In the late 1890s William H. Laird donated $50,000 to the city for a permanent home for the library, which covered the construction costs for a new building. The library association paid for the furniture, fixtures, and shelving. The new library at the corner of Fifth and Johnson Streets opened on Jan. 20, 1899, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The fireproof building was designed by Warren Powers Laird, dean of the school of architecture of the University of Pennsylvania, and Edgar Viguers Seeler (1867-1929), a Philadelphia architect. The original building was 85 feet by 65 feet with a 3-story stack wing. The copper dome is 56 feet above the street. The brick walls are faced with Bedford stone and the entrance steps, curbs, and walks are Winona limestone. The columns at the entrance are Georgia Creole marble.
Library features include glass floors in the book stacks and ornate copper-faced shelving and stairs. Under the central dome is the Kenyon Cox mural, "The Light of Learning". The Bell Art Room on the second floor of the library contains a large collection of art books and a reproduction of the statue Hebe.
The statue of Hebe is a copy in Carrara marble of the original work by Antonio Canova. The statue was donated to the library by Mrs. William H. Laird on July 8, 1899. Mrs. Laird purchased the statue in Florence, Italy.