South Whitley Community Public Library
201 East Front Street, South Whitley, IN 46787
Phone: (260) 723-5321 Fax: (260) 723-5326
Phone: (260) 723-5321 Fax: (260) 723-5326
On April 21, 1912, Mrs. Moses Mayer of South Whitley’s Fine Arts Club gathered interested citizens at her home to discuss the possibility of organizing a library in the community.
A library committee was formed and, under the direction of Dr. M.W. Webster, began searching for a director and a location for the proposed library. On May 19, 1913, the committee chose Miss Gladys Stump as the first librarian. Less than a month later, on June 2, 1913, the committee voted to lease the room above the post office, behind the current Corner Café, for $7 per month. A book shower on June 12 provided 100 volumes to use as the foundation for the library’s collection. With all the pieces in place and the room renovated the library opened to patrons on August 20, 1913.
Soon after the library was established, the Carnegie Foundation was petitioned for funds to build a library. Dissension with the Township Advisory Board and an inability to agree on local details led to the proposed library building project being abandoned on November 10, 1917. Dr. Webster still pursued the idea until he was advised the Carnegie Foundation was no longer making appropriations for library buildings.
Until property taxes became a source of funding for libraries, financial support for the new library was provided by the Men's Forward Movement League. Their roster listed 34 members, including C.O. Enos, the father of future Library Director, Marian Bollinger.
In February 1919, the library moved to the first floor of the Knights of Pythias building on State Street (the future site of the Kent Theatre). This ground floor location was more accessible, and the large room had plenty of space for a children's corner. During the following month the schools of Cleveland Township had an egg collection day. The proceeds from the sale of the eggs were given to the library to use to buy furniture.
The library’s stay at this site was short-lived as a new merchandise company came to town and either bought or rented the building housing the library. Seeking a more permanent location, the Landsdown property, on what is now the corner of Front and Maple streets, was purchased.
The move took place on November 4, 1919. The library has remained at the same corner since that time.
By 1930, eight thousand books had been added to the original collection.
Generous Support of Library
In the early 1960s Fred Graham came into the library, tapped the floor with his cane, and said, “What this town needs is a new library.” The little white house that served as the library at that time had a leaky roof, sagging floors, and little space for programs or story hours.
With no children to leave his estate to, Mr. Graham established a trust fund. The fund provided the living expenses for Mr. and Mrs. Graham and their housekeeper, Amelia Loechner Campbell, during their lifetimes, after which the South Whitley Library would be the sole recipient of its proceeds. By June of 1968, all the beneficiaries of the trust had passed away, and the library’s building project received funding.
Graham’s generous gift provided funding for the construction of a brick building measuring 50 x 100 feet with additional space on the lower level. During construction, the library’s collection and services were temporarily housed at the town hall. Construction was completed in June, 1970, and with the help of many volunteers, the library moved into its new building without the loss of a single hour of service.
The library was expanded in 1989 after Mr. Theodore Schultz donated his semi-precious gem collection along with $20,000 to build an addition to showcase the gems. That expansion was further supported by a $30,000 grant from the John & Hester Adams Trust, and a community fund drive that raised the remaining $125,000 for the project.
The expansion project was completed in 1990, providing not only room to showcase Mr. Schultz’s gem collection but also the library’s growing collection of books and other materials. It also provided additional space for programs.
Information provided by Marian Bollinger
New Century, More Changes
In 2003, the Library Board applied for a $500,000 grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to fund a library expansion that would include the installation of an elevator. When the grant request was denied, the grantor suggested the library hold a fund drive to raise a greater percentage of matching funds.
Led by director Darci Kessie, more than $100,000 was raised within six weeks through the generosity of individuals, families, local businesses, the Whitley County Community Foundation, the DEKKO Foundation, and the John & Hester Adams Trust. The Community and Rural Affairs grant request was then approved and construction began on the new addition in the spring of 2006 and was completed in the spring of 2007.
During the construction project, representatives from the Mary K. Peabody Foundation paid a visit to the library, resulting in an offer to purchase all new shelving and furniture for the expansion, and to assist with paying for a new roof for the entire library.
The 2006-07 expansion and renovation enlarged the library by nearly fifty percent. On the lower level, the project provided two large community meeting rooms with kitchen access, two restrooms, and a large local history/genealogy room. On the main level a family restroom, staff workroom, administration and bookkeeping offices, and an enlarged children’s room were added.
Other main level renovations included a café near the entrance and comfortable reading areas throughout the building.
Changes and improvements to the library continued throughout the 2000s with the addition of a parking lot on the east side of the building and designated parking spaces on Front Street. Land has also been purchased for possible future expansion.
The most recent alterations to the library include changing the name, in 2012, from South Whitley-Cleveland Township Public Library to the South Whitley Community Public Library. The name change was made to include all areas served by the library. Then in 2017, the front entrance of the library was remodeled to offer better access for all patrons. An external materials drop box was added at this time as well.
Throughout its history, the library has thrived and been able to serve its patrons well due to outstanding community support, grants, and gracious gifts. The library’s mission of service to the community has been enhanced by a dedicated staff that makes the library a friendly and welcoming place to all.