Bexley Public Library was founded in 1924 and first housed in Bexley High School, now Montrose Elementary School. By 1927 the number of borrowers increased by 59%, and voters approved the construction of a new library building with the passage of a $68,000 bond issue. The new building was designed by architects O.C. Miller and R.R. Reeves and opened in 1929. Miller and Reeves, who also designed Bexley’s Sessions Village, drew upon French and Italian architecture from the 17th century for the design. Capital University leased the land for free for an indefinite period of time in recognition of the library’s importance to its students. The school libraries at the high school, junior high, and elementary school continued as branches of the library for many years. Library membership to patrons who lived outside of Bexley was available by 1934. The first head librarian/director of the library in its new building was Sarah Bilby.
The Library continued to grow and expand throughout the mid-20th century. An addition to the back of the building was completed in 1950, but later removed and replaced during a renovation in 1992. Head Librarian/Director Mary T. Zimmerman oversaw the expansion of the library in 1968, which included the large room on the east side of the library and the Auditorium. Later that year the bronze sculpture, Mother and Child, by Ebb Haycock was installed in front of the library, in memory of sponsor Judge Henry L. Scarlett’s son. The second floor and back of the library were added in 1992 and the audiovisual department and Youth Services Department moved downstairs. Since 2009 the library has added a homework help center, free public Wi-Fi and computer lab. In 2014, the library joined the Central Library Consortium to partner with 13 other local libraries and offer patrons access to over 4.7 million resources.
From the beginning, Bexley Public Library served as a center of lifelong learning, community engagement, and cultural experience. Much like today, the entrance of the library was originally intended to be used as an art gallery. Bexley Public Library was one of the first libraries in central Ohio to serve the homebound. The first Young Adult Librarian was hired in 1969. Today’s library continues to be the center of lifelong learning and cultural experience. By offering diverse programs, workshops, movie nights, and expert speakers and author talks, Bexley Public Library is not so different than the library that director Mary T. Zimmerman described in 1974:
“In the early days the library was a place where books were stored. Now…it is a cultural center where civic and educational groups meet. That’s where libraries have changed. This change came about because the people wanted a cultural center available in their community.”