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Calvin Coolidge and the Summer White House​​

When President Calvin Coolidge and his wife Grace decided to spend the summer of 1927 in the Black Hills of South Dakota, they altered the course of the region's history. Bringing international attention to a forgotten corner of the American landscape, Coolidge's decisions that summer shaped the history of the nation. During their time in the Black Hills, the Coolidge's fished, hiked, rode horses, watched rodeos and visited the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This virtual exhibit memorializes and interprets their summer in the Black Hills.

Digital Library of South Dakota

A collaboration of the libraries of six Board of Regents colleges and universities in the state of South Dakota.

Flood of 1972

On June 9, 1972 a disastrous flood swept through Rapid City, taking the lives of 238 residents and resulting in millions of dollars in damages.  The Flood of 1972 website consolidates information about this devastating event, and includes photographs, oral histories, written memories, radio and television broadcasts, and other documents.

Local Historic Archives

In this original collection of content from Rapid City Public Library and Black Hills Knowledge Network you will find a wide assortment of historical documents, books, images, articles and much more. The digital collections cover the Black Hills region and are contributed to by partner libraries.

Local Resource Pages

Major events and trends in Rapid City's history including biographies of all past mayors.

Oral History Project

The Oral History Project is a collection of interviews with residents of Rapid City and the surrounding area who share stories, insights, and information about the history of the community. If you wish to take part in this project or know someone who would be interested in participating, please contact the Rapid City Public Library's business office at (605) 394-4171 or email


South Dakota Digital Archives

South Dakota State Historical Society's online collection of government documents, manuscript collections, and photographs. Contains over 70,000 items with new content added weekly.


Rapid City Public Library
Timeline of Historical Events

1879  |  Located in the Sweeney Building, a volunteer reading room was organized by community women with $45, donated books and periodicals, and a free subscription to the Minneapolis Journal.

1881  |  Newly chartered by the territorial government, the Rapid City Library Association built Library Hall on the corner of 6th and Kansas City Streets on land donated by John Brennan. A finance campaign raised the $600 seed money to begin the project in February; the flag pole was erected in March.

Library Hall was a 32’ x 85’ wood frame building for use as a reading-room, library, and theater. It featured a 25’ stage, seated 450, and its bookcases were furnished with 500 volumes of biography, poetry, science, and fiction. Its librarian, Lida Mitchell, earned $5 a month. The reading room was open six hours a week, and readers could check out only one book at a time.

Membership was limited to 100 persons for a $12 share plus a $9 initiation fee and $4 annual dues. The Association was free of debt by 1887. Until the turn of the century, Library Hall served the community, not only as a library, but as the Methodist and Congregational churches, a civic center for social, political, and civic activities, lectures, concerts, ballroom dances, and funerals.

1903  |  Members of the Currents Events Club (still active today) proposed a tax levy to revive library services and to ultimately pave the way for a Carnegie Library. A letter to the editor that year compared the tax per citizen equal to the value of two cigars. In a municipal vote of 115 to 88, a one mill levy was passed and free library services were then offered in a succession of rented locations. The 6th and Saint Joseph Street corner room of the Flormann Block was rented for $15 a month and Miss Rose Bower was appointed librarian. John C. Bower, her father and president of the Rapid City Free Library Association, maintained an apartment behind the library room for Rose and her sister Laura.

1904  |  Rose Bower resigned, passing the librarian job to Laura Bower.

1905  |  169 new books were purchased with $30 from the library fund and $70 raised from a talent show benefit play called Captain Racket.

1909  |  It is believed that the library moved next door into what was the Todden-Worth Building on 6th Street and then back again into the Flormann Building. Laura Bower married Claude C. Van Nuys - whom she met at the library. Their son, Maxwell Van Nuys, later wrote, “Lillian Nyswanger wanted the librarianship at the same time and resented it going to Laura, who had been her friend, and never forgave her. (Thereafter, Lillian could never pass my mother in the street without making a face.)”

Lillian Nyswanger, to whom legend assigns a quick temper, finally became librarian. Several histories claim she was forced to resign after throwing a book at a patron. In 1973, Laura Van Nuys told interviewer David Super that Lillian Nyswanger was “one of the few people in those days that had read every book we had in the library...she had a different personality, but was certainly not given to such brash actions as (throwing a book at a patron).”

1910  |  Leora J. Lewis was appointed librarian.

1912  |  The library moved into a corner room in the Elks Building for $60 monthly rent - which was later reduced to $35.

1913 |  The library received advice from the State Free Library Commission on how to apply for a Carnegie grant for a new library building.

1914  |  The Library Board, which was by that time appointed by the city according to state law, formally applied to Andrew Carnegie for a grant. The ensuing process to meet requirements resulted in a site dispute which was ultimately settled in State Supreme Court. Library Hall was removed to make way for the new Carnegie Library on the northwest corner of 6th and Kansas City Streets.

1915  |  The building of the new library began with a $12,500 Carnegie grant.

1916  |  The new Carnegie Library opened its doors. The Rapid City Journal wrote of the opening ceremony, “... all expressed themselves as being pleased with everything from the large library room with its many shelves, books, drinking fountain, chairs and tables, to the conveniences below including the charming little assembly room for the use of clubs and committee meetings."

1918  |   Leora Lewis moved to Pierre to become the State Librarian and was eventually replaced by Marjorie Smith, who held the position until her death in 1956.

1921  |  The library report showed a collection of 4120 volumes and 16,974 loans. The assistant’s monthly salary was raised to $75 and Marjorie Smith’s to $100.

1930s  |  The Carnegie Library underwent a WPA project expansion, as explained in a letter by Marjorie Smith to the American Library Association.

1965  |  Discussion began about replacement of the Carnegie Library due to insufficiency of physical space, increased population and needs of the Rapid City area. Planning began for a new library to serve the growing community. The planning commission that was instituted was comprised of library trustees, city and state officials, an Omaha library consultant and Chamber of Commerce representation. The Rapid City Civic Library Building Association incorporated under state law, and efforts began to build a new library at 610 Quincy St.

1970 | The Rapid City Civic Library Building Association was granted a charter by the State of South Dakota. The purpose of this group was to raise money for the construction of a new library.

1972  |  On October 24, 1972, the doors opened to a new 28,000 sq. ft. building to serve Rapid City library patrons. The new facility boasted reading room seating for nearly 200 people, a spacious children's area, ample office and work space, a periodical/reference room, an art loan display wall, a board/conference room, and a meeting room for groups of up to 60. Rapid City Public Library Board of Trustees members were Faye Crawford, James M. Kuehn, Curtis D. Ireland, Beverly Linderman, and William G. Porter. Serving along with the trustees on the Rapid City Civic Library Building Association, Inc. Board of Directors were Stanford M. Adelstein, Barbara Gunderson, and Dean S. Nauman; Helen Hoyt was Library Director.

1975 | A new book drop was installed in the parking lot of the Kmart building.

1976 | Blue Stem Woman statue by Dale Lamphere was dedicated. This work was commissioned by the Rapid City Civic Library Building Association and funded by a $50,000 gift from Mrs. Ray Kroc.

1979  |  The Rapid City Public Library joined the computer age with a database system for its holdings. An Analysis of the Rapid City Public Library and Its Community was published by library staff to explain how the library meets the needs of the community. Bookmobile launched.

1982 | The Rapid City Public Library building at 610 Quincy Street is ten years old. Your New Rapid City Public Library 1972-1982 is published with comparative pictures of the interior and exterior.

1984  |  Helen Hoyt retired as Library Director after nearly 30 years of service. Susan Sandness became the head librarian.

1989  |  Circulation had increased by 41% and reference/magazine usage by 89% from 1979. Staffing was down by 11%, and the Library relied on over 500 volunteer hours to maintain customary levels of service.

1995 | Kathy Fredette begins as Library Director. Library building closes temporarily gets new paint and carpet.

1997-98  |  Technology grants provide a computer network and the library launched its first website which enabled Internet users to browse the South Dakota Library Network.

1998 | Greta Chapman begins as Library Director.

1999  |  The Electronic Resource Center, a computer area of Internet access machines, was dedicated. A contract with Pennington County was signed to provide library services to Pennington County residents.

2000  |   After several years of planning, the Rapid City Public Library presented an expansion plan to the City’s Vision 2012 capital improvements program. Approval for a new 19,000 sq. ft. addition to be built above the west parking lot was given on the condition of the library raising $500,000.

2001  |  The Library Foundation successfully raised over $650,000. On March 19th, the Rapid City Library Foundation Board presented a ceremonial check to the Rapid City Council symbolizing the completion of their capital fundraising campaign. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new addition took place on August 27, 2001. The project also provided renovation monies to convert the old entrance to a solarium, the creation of a South Dakota Research and Genealogy Room, study room additions and reference desk improvement.

2002 | On August 30th, the Youth Services department was moved upstairs into the new Youth Services Department which included an expanded Young Adult area, study rooms, aviary, and reading loft for young children. Dedication ceremony for the new expansion took place on September 21. Rearrangement of the adult collection stacks, audio and video collections, and adult reading areas concluded in November. The solarium was finished and furnished with western decor and an aquarium of native game fish. Grand opening dedication remarks were made by Library Director Greta Chapman.

2003  |  In March 2003, wireless access became available in the library. The dedication of the final phase of the expansion: the South Dakota Research and Genealogy Room took place on April 12.

2005 | Newspaper Digitization Project

2007 |  Pennington County Library Services Contract Approved ( Article)

2007 | Library Director Greta Chapman was elected South Dakota Library Association President.

2007 | $200,000 Space Reconfiguration

2008 | On January 14, 2008, a milestone in library history is marked with the opening of the first satellite site, Rapid City Public Library North, offering library materials and resources to the public from the school library at the new General Beadle Elementary School. The school was planned to meet not only the needs of students, but to benefit the entire North Rapid Community. Grand Opening and Dedication Ceremony for Rapid City Public Library North took place on March 8. Speaking at the ceremony were Library Director Greta Chapman, Library Board Chairman James Olson, Mayor Alan Hanks, Superintendent of Schools Peter Wharton, City Councilman Lloyd LaCroix, and Mark Kenefick representing General Beadle Elementary School. Entertainment was provided by the Standing Horse Drum Group and RCPL library personnel served up a free chili lunch to those from the community who attended the presentation.

2008 | On Friday, March 7, 2008, USA TODAY listed the Rapid City Public Library as one of the "10 great places to find a nook and read a book".

2008 | Library Card Sign-Up Month, Mayor Alan Hanks

2008 | The Big Read, Mayor Alan Hanks

2008 | Rapid City Public Library Statistics

2010 | ILS Implementation

2010 | ILS and RFID Implementation Detail

2010 | Search for knowledge going digital at library ( Article)

2012 | 2012 RCPL East Groundbreaking - Floor Plan

2012 | November 30, 2012: RCPL County/City Public Library East Grand Opening (Video)

2013 | Greta Chapman resigned as Library Director.

2014 | Jim McShane begins as Library Director.

2015 | April 2015 - CHAOS (Creative, Hands-on, Artistic, Original, Space) Makerspace opened.

2015 | December 1, 2015 - Opening of the Local History Room

2016 | February 16, 2016 - Installation of the stained glass windows in the Local History Room

2017 | May 2017 - RCPL hosted a Grand Reopening reception following remodeling of the Adult Services area of the Downtown Library

2017 | August 2017 - Terri Davis begins as Library Director.

2020 | Library operations where impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. School closures resulted in the closure of the North Branch Library at General Beadle in March; the closure became permanent in July. The main library was closed from March 16 - May 31, serving the public at the drive-thru window. In order to serve the North Rapid community, and in anticipation of a future Bookmobile, a pop-up library service was started in July, with various locations in North and Northeast Rapid City.