Stark Library’s Beginnings

Our Library really belongs to the community. We want to make it a place where everyone feels comfortable and welcome.” Mary Ellen Icaza, CEO & Executive Director

Close your eyes. Now think “library.” What do you see? Your most cherished memories may resurface gleefully making your way to the checkout counter armed with stacks of books, eagerly anticipating the librarian scanning your books so you can return home, wrap yourself in a blanket, and dive into a good book. Perhaps you see yourself crammed into an old oak desk, textbooks and notes spread all over, studying for a final exam. Or maybe all you see is a book-lending building. All libraries were once nothing more than that. We like to think of ourselves as the community living room where friends gather to relax, imaginations soar, and creativity grows. 

The Stark Library Mission

"We strengthen the community by advancing literacy, connecting people, and encouraging exploration."

In pursuit of our mission to advance literacy and education, provide support and sanctuary, and encourage exploration, we are strengthening the community and meeting needs that go beyond simply lending books. We’re here to inspire you to explore new ideas and become the best version of yourself—at home, on the job, and in your community—regardless of what you have going on in your life. Have you ever wondered how Stark Library came to be?

Humble Beginnings 

Stark Library traces its roots to the Stark County courthouse. The very first concept of a local library began in 1816 with James Lathrop, an attorney from Canton. He would let subscribers borrow from his personal collection of 30 books, which was kept in the Stark County courthouse. With their combined efforts, Canton’s leading citizens founded the first free library in 1884, becoming the Canton Public Library. As a reflection of its service to Stark County, the library was renamed the Stark County District Library in 1971. It moved into the historic Carnegie Building in 1905, which was funded by Andrew Carnegie's philanthropic efforts as part of his commitment to promoting the value of libraries in communities. Guy Tilden, a local architect, designed the building in the Beaux Arts Classical style. It remains standing and is a historic building in Canton. 

The Main Library moved to its current location in 1978. But if you travel back to 1896 to the current location of the Main Library, you’ll find yourself at the scene of William McKinley’s front porch presidential campaign. During the campaign, McKinley addressed nearly 750,000 people who made their way to his home by foot, horse, or wagon. Today, people often stop to read the sign outside the Library's main entrance, which highlights the site's significance as the former residence of the United States' 25th president. 

Expanding Stark Library

The Stark Library District Library has expanded to 10 branches throughout the county to uniquely serve the specific needs of each community.


The Bookmobile, originally known as the "Traveling Library," started its journey on the road in 1933 and traveled within a fifteen-mile radius of Canton. In 1938, services were expanded to more rural areas. We now have a fleet of five “Traveling Libraries,” that visit underserved communities, schools, preschools, elder care homes, and even the county jail each month.

DeHoff Memorial Branch

DeHoff Memorial Branch is the heart of the close-knit community. Its story began in 1938 with Andrew J. DeHoff's act of generosity, the namesake of the DeHoff Memorial. Mr. DeHoff left his home, along with $15,000 for maintenance, with a request that it be used as a library .The Library operated out of his home for many years, and it moved into its current location in 2001.

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East Canton Branch

East Canton Branch is a hub for its small community. It first opened in 1967 and later moved into its current home in the Foltz Community Center in 1993.

Jackson Community Branch

Jackson Community Branch is positioned in the heart of Jackson Township. The original building opened in 1992. It moved to the North Park complex in 2020 after a short time in the Nobles Pond plaza.

Lake Community Branch

Lake Community Branch began in 1960 as the Hartville branch of the Canton Public Library. It began sharing quarters with the Hartville Fire Department in 1977 and moved to its current location in the Lake High School complex in 2003.

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Madge Youtz Branch

Madge Youtz Branch, an anchor for the northeast Canton community, was the first branch of the Canton Public Library, which opened in 1929. Originally known as the Crystal Park Branch, it was renamed to honor Miss Youtz, a school principal and philanthropist who founded the Youtz Burns School Library Fund.

North Branch

North Branch began in 1962 as a home-based library. Because of its popularity, the building outgrew its original location in less than five years, resulting in the construction of a new building in 1966. In 2001, it was enlarged.

Perry Sippo Branch

Perry Sippo Branch first opened as the Perry Heights Branch in 1964. The branch remained in this location until being destroyed by fire in 2002. Following a partnership with Stark Parks, the doors to its current location in Sippo Lake Park's Exploration Gateway were opened in 2007.

Plain Community Branch
Plain Community Branch

Plain Community Branch is conveniently located on the campus of GlenOak High School. It began in 2003 with a proposal to build a library that would serve both the public of Plain Township and high school students. The branch opened in September of 2006. This year, the Plain Community Branch will join the list of Stark Library branches to be Re|imagined.

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Sandy Valley Branch

Sandy Valley Branch is in the historic village of Magnolia. It first opened in Sandy Valley High School in 1973 and later relocated to its current location in 1991. This year, the Sandy Valley Branch will be relocated to the Southgate Plaza in Canton South.


Our Journey

Our community has changed dramatically since the current Main Library opened its doors in 1978. The time when libraries were simply places to borrow books is long gone. We assist locals with everything from navigating the complexities of life to the simplest tasks, like sending an email. We are expanding the mind beyond horizons!