The Clinton Public Library was built in 1903 – 1904. Patton & Miller, Architects from Chicago, designed it. Daniel Haring was selected to supervise the builder. It is a three level building with exterior walls of cut and dressed limestone. It is of eclectic design in the Beaux Arts Classicism Style manner and is considered one of the best examples of this library design in Iowa. It has a monumental entry with a grand stone staircase with flanking, paired columns. It and the Post Office are the two most monumental buildings in Clinton. It is symmetrical in design and borrows Greek and Roman inspired elements. Patton and Miller designed many Carnegie Libraries in the Midwest in the late 19th and early 20th century. It was intended to be a civic anchor for the downtown. The building is an impressive entrance for the city located at the foot of the U.S. Highway 30 (Lincoln Highway) bridge crossing the Mississippi. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 23, 1983.
The Clinton Public Library was organized on March 23, 1864. In 1888, the library was located in the new Clinton High School where it remained until moving to its current location. On August 5, 1902 the board of trustees of the Library accepted the deed for lots 1 and 2 in block 23 as the site of the Free Public Library from Mr. and Mrs. William E. Young. Mrs. Young was the daughter of Chancy Lamb and lived immediately to the north of the library site. At that time it was expected that the foundation would have been completed by November 1, even though an architect had not yet been chosen from the five who were requested to submit plans for the building.
By December 23, 1902, the library trustees had realized that the $30,000 offered by Andrew Carnegie for the construction of the library was inadequate for the construction of a building in keeping with other public buildings in Clinton. In addition, a condition of the grant was that an amount equal to 10% of the grant be appropriated each year for the operation of the library. The contribution was increased to $45,000 and accepted. On January 20, 1903, Patton & Miller were selected as the architects of the building. This firm had also designed libraries for Kalamazoo, Michigan; Northfield, Minnesota; Muscatine, Iowa; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Jacksonville, Illinois; St. Cloud, Minnesota; Streator, Illinois; Freeport, Illinois; Goshen, Indiana and had libraries under construction in Sheboygan, Wisconsin; Waukegan, Illinois; Marshalltown, Iowa; Beloit, Wisconsin; Bedford, Indiana; Stillwater, Minnesota; Pueblo, Colorado; Springfield, Minnesota; Port Huron, Michigan and several other cities. On June 2, 1903 the general contract for construction of the building was awarded to Winchester & Cullen of Chicago.
The library was opened for the public on November 8, 1904, book use started the following day and borrowing began on November 11.
Since that time, the library has served the City and region well with its collections and programs. It has done so through many changes in what people expect from and the way people use libraries. In 1904 no one could have foreseen the explosion of knowledge or the new media and databases available today.