Bryan-Bennett Library

Who We Are

Exterior Library

Located at 315 South Maple in Salem, Bryan-Bennett Library is a municipal library, providing free services to all residents who live within the city of Salem.  Library cards are available to people who live outside the city limits for an annual fee of $55. 

Books and Periodicals

The Bryan-Bennett collection includes more than 34,000 books.  Bryan-Bennett also subscribes to the Salem Times-Commoner, the Centralia Sentinel, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  Several magazines are also available at the Library.

Internet Usage

Internet access is provided to Bryan-Bennett patrons free of charge.  There are two computers for adults and two Internet-accessible computers for children.  Patrons do not have to possess a library card to use the Internet.  However, all patrons are required to show a valid photograph identification, with the correct address, to use a Library computer. 

For a child to use the Internet at the Library, a parent or legal guardian must sign an authorization notice -- in person. 

All Internet users must comply with the computer usage policy, which has been approved by the Library's Board of Trustees.

Wireless Internet access is available at Bryan-Bennett Library and is provided to patrons free of charge.


The creation of Bryan-Bennett Library is the story of a friendship between a wealthy tea merchant, Philo S. Bennett of Connecticut, and a political leader whom he admired, William Jennings Bryan.  After Bennett's death in 1903, his estate provided $1,500 for the erection of a library upon the ground where Bryan was born.  Mr. Bryan matched this money, and construction of the first Bryan-Bennett Library building (on South Broadway) was completed in 1909.  Mr. Bryan delivered his lecture, The Price of a Soul, in Salem as a benefit for the Library, netting $660.01.  Again, Mr. Bryan matched the proceeds from the benefit, and the money was used to buy the Library's first books.

In 1913, the Library was reorganized, according to the Illinois Library Statute, so that a tax could be levied in support of the Library's operation.

Over the next few decades, the Library thrived at its South Broadway location, and the Board of Trustees initiated a search for a new site. The former WPA Post Office on Main Street was purchased and renovated. The Library moved into that building in 1986.

During the following 22 years, Bryan-Bennett flourished.  Programming grew; the collection grew; and Internet services were introduced.  Because the Library Board of Trustees saw so many new ways that Bryan-Bennett could serve the community, the Trustees negotiated the purchase of the shuttered Central School, located two blocks south of the Main Street site.  The Library renovated the school building and moved to that location, 315 South Maple, in August 2008.  Since that time, Library usage and local interest in the Library has crescendoed.

Joe and Anna Hale

The Library's move to 315 South Maple was made possible through a generous gift from the late Joe and Anna Hale. When Mrs. Hale died in 1995, the Hale estate donated $444,000 to Bryan-Bennett Library.  Over the years, the Library has used a portion of this money to fund some operational expenses.  However, the bulk of this money was kept in reserve, until it could be used to expand services. When the Library Trustees secured the opportunity to purchase Central School, Mr. and Mrs. Hale's gift ensured that the Library had the funding for this tremendous opportunity.  All of the ways that the Library is now able to serve the community are the selfless and inspiring legacy of Mr. and Mrs. Hale.

Illinois Heartland Library System

One of Bryan-Bennett Library's most valuable assets is its membership in the Illinois Heartland Library System, a regional, multitype library system serving school, public, special, and academic libraries.

The Library System's service area covers 28,141 square miles in Central and Southern Illinois with a population base of 2,248,634.

The cornerstone of the Library System philosophy is that libraries of all sizes and types can benefit through cooperation and collaboration with one another. The primary role of the Library System staff is to facilitate and enhance that spirit of  cooperation. 


Another Bryan-Bennett Library's assets are the people and organizations in this community.  Over the years, this Library has grown mainly because of the support it receives from various community organizations, volunteers, and the public. Any of the programs and activities at the Library are only possible with the financial support of donors and the logistical support of volunteers.  And, the Library's only purpose for existing is to serve the people of this community. Bryan-Bennett Library's services are here for you.  And, the Library appreciates and needs input.  If there is something that the Library is offering and you would like to see it continue let us know.  If there is something more that we could be doing to serve you, let us know. We are here for you.