Brookville Public Library celebrates centennial

Brookville Public Library will celebrate its centennial Sunday afternoon, Sept. 16, from 2-4 p.m. The public is invited. It is a Carnegie Library and started with just 600 books. Indiana built more libraries from funds donated by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie than any other state.

By John Estridge, Editor

Andrew Carnegie made and gave away a vast fortune.

Of the money he gave away, $10,000 of it came to Brookville for the building of the Brookville Public Library. Its dedication was held on Sept. 18, 1912.

Sunday afternoon, Sept. 16, the Brookville Public Library will celebrate its centennial with a program beginning at 2 p.m.

According to Reifel's History of Franklin County, Franklin County: A Glimpse of the Past and various histories on Carnegie and Carnegie libraries, Carnegie built his first library in his hometown of Dumfermline, Scotland in 1883. The first Carnegie library in America was built in Braddock, Penn. in 1889. The last grant was awarded in 1919 and construction continued on the libraries until 1929. By that time there were 2,509 libraries built. Of that amount, 1,689 were built in the U.S. Indiana has the most Carnegie libraries of any state in the U.S.

Brookville began its quest for a Carnegie Library in 1911.

But to look just a little farther back in the town's history, a reading room was established on Sept. 1, 1895. Members of the society which created the reading room and their friends could read papers and magazines. W. H. Bracken was the society's president and Mrs. S. S. Harrell was the secretary.

However, the reading room did not flourish.

Then, in 1908, there was another movement to start a library with the first library board meeting being held on April 27, 1909 at the home of Mrs. Harrell. It sent an application to the Carnegie Foundation. Applications were handled by Carnegie's secretary, James Bertram.

One of the tenets of a Carnegie grant was the town had to purchase a lot for the library. The lot directly north of the Amos Butler homestead was chosen.

Also, the town had to pledge to pay 10 percent of the grant every year, in this case $1,000, for operational expenses.

The grant was for $10,000. Usually the grant was based on $2 for every person within the proposed library district.

Carnegie libraries had many similarities. They were set up so they had to be reached by steps. In many cases, there were 13 steps. Carnegie wanted steps because anyone wanting to read should be willing to climb a few steps. He also thought young, ambitious people would make up the majority of the readers at his libraries. Another thought was the steps made the trip to the library symbolic as well as being lofty or the 13 steps to wisdom.

Inside, the Carnegie libraries were also very unique for libraries of that time. In most libraries of that period, the books were kept in closed places and a patron had to tell the librarian to go into the book area and retrieve the book they wanted.

In Carnegie libraries, the books were out in the open, welcoming people to browse the stacks. Libraries were built to let in natural light.

Brookville's first library director, Mae Charni, received a wage of $25 per month.

During the dedication ceremonies in Brookville 100 years ago, the state librarian Demarchus C. Brown delivered the main address.

Sunday, another state library representative, Wendy Knapp, will also give a speech.

The Oxford Brass will begin playing at 2 p.m. Library board vice president Gay Worth will introduce the library board members and staff. Franklin Circuit Court Judge J. Steven Cox will speak after Knapp. Then, Andrew Carnegie will step to the microphone and give part of the speech he made in Philadelphia.

There will be closing remarks, and then the Oxford Brass will play again. Friends of the Library will provide the refreshments for the day.

Several items will be on display including the names of the nine directors at the library over the past 100 years.

There are photos to go with each director except for Martha Kimball, 1917-26. Current library director Melody Gault said if anyone has a photo of Kimball, to please get in touch with the library at 765-647-4031.