The Garnett Library is two of four buildings that the University purchased in 1984 from the West Plains R-7 School District. The purchase included the Central High School and the former school complex, which consisted of four buildings: a gymnasium, an administrative office building, an additional classroom building and a shop/music building. The gymnasium was demolished and the high school was renovated and named Central Hall.
A new roof connecting the remaining buildings was completed in 1989. The buildings were then renovated to house the Garnett Library. The renovations were completed in two phases. In 1991, Phase I was completed when the entire building was wrapped in brick and 40 percent of the interior had been renovated. The library was opened in the fall of 1991. The remaining 60 percent of the facility was renovated and furnished to complete Phase II in 1993. The added space allowed for more shelves for books and study areas for students. It also enabled SMSU-West Plains to move and expand the academic support center. The library was named in honor of the Jess and Betty Garnett family for their service, support and commitment to higher education.
A dedication ceremony was held on November 24, 1991.