“The constitution of Indiana contains the provision, that the general assembly at the time they lay off a new county shall cause at least ten per cent, to be reserved out of the proceeds of the sale of town lots in the seat of justice of the county, for the use of a public library of such county, and at the same session shall incorporate a library company, under such rates and regulations as will best secure its permanence and extend its benefits.” This was the mandate for all counties organized since 1816 according to an article in the Indiana American dated Friday, March 18, 1836.
Since Franklin County was established prior to 1816, it was not mandated. The article continues, “The County of Franklin not having the benefit of this provision, the only means by which the want of it can be supplied, is by individual subscriptions to the stock of the company which has been incorporated for this purpose.” In other words, citizens had to pay to subscribe to the library. “Five dollars only are required to entitle an individual to a share in the capital stock of the company, which gives a right to a proportion of all the benefits of the institution, direct and collateral. The Town of Brookville has given a liberal support to the measure, and if answered by a subscription on the part of the farmers, with their usual liberality, the permanent establishment among us of a most useful institution will be secured.”
“It is hoped that subscriptions will be received from the most distant parts of the County; as the inconvenience of coming to Brookville may be in a measure obviated, by the appointment of agents in the different neighborhoods, to whom books may be given as ordered and by them distributed: The more widely books are circulated, and the greater the amount of the capital stock of the company, the more useful will the institution be both to the stockholders and to the community.”
“A small collection of books has been in public circulation in one neighborhood of the County for the last few years; and any one who is acquainted with the character of the population of that district, both male and female, must give evidence to the propriety of their morals, and the cultivation of their minds.”
“Whether the circulation of books among them be the cause or whether it be the consequence, of their moral and mental culture; it is in either case a strong reason for others to follow their example to extend and improve it.”
“Will not every intelligent citizen of Franklin County who has the means, subscribe to the stock of this company, to secure the best interests, present and future, of the place of his residence; to draw to it an intelligent population; to improve and adorn that society, whose intercourse, as it is virtuous or vicious, is to bless or to curse him and his posterity.”
A reading room was established around September 1, 1895. The president of the organization was Mrs. W. H. Bracken and the secretary was Mr. S. S. Harrell. Papers and magazines were available free for public reading. The reading room was good for a time, but died out.
In 1908 another movement was started to establish a public library. A committee was established including: W. T. Stott, J. C. Shirk, W. H. Senour, G. E. Mullin, E. J. Hancock, Mrs. S. S. Harrell, J. Ottis Adams, J. E. Fisher, J. W. Rapp, and Mrs. E. L Patterson. This group met in the home of J. C. Shirk. The following citizens were added to the committee: W. D. Bradt, M. H. Irwin, H. B. Smith, H. Trichler, J. B. Kidney, R. M. Keough and A. J. Reifel. The group contacted Mr. Chalmers Hadley, Secretary and State Organizer of the Library Commission of Indiana. Mr. Hadley agreed to attend a public meeting in Brookville at the Town Hall to discuss cost, management and results of Indiana public libraries, exhibiting plans and photos of buildings.
The first official Library Board meeting was held on April 27, 1909 at the home of Mrs. Harrell. Election of officers was held with Mr. Senour elected a president, Rev. Schenck as vice president, W. D. Bradt as treasurer and Mrs. S. S. Harrell as secretary. The Board’s main focus during the early years was whether or not to rent a room for a small library. Rent prices varied from $5.00 to $12.00 per month. During this time the Board was in touch with Mr. Andrew Carnegie. On December 3, 1910 the announcement was made that Mr. Andrew Carnegie was giving a gift of $10,000 for the purpose of building a library for Brookville. The town had to guarantee $1,000 a year for its maintenance and provide a lot for the building. The lot was purchased for $1,500.
The Brookville Town Library was dedicated on September 18, 1912. State Librarian, Demarchus C. Brown, gave the speech. His theme was “The Library as a Center.” Mrs. Mae Charni was the first Library Director. The salary of the first Director was $25.00 per month. A book shower was held so the library would have books on the shelves. The State Library also loaned books to the new library.
The Brookville Town Library became the Brookville Town Township Library in 1953. The Bookmobile was added in 1962 on a trial period from Federal Funds for 2 years. Unfortunately, in May of 1964 it was transferred to Pike and DuBois counties along with the $30,000 worth of books purchased for use in Franklin County. The Franklin County Commissioners voted by secret ballot not to appropriate any funds for the continuance of the Bookmobile.
A group of citizens from the Laurel area formed a group in 1995 and requested that they become a part of the Library District so they could pursue a block grant with which to build a library in Laurel. On June 5, 1996 it was announced that Laurel would be receiving their grant for the library in Laurel. The Open House for the Laurel Library was held on April 26, 1998. (see Laurel Library History)
The Brookville Town Township Library name changed to the Whitewater Valley Community Library District in January 2000 to bring together the Brookville Library and the Laurel Library as one Library District with an all encompassing name.
With the growing Library District, the Brookville Library was in need of a new facility or expansion of the old building. After much debate, the vote was taken to expand the current, original building. Funds for most of the project were from the Receda Schilling Trust. The total cost of the renovation was $1.7 million. The new addition and renovation was completed in 2003. An Open House was held on September 14, 2003.
As of 2013, the Library District consists of six of the thirteen townships: Brookville, Laurel, Metamora, Posey, Blooming Grove and Fairfield all belong to the Library District. Each township is governed by a township trustee and a three member advisory board. This group decides whether the township joins the Library District or not. The Library District has worked diligently to convince the trustees of the importance of joining the Library District.
The name was changed again in 2007 to be in compliance with Indiana Library Law making it the Whitewater Valley Public Library District and finally again the name was once again changed in 2010 making it the Franklin County Public Library District. The Library District has only had 9 Library Directors in its 101 years: Mae O’Byrne Charni, Martha Kimble, Norma Corya, Vi Van Loo, Dana Van Loo, Karla Ariens, Jan Albrecht, Linda Bruns and Melody Gault.
History of the Laurel Branch
To fulfill a dream for the Laurel community, a group of dedicated citizens pushed the limits to build a public library for western Franklin County on the site of the old elementary school at 200 North Clay Street in Laurel, Indiana. This was truly a community effort.
On May 28, 1996 the town of Laurel was awarded a Community Focus Grant through the Indiana Department of Commerce and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. The matching funds that were required to qualify for the $490,000.00 grant were raised through individual and business donations and lots of creative fund raising projects. Some of the projects included the sale of memorial bricks, potlucks and dinners, booths at the Pioneer Days gatherings, a Donkey Basketball Game, a Blue Grass Show, Tupperware parties, raffles of donated items, a Gospel Sing, family photo promotions, a new pick-up truck raffle, an Old Timers Basketball game, and golf tournaments. The Laurel community donated recipes for a cookbook for sale, the Senior Citizens had several breakfasts, Stan and Dave White donated their services for an auction, and a commemorative cancellation stamp was created. The Laurel Elementary and Junior High students sold candy, held dances and other fundraisers to aid the effort to start the Laurel Community Library.
Some of the businesses that stepped up and helped out were Owens-Corning with a $10,000.00 donation, an anonymous donor gave $10,000.00, the United Way of Franklin County ($5,000.00), Tri Kappa ($1,500.00), Brookville IGA and JTM barbeque, ($1,000.00), Sperry Rubber Manufacturer, UAW Local 2050 Union, J&J Packaging, Metamora Maid, Laurel Elementary School, Ford/Visteon, Moster & Cox, the Laurel Hotel, the Laurel Middle School, the Metamora Volunteer Fire Department, Pavey’s Grocery, Franklin County Bank, the American Legion, Fayette Memorial Hospital, the St. Thomas Lutheran Church of Brookville, and the Town of Laurel which donated the land the library is situated on. Individual donors were Lindsay Jackson, Frances Abernathy, Everett McQueen, Gene Casteel, Mary Ann McConkey, Virginia Mayberry, Arthur Huffmeier, Laurel Elementary first graders, Pat Combs, Garry Collins, and Fred Chappelow. All these citizens, businesses, organizations and the community provided the seed money to bring this dream to fulfillment. Finally on Sunday, April 26, 1998 the Laurel Library Open House and Dedication took place.
The original Community Focus Grant covered the cost of the building and shelving attached to the exterior walls. The next step was to finish the parking lot and sidewalks, furnish the library and set up a collection of books and other library materials for the Laurel Library to be functional. This was accomplished again through donations by individuals in the community; and, with the aid of the Franklin County Community Foundation, Laurel Community Library was named as part of the Lilly Gift III Grant for the Library District. $100,000.00 was granted for use at the Laurel Community Library to furnish shelving, equipment and furniture, and inventory for the library. All the office equipment, furniture, free standing shelving and circulation desk, opening day collection, reference volumes, parking lot, sidewalks, and landscaping were funded by the Lilly Gift III Grant.
A talented resource for the Laurel Community Library was, again, a local citizen. Candy Yurcak of Walnut Creek Home and Garden in Metamora built all the original shelving and the beautifully carved circulation desk. These features are made of local poplar lumber and add such a gentle atmosphere to the library. Other community members who built items for the library include Norman Klusman, Aaron Schanie of All About Wood and Mike Walker of Log Cabin Woodworking.
Mary Ann McConkey was instrumental in adding to the beauty and functionality of the Laurel Library. With the help of the United Way of Franklin County she enhanced the flagpole and memorial bricks area in front of the library. She also donated her $5,000.00 award from the Walmart Citizen of the Year program to the Library District. Her oil painting, Springtime, hangs in the Laurel Community Library.
After the dust settled on all the construction projects in the Library District a new project that has enhanced the Laurel Community Library was pursued. The old basketball court was removed from the back of the library property and a “Reading Garden” has been growing. This project was made possible through many individual donations from alumni and local supporters and the Rush/Shelby REMC. Whitetail Acres Landscaping did the layout, plants and flowers while James Ballenger of Ballenger Bulldozing and Stone laid up the native-rock reading wall.