The history of the Moorhead Public Library and the Clay County Library go hand in hand. Services offered by the Moorhead Public Library early in its history eventually formed the Clay County Library, which then became Lake Agassiz Regional Library in 1961.
The Clay County Library was officially formed in 1949 after many years of extension service provided by the Moorhead Public Library. Three lines of extension were established: 1) loan books to all county residents 2) library services extended to rural schools and 3) traveling libraries -”stations” – would remain in rural towns for two months at a time offering 25 to 50 volumes to residents.
The Moorhead Public Library opened its doors on July 12, 1906. Librarian Miss Nelle Olson welcomed patrons as they perused the 1000 books the library had to offer. Planning for this big event began in 1903 when attorney George E. Perley secured a Carnegie grant of $10,000 to build a library in the city of Moorhead. The only stipulation was that the city provide a site and maintain the library after construction is completed.
In November 1949 the Clay County Bookmobile hit the road delivering books to the entire county. Miss Mary Cary became the area’s first “mobile librarian.” The Clay County Bookmobile was one of the first bookmobiles in the state.
The Friends of the Norman County Library Services persuaded Norman County Commissioners to establish library service in cooperation with a neighboring county in 1960. Clay County, along with the libraries in Barnesville, Hawley and Moorhead, was chosen by Norman County as the neighbor best suited to share library services with. After several months of negotiations, a contract was signed June 1, 1961 to form Lake Agassiz Regional Library. Library service officially began in Norman County in August, 1961.
The city of Breckenridge became a branch of Lake Agassiz Regional Library in 1967. In 1974, Becker County and the city of Detroit Lakes became members, followed by Polk County and the city of Crookston in 1975. Clearwater County joined the system in 1985. Wilkin and Mahnomen Counties joined in 1990 and the city of Mahnomen was added to the library system in 1993.
LARL was developed in 1961 to extend the library services being provided by the Clay County Library System to include Norman County and the Ada Public Library. It is the second regional library system created in Minnesota and the first regional library system to be formed through an already established rural library system. LARL was also a charter member of the Minnesota Library Film circuit and one of the first libraries to offer 16mm films for public use.