Although the Library serves all of Washington County today, there was no library service in the county until 1938 and no county wide service until 1948. Through the diligent efforts of the Ladies Civic League the first library, The Potosi Public Library, was established in 1938. It was located in a room in the basement of the courthouse and staffed with volunteers. By the end of 1938 the library had catalogued 1,000 books. The library struggled financially for almost ten years, and in 1946 the library became a part of a new service — bookmobiles.
Residents saw the need for library support and passed a one-mill tax in 1948. This was the creation of Washington County Library. In August of 1948 the library joined the Ozark Regional Library System. This would be a co-operative effort until 1953. From 1954 until the mid-1970’s the library was located in many different locations and suffered several tragedies. On March 30, 1965 the library was almost completely destroyed by fire. After this tragedy, the voters came to the rescue again and passed another one-mill tax. This enabled them to rebuild the collection and relocate.
On December 21, 1967 the second tragedy occurred when a tornado ripped through a newly remodeled library. The damage was extensive, but that didn’t deter the Library Board, the librarian and the community. The collection was rebuilt and relocated yet again.
The third tragedy was the death of librarian, Margaret Casey, who passed away on August 16 1968 from a cerebral thrombosis. Once again the library was in turmoil, but again the library recovered under the direction of the Library Board.
In the mid-1970’s the library moved to the present location. It has had many face lifts from a new gable roof, the addition of a genealogy room, an elevator, a new children’s wing, two additional meeting rooms, and in 2010 a reading loft was added. The library is a different world today, not just books. There are magazines, newspapers, audio and large print books, DVDs and services such as the Internet, copy machines, a fax machine and a laminator. One thing that has not wavered is the support of the residents of Washington County who enable the library to continue to improve and serve the library community.