Indiana’s Rich Library History
Growing up in Kokomo, IN, I pretty much took the library for granted. We went to the library a lot when I was young, and since I was in high school during the Stone Age, I used the library a lot for projects and reports. I didn’t know the history of the library in Kokomo or the special place Indiana’s libraries have in history.
Fast forward to 2006 when ENA is awarded a contract to provide Internet access and related services to libraries that are members of the Indiana Public Library Internet Consortium, I started to meet with my library customers, and I became enchanted with the architecture of many of the buildings I was visiting. A lot of the libraries looked nothing like the one in Kokomo, and soon after I learned why.
Brief history: Between 1883 and 1929, Andrew Carnegie and his foundation provided grants to communities throughout the United States and eight other countries to build public libraries. Carnegie had seen how access to literary materials had made a difference in his life and wanted to provide that same access to others. Although there were very specific guidelines that communities had to meet, almost every grant request was funded by Carnegie. After the first libraries were built, Carnegie realized that there needed to be some standardization in the architecture and building plans to insure patron safety and better access to materials. This is why so many of the Carnegie libraries share the same design.
Indiana had more Carnegie libraries built than any other state, and a significant number of these buildings still stand today. Many still serve their communities as the public library, while others have become local museums, government buildings and even restaurants. Once you come to learn the standardized Carnegie design, you can spot one anywhere.
So why didn’t I know about this before? Kokomo’s Carnegie library building was lost to a fire in the mid 1960s. A new “modern” library was designed and built in its place, and that was the library that I grew up visiting.
I have come to really enjoy learning about the libraries I get to visit. Our library customers have different challenges than our school customers, and I enjoy working with the technologists and library directors to develop solutions that best fit their needs. Getting to discover the history of these great spaces is icing on the cake!
If you would like to learn more about the Carnegie libraries, here are some links to explore:
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.