, Mrs. W. P. Allen, and Dr. A. M. Brunelle, and A. M. Sheldon, a drug store owner. In 1901, Cloquet was a growing community and the room which housed the library was needed for other purposes. The library board was asked to find new quarters. J. E. Lynds, on behalf of the Cloquet Lumber Company, offered to donate six village lots to the library with the stipulation that a suitable building be erected. A temporary frame building was erected on the site in June 1901 and plans were drawn for a permanent building. The permanent structure was quickly built and occupied on March 29, 1902. Donations from Northwest Paper, the Shaw family, and the First National Bank financed most of the $7,500 project.
Since the completion of the library building, the use of the library grew. The library board found it necessary to increase its book collection, hours and staff and decided to enlarge the library in 1918. On the afternoon of October 12, 1918, the remodeling project was completed. Then, on the evening of October 12, 1918, the city of Cloquet, including the library, burned to the ground. In January 1919, board president, L. A. Fauley, called a special board meeting to discuss finding temporary quarters for the library and plans for a new library building. Within four months of the fire, temporary quarters were found in a “shack” on Seventh Street. Shelves were stocked with books received from various sources along with a traveling library. In February 1919, a letter was received from J. E. Lynds, son-in-law of the now-deceased George S. Shaw: “In connection with the matter of rebuilding your library, it gives me great pleasure to write to you that my wife and her sister have for some time desired to perpetuate the memory of their father, Mr. George S. Shaw, who was one of the builders of the industries of your city. It appears to them that this is the proper time to take some action in the matter… As their gift relates solely to the building, they would like to have it called the Shaw Library or such other suitable name as will perpetuate the name of their father in the community in which he was such a factor in the early period of its existence.” Donations from Mr. Shaw’s daughters, Mrs. Lynds and Mrs. DeLascaille, along with an insurance settlement provided the necessary funds to complete the new Shaw Memorial Library, which cost $40,000. It was erected on the site of the old library, 406 Cloquet Avenue, modeled after the Carnegie library pattern.
The library continued to grow, adding more volumes and increasing hours. In 1932, the depression “grabbed hold”, resulting in salary cuts for the librarians and a reduction in the number of materials purchased. Patrons were limited to checking out only two fiction titles at a time. During this time the library circulated twenty-five percent more items. Slowly the economy improved and the library was able to restore hours and purchase more books. Realizing that one library can not provide all of the information needed by its patrons, the library board voted to become a member of the Arrowhead Library System in 1966. The agreement allowed Cloquet residents to have access to information in other libraries and allowed area residents to use the Cloquet Public Library without a fee. Ladean Overlie was the first Cloquet board member elected to serve on the board of the Arrowhead Library System.
The library was remodeled several times until in 1982, it was decided to form a foundation to raise money to either build a new library or make an addition to the old library. In 1983, the Shaw Memorial Library Foundation, Inc. was incorporated with Howard Ross elected as its first president. A library consultant, David Smith, was hired to work with the library board and foundation board. Several options were presented and the library board decided to move ahead with plans to build a new public library. The Cloquet School District offered the library board land on Fourteenth Street, across from the Garfield School. Architectural Resources was hired to design a new library building. A bond referendum for $800,000 was passed by the voters of Cloquet to build a new public library and a $200,000 grant was obtained through the federal Library Services and Construction Act. Significant donations were received from Potlatch, Conwed, and Minnesota Power as well as many donations from local businesses and the public. The new library was opened in 1987 and the old library was turned over to the Carlton County Historical Society to be used as a museum. The library is located at 320 – 14th Street.
In 2019, after extensive studies, the Cloquet Public Library received a grant from the Minnesota Department of Education. The City Council approved an additional 1.6 million dollars and the Library Foundation added another $250,000.00 toward the construction of a 7,000 square foot addition. Boldt Construction received the bid and began building in late fall 2019 with the hope of completing the project by June 15, 2020. In March of 2020, construction was delayed due to the corona virus pandemic which sent both construction crew and library and city staff home under a shelter in place order given by Governor Tim Walz.
Mrs. J. M. Wilson February 11, 1896 – November 19, 1898
Mrs. L. A. Fish November 20, 1898 – May 1899
Mrs. Fred Vibert June 1899 – November 1899
Mrs. Peter Phalon December 1, 1899 – April 1905
Louise Lowe Fesenbeck June 1, 1905 -? the gap in library board minutes makes her term unclear. She was the first professionally trained library director.
Mildred Riley Hamilton? – August 1, 1919
Grace Cameron September 3, 1919 – July 15, 1920
Eda Tanke July 15, 1920 – October 1923
Margaret Gilpin October 1, 1923 – May 1, 1925
Ruth King May 1, 1925 – September 1, 1926
Maud Grogan September 15, 1926 – November 15, 1944
Helen Jensen November 15, 1944 – December 1976 Helen was the first children’s librarian in 1936
Michael Knievel November 1976 – June 1983
Mary Lukkarila September 1983 – October 2017
Beth Sorenson October 2017 -