When I was a girl, a trip to the library felt like traveling to another world, each book a passport or a portal or a border. Libraries still help take people places, but books are not the only resources anymore. Now DVDs and apps and computers and databases and microfiche and programs and archived documents fill the shelves and storerooms and hard drives of our libraries.
Libraries don’t just transport people to new places, either. They also transform people’s lives.
“Libraries Transform” is the theme of National Library Week, coming up April 10-16, but it was also the vision of Andrew Carnegie, who spent $60 million to help fund nearly 1,700 public libraries across the United States back in the early 20th century. He wanted “to establish free libraries, that other poor boys might receive opportunities similar to those for which we were indebted to that noble man,” referring to a retired merchant who allowed Carnegie and other boys to borrow from his own book collection.
Of the 1,689 Carnegie libraries around the country, 164 were built in Indiana — more than any other state — and three are right here in Clinton County.
The Frankfort Community Public Library was completed in 1906 at the corner of Clinton and Columbia Streets using $24,000 from Mr. Carnegie. According to the library website, Frankfort High School Superintendent Edwin S. Monroe wrote a letter to Carnegie appealing for the donation while the Frankfort library was housed in Frankfort High School’s Old Stoney Location. The Carnegie-endowed library remained relatively unchanged until 1988 when construction began on an addition that is now known as the Mary Gorham Herrick Wing.
The Kirklin Public Library was built in 1915 with $7,500 of Carnegie money, along with donated land, a one-mill tax levy, and private donations of money, books, and labor. As explained on the library website, the facility, still in operation, was expanded in 2001 and 2002 with a Community Focus Grant of $450,000 and $700,000 bond sale that more than doubled the size of the library.
The Colfax-Perry Township Public Library was dedicated in May 1917 through the efforts of two superintendents of the Colfax schools and several members of parent-teacher organization. According to the Colfax library website, over the course of two years of planning, a committee was formed, $9,000 secured from the Carnegie Foundation, and a one-mill tax levy laid for the building and maintenance of the library. The building was updated in 2007 and continues to serve the community today.
Through these three libraries and others throughout Clinton County, Andrew Carnegie’s vision to transform lives carries on. Readers can support that vision for themselves and others by supporting and visiting our local libraries, especially during National Library Week. Visit the library websites or go to ILoveLibraries.org to find out how.
Photo via www.jimgrey.net, used with permission under the Creative Commons License. Originally published at Clinton County Daily News on April 2, 2016.