Menasha's public library has been serving the citizens of Menasha since 1896, when the first Menasha Library and Reading Room opened in rooms above a store at the corner of Chute and Milwaukee Streets.
Lucinda Lee Pleasants (sister-in-law of George Banta, founder of the Banta Corporation) was the driving force in establishing the first library, and she became its first librarian. She held this position until her retirement in 1919. On the first day of operation, the library checked out 39 books, some of which may have been in German or Polish to serve the readers who lacked proficiency in English. The first reading room provided information, recreation, and education, which still describes the library's role. Today, Miss Pleasants' portrait hangs in the library's Children's Room, and the storytime room is named in her honor.
In 1898, Elisha D. Smith, founder of the Menasha Woodenware (now Menasha Corp.), donated land and money to build a library on Mill Street. He died shortly after, and the library was named the Elisha D. Smith Public Library. Today, a portrait of Mr. Smith hangs above the library's fireplace. The Mill St. Bridge was the main connection to Doty Island, and the first building people saw coming off the bridge was the stately library. The building on Mill St. was used until 1969, when a new building was built at 440 First St.
In 2003, renovation began on this building. During three phases of construction, 18,000 square feet were added to the already existing 28,000 square feet of the library. The $4.5 million project involved gutting and rebuilding the old building. Features of the new facility include a spacious new Children's Room, a Grand Concourse in the center, a solarium with a fireplace and new meeting rooms.