History of the Library
History of the Williamsport Public Library as of September 10, 2009.
During the year of 1914 a few civic-minded citizens of Williamsport proposed the building of a public library. This petition was led by Jane Brodie and was received with much enthusiasm. The first library operated out of a borrowed back room in one of the offices in downtown Williamsport. The library started with 105 books donated by the community. The cost of membership was five cents. Mabel Claypool was paid five dollars a month for her services and worked Monday thru Saturday.
December 1915 was the beginning of the Carnegie Public Library in Williamsport. At that time, a library board had been established and a temporary library had been set up in the clerk-treasurer office in the Town Hall on North Monroe Street. A meeting was held with a plan in mind. The public was invited to bring books to place on the shelves built by boys in the training program. Eighty attended with more than a hundred books donated.
In March of 1916, the board accepted an offer from Peter W. Fleming to purchase his vacant lot on Fall Street as the site for a permanent library. Purchase price for the land was $500.00. In April, Architect Wilson B. Parker of Indianapolis consulted with the board as contracted to design the new library. The total appropriation was $8,000.00 and work began late summer.
The official opening was June 1917. Helen Boyd was procured as librarian until Mabel Claypool finished her training. Librarians in order of their service: Mabel Claypool, Helen Boyd, Lillie Evans, Laura Schoonover, Ruth Cowgill, Catherine Geisel, Nelda Watson, Priscilla Benson, Jaqueline Booth, Myra Hamilton, Joyce Davis, Dee Roderick, and Chris Brown.
1915 Board Members: E.L. Stewart, Margaret E. Slauter, Jennie Brodie, and Victor Ringer.
Over the course of the next few decades the library added a phone line in 1970s. The children's library was moved downstairs. In 1964, the first kindergarten class was started in the basement and was taught by Mrs. Ruth Dickey and many of our citizens remember attending class there until the school added it to their curriculum in 1973. The first computer was add in 1997 with a grant from State Library. The library was open only 26 hours a week and the annual salary was $10,000 for the staff of one full time and two part-time. The Library was closed Thursday and Sunday and only opened until 5p.m. in the evenings.
In January of 1999, with the hopes of building a new library, the library applied for a grant through the Community Foundation. With savings over the last 80 years the board decided to move forward and purchase land that had become available adjacent from the Courthouse for the site of a new library.
In pursuant of incoming grants the Board interviewed prospective architects and selected H.L. Mohler of Lafayette, Indiana as the architect of choice. In the new millennium the residents looked forward to a new library that would have 6000 square feet and house a 3000 square foot Learning Center with state of the art technology. In December 2000 Warren County was awarded the CAPE Grant with $5 million to help with educational programs in our county. Part of the monies went towards adding the Learning Center on to the new Library.
The library received $450,000 from the Community Foundation and $500,000 from CAPE for the Learning Center. The library also floated a $320,000 Bond that was approved by the State Board of Tax Commissioners. The Board and the Director were applauded for being one of the first projects in the state’s history to have received 80% of the funds via grants and gifts. On September 29, 2001, Mike Dowell of Dowell Masonry, Crawfordsville, Indiana, and the Library Board and Director broke ground, and from that day our dreams of a new library started to become a reality. With the completion scheduled to be in September of 2002. An exceedingly mild winter led to the construction being warped nearly three months ahead of schedule and was complete in July of 2002. The Dedication was held July 21, 2002.
2002 Board Members: Robert Rolan, Nancy Litzenberger, Elizabeth Rader, Judy Snyder, Julia Poor, Peggy Kenworthy, and John Layton
2002 Staff: Chris Brown, Tina Market, Sue Dobbels, Jeanne Foster, Karen Cheatwood, Laurie White and Ashlee Mullins.
Over the next four years the library flourished, circulation and program attendance increased almost 600%. New programs were offered and new formats of materials were added. The new library became the social and cultural center of our community. Drawing in new patronage from the surrounding communities such as Attica, Benton County and Tippecanoe County the library was now what the board and staff had envisioned. Much attention was given to the library and even more was about to come into play with national headlines.
2006 Collection: 23,000 Books, Reference: 343, Indiana Collection: 350, CDs: 600, CD-ROMS: 110, DVD & Movies: 2,800, Audio Books: 600.
2006 Patrons: Residents: 1821, Adams Twp: 49, PLAC: 10, Jordan Twp: 26, Liberty: 187, Profession Staff: 47, Pine Twp: 90, Reciprocal: 293, Warren Twp: 41, and Non-Resident: 22.
October 2006 Board of Trustees : Nancy Litzenberger, Lee Kay, Liz Rader, John Layton, Julie Poor, Peggy Kenworthy, and Dick Dobbels. Staff during rebuild: Chris Brown, Tina Market, Sue Dobbels, Jeanne Foster, Karen Cheatwood, Rhonda Lang, Addalee Jernagan and Josh DeZarn. Friends Group during rebuild: Sara Johnston, Marilyn Foster, Bob Folk, Sharon Fox, Kay Dalton, Pam Larson, Rena Potter and Jim Hamilton.
On October 8th, 2006 the new library was lost due to arson. The fire was started in the northwest corner of the building in the trash cans. The alarms sounded at around 8:30pm. Within 70 minutes the building was a total loss. Fireman from around the area tried in vain to save the library. Nothing but the two towers were left standing and a portion of the front. After months of waiting for the initial investigation to end the library was released to start demolition and the rebuilding process. The library board and staff met the next day at old Carnegie owned then by Charlie and Kate Walker to discuss with the insurance company on how to proceed. The staff met every day at the director's house to start planning to set up a temporary location. It was decided after much debate that the offer from the American Legion located at 408 E State Road 28 would become the temporary home of the Williamsport- Washington Township Public Library. With the help of our friends group, our families, the community, state of Indiana and even the country much work was put into fixing up the Legion building and making it home. With the story of the fire going worldwide via the AP, books started arriving from all over the country. Tens of thousands of books started arriving. So much so that a huge book sale was planned to help rebuild.
Steve Morris of Hanover Insurance, the library's insurance provider, meet with board and director the next day. The building would be held for three months while the investigation continued unresolved. The bid to rebuild the library was awarded to Eden Enterprises of Carmel, Indiana. Mike Dowell, who had originally built the library was now hired to demolish the husk of its once self. The board began meeting weekly, First at Nancy Litzenberger's Law office, then at the American Legion once we started setting up the temporary library. Although the task at hand was to rebuild the library, it was not without grief. We had lost something near and dear to all of us, our library. The community grieved with us and showed their support by volunteering. The Legion would be the home for many months while we healed. But as in all things, change is inevitable and warranted. This was an opportunity to make it better. The Friend's group was a major contributor and support network for us. Much gratitude goes to all of them. From a benefit dinner at the Williamsport Christian Church to the book sale of the century in the gymnasium of the Williamsport Elementary school they came together under the leadership of Sara Johnston to achieve momentum to garner the funds to make the library even grander. The Friends made the trek to rebuild a much smoother road.
The book sale being such a success, a sprinkler system was added and with many donations from all over the country a new staircase to the basement, a digital security system and an elevator shaft. The library was completed after 14 months of construction and we are currently working hard to secure monies to put an elevator in the shaft, so we can expand our children's library to the basement. The Legion Library closed October 27th. The New Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library reopened for business December 8th, 2007 with the Grand Opening on January 20th, 2008. The library installed the elevator and was operation on May 5th 2009. It is an exciting time! The possibility of a new children's library in the lower level is becoming a reality.
The library has now completed the children’s expansion project. With three components in place, which allows the library to utilize the basement; second stairwell, sprinkling systems, and the new elevator, the project finally moved forward. Through private donations, Friends of the Library fundraisings and sponsorship from our community the library has been able to add new lighting, flooring, and refinishing existing furniture from the previous libraries that has accelerated this project. It was the wishes of the board and staff to have the project complete by the end of 2009. In December of 2009 at the Christmas Open House we debuted the New Children's Library. In April of 2011 Patrick Gulley passed away and his wife Teresa Gulley donated many of his museum exhibits to our library open to the public now is a dinosaurs, insects, Egyptians, Fantasy and Space Exhibits. Now our vision of our children's library is complete. Thanks to all who volunteered and worked so dilligently to make children's library a reality.
When Lisa Cruea was hired to be the Director of the Learning Center she was interested in doing something for the library and talks began on constucting an Amphitheater. Lisa wrote a grant to the Tippecanoe County Art Federation and was awarded $75,000 to build the Amphitheater. Construction began December 14th, 2012,the construction contract was awarded to Mike Dowell of Crawfordsville, he had constructed the orginal libary and the architech was Harry Mohler of Lafayette. Construction last for several months and was completed in March, 2013. The Library and Learning Center held a grand opening for the amphitheater on June 1st 2013 many local performers were showcased throughout the day. In the spring of 2015 Chris Brown, Cindy McCabe and Wini Clark started to landscape around the lot and stage. The project was finished by Anywhere Lawn Care paid for by Wini Clark in Memory of her late husband Frank Clark. What a wonderful additon to our community. May all that enter our doors know how blessed we feel by being the library that the world helped rebuild.
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2011 Collection: 30,498 Books, Reference: 612, Indiana Collection: 682, CDs: 1112, Playaways: 288, DVD & Blue Rays: 2,498, Audio Books: 2,223.
2011 Patrons units by Family: Residents: 781, Adams Twp: 63, Jordan Twp: 23, Liberty: 72, Profession Staff: 55, Pine Twp: 90, Reciprocal: 435, Warren Twp: 102, and Student: 57.
2011 Circulation of all materials: 32,518, Children's materials: 9,028, Audio Books: 2,805, Music CDs: 1,507, Movies: 9,679 and Magazines: 1,139
Present Board: Dick Dobbels, Lee Kay, Theresa Ligara, Ken Frauman, Peggy Kenworthy, Jennifer Larson-Haussin, and Vickie Strickler.
Compiled by Chris Brown, Director