Libraries have been a part of Carver County history since the county was started. The earliest library began in 1858, and many more followed. In the twenty-first century, there are five full libraries and three express library branches. Total circulation is over one million books per year and rising.
The history of libraries in Carver County begins with the Deutscher Leseverein Bibliothek, or the German Reading Society. A group of German immigrants formed this organization in 1858 in Carver. At its peak, the society owned about twelve hundred books written in both German and English. In 1935, their remaining collection was donated to the Carver County Historical Society when the organization dissolved. The historically and culturally important books include encyclopedias, history books, and German classics by authors like Goethe and Schiller. There are also German translations of books by Shakespeare, Darwin and others.
While the Deutscher Leseverein Bibliothek is the earliest and most well-known, other reading societies once existed. Local churches and schools formed many of these groups. Among them were the Svenska Laserforening (Swedish Reading Society) of Carver, the Vestra Union Forsamlings Bibliotek (West Union Assembly Library), the West Union Laseforening (West Union Reading Society), and the Ungdomsforening (Young People's Society). The towns of Norwood and Young America also took part in the state-owned traveling library program in 1912.
In the 1880s, the town of Waconia started a public literary group, the Waconia Literary Society. By 1886, its name became the Waconia Library Association. In 1935, the Association settled into its own building after renting in others for several years.
Chaska's public library began in a women's reading circle of the Chaska Culture Club. By 1902, they owned enough books to offer a free library for town residents. This collection was housed at the Carver County State Bank building. Later, it was moved to the old schoolhouse by the town park. By 1929, the city council provided money to support the Chaska library. In 1939, Watertown's library was organized. It opened in the old City Hall on January 31, 1940.
By the early 1970s, these small city libraries were unable to meet the needs of county residents. In 1974, a referendum was passed to fund a countywide library system. The Waconia, Chaska, and Watertown libraries issued cards for countywide library service starting in March 1975. The referendum also allowed the county library to join the Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA). In turn, Carver County could take part in the metro-wide inter-library loan system.
Since 1975, the Carver County Library System has grown. Young America opened a library branch in that same year. Chanhassen opened one in 1979. When the cities of Norwood and Young America merged in 1994, their libraries did also. In 2010, the Norwood Young America branch received a new home in the Oak Grove City Center. In 2011 and 2012, the Carver County Library System also gained three express library branches. They opened in Victoria, Cologne, and Mayer, to serve local residents.
Barac, LaVonne. Chaska: A Minnesota River City, Volume 1 and 2. St. Paul: Carver County Public Library, 1989.
Broden, Holly. "County Closes Young America Library." Norwood Young America Times, June 23, 1994.
"Carver Co. Had Pioneer Reading Society." Waconia Patriot, July 9, 1942.
"About Your Library." The Carver County Library. Accessed March 2, 2013.
Dauwalter, Earl, Sr. "Occurences In and About Carver: Carver Had Pioneer Reading Society." Weekly Valley Herald, July 16, 1942.
"Express Library Coming to Cologne." Norwood Young America Times, August 12, 2010.
Hutchings, Larry and Leanne Brown. "Carver County Historians Remember German and Swedish Reading Societies." Chaska Herald, June 9, 2005.
Johnson, Charlotte Mary Speikers Christensen. The History of the Watertown, Minnesota Area 1856 to 2006: 150 Years of Community Life. Watertown, MN: 2006.
"Library Cards to be Issued Starting March 15." Carver County News, March 6, 1975.
"Library Outlet Approved." Norwood Times, January 16, 1975.
"Persuant to Notice the Waconia Literary Society Adopted the Name of the Waconia Library Association." Weekly Valley Herald, December 23, 1886.
"Proposed County Library System Discussed Here." Waconia Patriot, October 10, 1974.
"Proposed Library Budget Includes Library Branch Station at Chanhassen." Waconia Patriot, September 21, 1978.
"Recently Installed an Express Library at the Victoria Recreation Center." Chanhassen Villager, July 15, 2010.
Souter, Donna. "How Well Are You Informed About the County Library Referendum." Waconia Patriot, October 24, 1974.
"State Traveling Library." Norwood Times, November 1, 1912.
"State Traveling Library." Young America Eagle, November 8, 1912.
The 1975 establishment of the Carver County Library System creates a central, county-wide library service and enables participation in MELSA and a metro-area inter-library loan program.