Beyond books: Allen County's public library history, Indiana

It is a rare institution that remains viable in a community for one hundred years, and maintains a special place in the hearts of the people it serves for several generations. The Allen County Public Library is such an institution. January 29, 1995, marks the one hundredth anniversary of the opening of the public library in Fort Wayne. This history has been written in celebration of the library's centennial.

This volume begins with a brief look at library service in Indiana and in Allen County before the advent of the public library. It continues with the history of the main library, and the library system as a whole. Chapter 3 is dedicated to the history of each main library department; and Chapter 4 contains the histories of the library's branches, both surviving and defunct. These sections on the library's history are followed by a chapter titled Beyond Books that highlights many subjects common to all libraries, but specifically as they affect the Allen County Public Library. The library's Friends organization and Foundation are included in this section, as well as a discussion of library issues, such as technological changes, censorship, and literacy. The book ends with a chapter dedicated to staff issues, complete with a list of all employees, past and present, which is as comprehensive as possible.

Sources for the compilation of this history have been culled from areas all over the main library and beyond, from the Government Document stacks beneath the Business and Technology Department to the oversize drawers of the old Indiana Collection clipping files to the memory of former Library Director Rick J. Ashton, now Director of the Denver Public Library in Colorado. By far the most voluminous source, and probably the most valuable overall to this project was the one named second in the example above - the old Ic clipping files. The Indiana Collection was discontinued in the early 1980s and its materials absorbed into other collections within the library system. Oversized manilla folders full of newspaper clippings and other ephemera on various Fort Wayne, Allen County, and Indiana subjects still exist in the main library basement. A full bibliography of sources used in the compilation of this book is on file in the archives of library materials in the old Indiana Collection files. Anyone wishing to look at the originals of the newspaper articles used as sources may ask at the reference desk of the Historical Genealogy Department. Occasionally an article in a footnote is listed as an "unidentified newspaper clipping." Almost certainly the majority of these were published in one of the Fort Wayne newspapers, but were not so-marked on the clippings.

One note that needs to be made to readers of this history concerns the change that took place January 1, 1980, merging the Fort Wayne Public Library Board of Trustees with the Allen County Contractual Library Board of Trustees. Prior to this date, the two were separate entities, although they generally were discussed in sources as though they comprised one Board (particularly in newspaper articles reporting the action taken at Board meetings). Therefore, any references in this work to the Board of Trustees of the library before January 1, 1980, refer to both the city and county entities, and any references after that date refer to the combination Board.


Table of Contents

Preface vii
Chapter 1: Early Library Service 1
Chapter 2: The Birth and Growth of a Public Library System 9
Chapter 3: Main Library Agencies & Services 65
Chapter 4: Bookmobiles & Branches 161
Chapter 5: Beyond Books

Collections, Culture & Programming 215
Experiments & Eccentricities 220
Auxiliary & Support Organizations 223
Issues in Librarianship 226
Modern Issues 245
Chapter 6: People 249
Staff List 255
Index 305


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As early as 1806, a decade before statehood, some Indiana Territory residents were interested in forming a library. In July of that year, a few citizens of Vincennes and the nearby area met at the home of William Hays to promote the formation of a circulating library. Governor William Henry Harrison was appointed chairman of the project and Benjamin Parke was secretary. The Vincennes Library Company was active until the Civil War. The year 1806 was an important one in Vincennes area library history. It was also in that year that the legislature of the Northwest Territory incorporated Vincennes University and authorized the trustees of the facility to hold a lottery and raise up to $20,000, $3,000 of which was earmarked for the establishment of a library. An early library also was located in Parke County in about 1806 or 1807.