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Automation
Bookmobile Service
Building Project, LaGrange
Building Project, Topeka
Carnegie Foundation
Cornell, Charles G.
Computer, 1st
Cornell's Circulating Library
County Library Established
Ellison, Alice
Herbert, Florence E.
Fire Station Building
Herbert, Georgianna
LaGrange Free Reading Room
Librarian, 1st
Librarian, 2nd
Library Addition
Library Constructed
Public Library Established
Rose Family
Shipshewana Branch
Topeka Branch
Town Hall and Fire Station Building
Women's League of LaGrange

 
 
 
 

 

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          Early settlers in LaGrange County tell us that the first librarian was a woman who brought eight books in her saddlebags to loan her neighbors. These cherished books were loaned again and again to neighbors who took great pleasure in reading them.  By 1878 Charles G. Cornell, the deputy postmaster, had a book store and newspaper stand connected with the post office.  People could rent books for a few cents weekly.  This was known as Cornell's Circulating Library.  His collection was very popular for several years.
In October of 1893, Miss Alice Ellison donated a building on South Detroit Street, which consisted of two small rooms, to become the LaGrange Free Reading Room.  She also gave a large number of books.  These were supplemented by gifts from individuals and clubs.  Some club members served as volunteer librarians a few days each week, so that the library could be open for public use.  The reading room was eventually phased out, although there is no final record of when it closed.  LaGrange's desire for a library remained strong however and another library was developed in the early years of the following century.
 In January of 1910 the Woman's League of LaGrange, a union of literary clubs, organized for the purpose of establishing a library.  The opera H.M.S. Pinafore was performed in February of that same year and the proceeds were used to purchase the first books for the library. In 1912, through the efforts of the Women's League and Miss Florence E. Herbert, a public library was established in a small room on Spring Street, across from the courthouse.  Throughout the year, the library became so popular that a larger and more extensive permanent building was needed.  Interested townspeople agreed to pay a small amount annually to keep the library open. Miss Florence E. Herbert was appointed the first librarian and given a salary of $15.00 a month.  The public library's total income for the first year was $624.74.  The library's original collection consisted of 455 books. The LaGrange Free Reading Room gave 240 of these books. By the end of the first year, the library had registered 517 people as borrowers, with a total book circulation of 6,796.
Miss Herbert deserves much of the credit for keeping the library going during those early years.  She successfully promoted the library and kept it growing throughout her years as librarian.  Although money was tight and she was not only the librarian but the care-taker, she always took time to show personal interest in each borrower who came into the library.  She made the community feel that the library was theirs to enjoy, to be proud of, and to support.  Her mother, Mrs. Georgianna Herbert acted as her assistant librarian and became the next librarian when her daughter was married in 1919.
The children of the late Solomon and Caroline Rose offered to donate a site for the library on the corner of Spring and High streets if the Carnegie Foundation would donate a stated sum for the building. The town, along with Bloomfield Township, was asked to provide a certain amount each year for perpetual support. In 1917 a gift of $12,500 was secured from the Carnegie Foundation to finance the construction of the building. The library was completed in 1919.   Clay Township agreed to support the library along with Bloomfield Township and the town of LaGrange. In 1939 the library was established as a county facility, giving free access to all citizens of the county.

        As of 2006, the library serves a population of 36,000 people, 7,000 of whom are registered borrowers. Bookmobile service began in 1952 and remains a vital component of the library system.  Over the years, the library has maintained branches in several LaGrange County communities.  Today, the library's Topeka and Shipshewana branches continue to flourish. The original Topeka Branch opened in 1939.  The current Shipshewana Branch opened in 1989. 
        The LaGrange County Public Library itself still occupies the original Carnegie building of 1919. The old Town Hall was purchased from the Town of LaGrange in 1968 for $8,750.  A modern addition was added to the original building in 1976. This addition provided much-needed space and connected the original library building to the old LaGrange Town Hall and Fire Station building, where the bookmobile is housed.  In 1994 the second floor of the old Town Hall was remodeled and opened for public use. In 1995 the library's board of trustees began searching for a long-term solution to the library's space problems. They purchased the neighboring firehouse building in 2006. 
        The library acquired its first computer, an Apple IIe, in 1986.  Public Internet access was added in 1996. On September 14, 2005, the library launched Library·Solution, its first automated circulation system. 
        Construction of a new Topeka Branch Library began in August of 2008, opening for business in March of 2009.
        In November 2009, the LaGrange County Public Library system joined the Evergreen Indiana consortium, dramatically expanding the resources available to its patrons.
        We've come long way from those few books carried in an intrepid reader's saddlebags!  It is our goal that the library will continue to grow and adapt to meet the needs of LaGrange County's citizens for many more years to come.