The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 3, Page 20.


Valparaiso Has Had A Library Since '42; Hunts Founded Modern System

Thirty-five years ago last October 25, 1910, Valparaiso's Public Library came into existence with the gift by the late Hubbart and Finnette Hunt of their residence property on North Washington street as a building for housing the small collection of books which in those days numbered 575.

Only two rooms were used then, a reading room and a room for book stacks. The library subscribed for twenty-two magazines. In the first year of operation the library loaned 9,014 books.

Five years after the library had grown to such an extent that six rooms were necessary to keep pace with the development. They were reading, stacks, children, club, newspapers and readings.

In the five years' period, the number of books had increased to 4,400; magazine, 40, and bound magazine, 292. The number of registered borrowers had grown to 2,248, of which 1,788 were active. The circulation during 1909 totaled 14,423.

With the removal of the library to the Carnegie building created in 1915-16, the library has enjoyed a substantial growth. At the present time the library has a total of 18,201 volumes, of which seventy-five percent are adult and twenty-five percent juvenile.

The history of public libraries in Valparaiso goes back to the year 1842 when the city had a circulating library and curiously enough it was located on the site of the present library building. The Rev. J. C. Brown, organizer and pastor of the First Presbyterian church in the city, brought from his home in Pennsylvania a collection of books, large for that time, and made his congregation and other reading-minded people of the town welcome to his literary treasure.

In 1878 the Valparaiso high school acquired a library through the efforts of the school superintendent, William H. Banta. Rev. Brown's idea had been to raise the intellectual level of the people. Mr. Banta insisted that in a democracy every child should have access to good books, particularly reference books.

From these two impulses, intellectual and democratic, grew the library idea in the City of Valparaiso. The high school library was open to all citizens who contributed a dollar or more to its maintenance. But after Mr. Banta's time there was no library service and no adequate provision for shelving the collection.

The movement for women's study clubs in the late years of the nineteenth century found ardent support in Valparaiso because these study groups were hampered by their lack of ready access to books. Valparaiso university's book shelves were open to their use, but their library was crowded with students and the distance from the center of the town prevented many from making use of its resources. Slowly grew the thought that the town must have its own books. Most active in fostering this idea was the Valparaiso Women's club.

The act of the general assembly in force March 4, 1901, made possible the establishment of many libraries. The law provided that should the taxpayers of a town raise by popular subscription a sum equal to the amount that would be derived from a levy of two-tenths of a mill on each dollar of the taxable property and that not more than two percent of the amount be subscribed by any one person, firm or corporation, a library could be organized and perpetually maintained by means of a levy made by a library board organized for such a purpose.

A few of the club women, among whom Mrs. Alla Bryant and Mrs. N. L. Agnew were most active, raised this sum, about $900, and filed the subscription lists with the clerk of the circuit court who notified the judge of the court, the common council of the city, and the board of school trustees that the subscription list of James McCrea and others had been filed. Judge Willis C. McMahan then appointed three members to the library board; the common council appointed two, and the school board two.

The members of the first library board were Oliver P. Kinsey, Alla L. Bryant, Clara S. DeMotte, Arthur A. Hughart, Estella Gardner, Kate L. Agnew and William E. Pinney.

In June, 1905, Miss Bertha Joel was elected librarian and served until December, 1919. Miss Zada Carr succeeded her in the same year and is still the acceptable head of the library staff.

When the library outgrew the Hunt building willed by Mr. and Mrs. H. Hunt for library purposes, it was evident that larger quarters nearer the center of the city must be acquired. After considerable correspondence on the part of A. A. Hughart with the Carnegie Corporation, he announced at a meeting of the library board on February 9, 1911, that the Carnegie Corporation would allow the City of Valparaiso $20,000 for a library building, providing the common council of the city would guarantee to raise yearly by a levy a maintenance fund equal to ten percent of the gift and agree to provide a suitable lot for the building.

The requirements being met, Arthur Tilton, an architect of the Carnegie Corporation, visited Valparaiso in March and approved the site already favored by the trustees, the quarter block fronting Michigan avenue and Jefferson street. He proceeded to prepare plans for a building to cost $20,000 and the library board after various campaign for funds, purchased the two lots required for $8,500 of the Rev. J. C. Brown heirs and George S. Haste, and also an extra $1,500 for changes which the considered desirable in the entrance of the library.

The library was built by Charles F. Lembke and Company of Valparaiso, under the supervision of William E. Pinney. The building as finally constructed stands as a monument to the integrity of the builder and the wise judgment of its supervisor.

the new library building was opened to the public on May 26, 1916, with suitable dedicatory exercises arranged and provided for by O. P. Kinsey, who made the completion of the building his supreme interest for that year of his busy life. In the autumn an exhibition of historical material in Porter county to celebrate the state's centennial brought nearly all of the citizens of the county to the library in one week. This gave great impetus to the library.

In October, 1906, Center township having levied a tax for the benefit of the library was entitled to two members on the board of trustees. John W. McNay by virtue of his office as township trustee, and Thomas Brown, who had circulated the petition for the levy, were the two township members.

The Hunt library was used for a number of years after the new library was built, but it later was abandoned and the property reverted to the heirs of Mr. and Mrs. Hunt. The property was sold in 1928 to Charles E. Foster, Sr., who razed it.

Members of the present library board comprise A. A. Hughart, Roy B. Julian, Mrs. T. O. Dillon, Mrs. Alla Bryant, Mrs. Robert B. Wise, Dr. Walter Bauer, Vernon L. Beach, Walter Shook and Miss Mabel Benney.

During 1935 the circulation of the library was 91,529, of which fiction comprised sixty-nine percent. The per capita of books loaned was nine, and the number of borrowers in Valparaiso and Center township was 6,970. The books for adults in 1935 numbered 13,293, and juveniles 4,584. The number of books as of July 1, 1936, was 18,201 and periodicals, 125.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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