History of Clark County Libraries

History of Charlestown-Clark County Public Library

Early Libraries in Clark County

Several private, community, and subscription libraries preceded the township libraries of Clark County.

  • The Websterian Social Library was a subscription library and was approved on 6 February 1836. Located at the Websterian School five miles from Charlestown, it served residents of Charlestown and Monroe Townships.
  • In the 1850’s, a Workingman’s Institute and Library was established in Charlestown Township and Jeffersonville Township in the trustees’ offices. The collections were available to members of the organization. The Charlestown Workingman’s Library existed at least until 1858 to 1859. Alfred Hough was the librarian.
In 1852 an Indiana state law provided that public libraries could be established and maintained in each county. These first libraries often shared offices and space with township trustees. Later a law provided that a library district may be formed if there are 10,000 people living in that district willing to be taxed for public library service. If there are less than 10,000 in a proposed district, the district could “contract” with an existing library for the service.

Prior to 1947 library service could be established if a small tax rate was levied. In 1965 the law changed on how new public libraries could be established which made it virtually impossible except by joining with an already existing library.

Jeffersonville Township Public Library

Seeing a need for a better library, several ladies’ clubs in Jeffersonville raised the necessary funds to form a library association and take charge of the township library which had been located at the township trustee’s office. On 13 November 1897, they founded the Jeffersonville Township Public Library Association. The library opened 17 December 1900 on the second floor of the Citizens National Bank at Court Avenue and Spring Street.

An Andrew Carnegie grant financed the Jeffersonville Carnegie Library, which opened in February 1905 at Warder Park. The library remained at this location until 1970 even after it was destroyed by the Great Flood of 1937. In 1950 the library association was converted to a library district.

A second library in Jeffersonville Township was opened in Clarksville in 1955 at 304 W. Stansifer Avenue. It moved to 523 Eastern Boulevard in 1958. In 1964, the Clarksville branch was closed and a bookmobile serviced the area until 1979. In 1988, the Green Tree Branch was opened in the Green Tree Mall. The current Clarksville Branch at 1312 Eastern Boulevard was opened in 1993.

The present location for the Jeffersonville Township Public Library at 211 E. Court Avenue was opened in March 1970. An effort in 1973 to expand library services into Silver Creek Township were unsuccessful because of opposition to an increased tax levy.

Other Independent Libraries Around the County

  • The Louisville Cement Company maintained a library at the Speed Community House located at about 300 US 31 in Speed. It was started in 1927 and served Louisville Cement Company employees and their families. The library closed in 1966 when the Community House was closed. Its collection of 3400 volumes were donated to Silver Creek Junior High School.
  • The town of Borden had a community library.
  • Pleasant Ridge Library was located in the administration building for the Pleasant Ridge government owned housing project neighborhood in Charlestown off Highway 3. The neighborhood was built in 1942. It is unclear when the library began. It was there at least until 1957. The federal government began selling the houses in 1955.

Charlestown Township Library Beginnings

An article in The Indianapolis Journal newspaper dated Tuesday, December 1, 1884 mentions the town library of Charlestown and that Ward H. Watson, a young lawyer, was temporarily in charge.

In 1907 a large fire destroyed much of Charlestown along the south side of Market Street between Water and High Streets and southwest down Main Street. The library of Charlestown Township burned in that fire. The library most likely had been run by the township trustee. It is unclear exactly where the library was located.

It is known that after the big fire of 1907, a library began operation in the Charlestown Township Trustee’s office. The library was supported by a property tax levied upon all assessed real and personal property in Charlestown Township. It is unclear when this tax levy began. The township trustee and the library were always located at the same place because the trustee was in charge of the library services. The library remained under the control of the Charlestown Township trustee for nearly sixty years.

For many years, the library was located in the building on the northeast side of the alley that runs between Main and Short Streets at about 941 Main Street. It would have probably moved to this location after the big fire of 1907. A hand drawn map of 1916 building locations in Charlestown puts the library at this location. There is a photograph of Emma Reich, librarian, in front of the library in 1919. The building is no longer standing.

Two people credited with protecting and promoting the library in Charlestown were Will Steelman and Emma Reich. When Reich began working for the library, borrowed books were recorded in a large ledger. She wrote to Indiana State Library and asked for help in organizing the books properly. A woman was sent to Charlestown to help. She stayed as a guest of Reich for a week. They organized a card catalog system. High school boys and girls helped write the cards and put pockets in the books. They also learned how to recover old books.

For some time, the library was located at the old Jonathan Jennings School which was located at 801 Main Street on the town square facing Market Street. This building was the public school until 1953. Presumably the library moved in after this time. The city directory of 1959 lists the building as a school only and the library is listed as “Charlestown Lbr Co RD 2.” Rural District 2 was the city of Charlestown. The directories of 1960-1965 have the library listed at the school along with government offices including the township trustee. The library was forced to move in 1965. The old school building had been condemned and with the urban renewal program of the mid 1960s, it was torn down in 1966.

In 1965 the library was offered the second floor of the building on Harrison Street. The address was listed as 300 Harrison Street in the 1966-1967 city directories. In 1968 this address is listed as the Community Center and the library and township trustee’s office is at 350 Harrison Street. The Youth Building of the Community Council deeded the building to Charlestown Township “for as long as it is used as a library”. Federal funds were used to fix up the building and furnish it. The library moved into its new home in November 1965. Later, the building became VFW Post 1427. The building is no longer standing.

At the time of the move to Harrison Street, the Charlestown Township trustee Forrest Coots started plans to build a new library. A committee of five was being formed to determine the needs of the community for the next 20 years. Committee members included Mrs. Canby Bottorff and Robert Meyers.

Charlestown Township Library’s Official Organization

Forrest Coots, township trustee, organized the Charlestown Township Library under the Indiana Public Library Law 1947 on 11 February 1966. An appointed volunteer seven-member board governed the library. At its first meeting on 26 May 1966, the library board set its primary goal to be the construction of a permanent library building. The tax district only included Charlestown Township.

The Quest to Build a New Library and Expand Services throughout Clark County

In addition to building a library in Charlestown, the board began talks of expanding service throughout Clark County. The first mention of this was at the July 1966 board meeting. The idea of applying for federal funds to purchase a bookmobile were made. A special meeting was held in July to discuss this expansion and working with Jeffersonville Township Library to do so.

In August 1966, the Urban Renewal Commission stated that they were going to give the town square to the city of Charlestown. It was stated that the library could lease a lot on the square from the city for a new library building. The board agreed to get the lot. At the September meeting, the board agreed that they needed to get written confirmation regarding the town square lot from local and regional authorities. After a meeting in December with the city, it was determined that the Parks and Recreation Board was in charge of the town square. The board continued looking for other sites to build a library.

Charlestown Township Library became a Class I library on 1 January 1967.

In December 1966, Robert Blythe told the board that he would donate an unspecified amount of money for a library building. The building committee provided Blythe with a list of possible building sites. In May 1967, Blythe informed the board that he would give money for a new library building only if that building was located on the town square. The land was being turned over to the city by the end of June and the board decided they would take the necessary steps to obtain the town square lot. A letter was sent to the City Council asking for the property at the town square in June 1967. The hope of funding by Blythe ending with his death in March 1968. A Friends of the Library organization was formed in April 1968. Their objective was to raise funds to build a new library.

In trying to obtain federal funds to build a new library, it was learned that the state controlled the distribution of those funds and there were strict rules for obtaining them. One method for obtaining funds was to contract with another existing library system. In August 1968, county wide library service was again discussed by the board. They contacted the Jeffersonville Public Library about entering into a contractual agreement with them. In September, the Jeffersonville Library board stated they were working on an amendment to the 1947 State law governing libraries, with county libraries as the goal. An agreement with Jeffersonville Library was unsuccessful.

The next time a new building was discussed was at the September 1968 board meeting. They once again contacted Charlestown officials about having a lot on the town square which by this time had become a city park. The mayor told the library they could have land in the park for a library. There were constant holdups in obtaining the land on the square which led the board to continue to look at other properties. In February 1969, the board wanted to purchase the lot known as the Patterson property at the corner of Thompson and Level Streets. The purchase of the community building lots on Harrison Street was also being discussed. An architect was being contacted to prepare a rough plan for a library building. By March 1969, it was known that the city council did not want the library to be located on property belonging to them at that time. This ended the idea of the library being located on the town square.

A joint meeting of Charlestown Township Library board and Jeffersonville Township Library board was held 17 March 1969. A sympathetic attitude was displayed by the members of the Jeffersonville board to the Charlestown Library's dilemma. However, action was being withheld by Jeffersonville Library until after their regular meeting.

As a way to increase library services in April 1969, the board proposed a merger with the Owen Township trustee to form a new library district. This did not happen. The search for property continued and in April 1969 the board was looking into the purchase of the Hellenkamp and the Justise properties.

Federal funds and those from J. Graham Brown Foundation required proof of ownership of land. In 1970, the Charlestown Library Improvement Fund was established for a new library building. $2000 from the library budget was set aside for the fund. Donations to the building fund were actively being solicited. Finding a piece of land to build on became the obstacle in the building process.

In March 1970, Charlestown Mayor Frazier stated that he was trying to obtain the land at the corner of Clark Road and New Cut Road that goes to Jonathan Jennings school. If the city obtained the property, they would in turn give it to the library as a building site. Originally the city stated they would pay the library $10,000 then and $10,000 per year for 10 years towards the building fund. This building would be a combination community center and library. At the regular board meeting that month, which many interested citizens attended, Frazier said the city could contribute $125,000 of State funds toward a new building. The suggestion of asking the Greater Clark School board directly for the property was made by David James.

In April 1970, the library informed the city that they would be glad to accept the money the city had offered and would build an assembly room for the city provided the building is on land deeded to the library. If the city did not agree the library would talk to Greater Clark Schools about the property on Clark Road. After some discussion and investigation, it was agreed in July 1970 that the library could have the property on Clark Road. The property was obtained in July 1971 directly from the Greater Clark School board. Some delay happened due to difficulty in getting the land surveyed so that the school board could sign it over to the library.

A request was made to the Indiana State Library for a bookmobile in February 1971. This was in an effort to extent services to unserved parts of Clark County and a way to become eligible for federal library construction funds. The bookmobile, 10,000 books, salaries of employees serving it, operational expenses, and all equipment would be provided by Title I Federal Library Funds. The library's request for a bookmobile would be honored as soon as the head librarian was certified. In March 1972, efforts to obtain federal funds had to be ended because Wilma Barrett, head librarian, was unable to pass a State certification test. She did obtain certification in December 1972. By that time the board was focused on building the new library.

In January 1972, the board agreed to ask the architect for new drawings for a library building with as much space and few frills as $125,000 would allow. New plans were drawn and approved. The building plan included a basement that had a bookmobile garage and a community room. In August 1972, it was decided to remove the basement from the library plans in order to reduce costs.

The new library was announced in February 1972. A bond of $125,000 was approved in July 1972 by the library board to build the library. The groundbreaking ceremony was 8 January 1973 and the new building at 51 Clark Road was opened on 28 January 1974. Anne Lowe, library board president, reorganized the Friends of the Library which ran an intense campaign to purchase furniture for the new library. It took another year for the dedication of the new building which occurred on 9 February 1975. The library was built with one level and without a meeting room.

Expanding Services throughout Clark County

In October 1976 during a meeting of the Charlestown Township Library board, the need for county wide library service was discussed. In November Anne Lowe - library board president, Emma Yates - board member, Joeann McManus - director, and Hazel Aaron - library employee traveled into areas of Clark County to investigate library possibilities and likely bookmobile stops. At that time, only 2 of the 12 Clark County townships (Charlestown and Jeffersonville) had public library services.

Then in December 1976, the application for a Library Service and Construction Act (LSCA) federal grant for the proposed county and bookmobile service was sent to the State. On 10 February 1977, the Charlestown Township Public Library received the LSCA grant from the Indiana Library and Historical Board to purchase a bookmobile and to establish branch libraries in Borden, Henryville, New Washington, and Sellersburg. This grant served as a way to try out library services for the whole county with federal funding. The grant provided funding for a maximum of three years. The following funds were received:

April 1977 - March 1978  $100,000
April 1978 - March 1979 $88,300
April 1979 - March 1980 $90,000

Limited funds became available in April and May 1980 because a library program was permanently established.

For the bookmobile, a recreational vehicle was purchased. Various buildings were rented to house the four small branch libraries. Originally the branches were open 25 hours per week and used volunteers to support the small library staff. Donations were accepted from any source and included paint, bookshelves and furniture. A book drive was held which brought in books and magazines. West Clark County Schools loaned school library books to the branches over the summer until books could be purchased. Library staff and community volunteers painted and redecorated the facilities. The four new branches opened on 1 June 1977 in time to start the summer reading program. The bookmobile went into service 7 June 1977.

In December 1976, library representatives went to Bonnieville, Kentucky to Travel World to discuss a built-to-order bookmobile. An agreement was made with Kamping Kountry in Jeffersonville, Indiana in March 1977 for the bookmobile to be created from a new recreational vehicle. A trip to Travel World was made in April to finalize the plans. Instead of standard furnishings bookshelves were installed. The cost was $15,203. Clark County areas not within immediate range of a library were to be served by the bookmobile. There were both public stops as well as stops at senior centers and schools. This bookmobile was in service until 1991.

Borden Library
Borden Library opened its first location in an unused section of the carpet store on Main Street. Borrowers had to walk through the carpet store to get to the library and thus could only be open when the store was open. Rent was $100 per month. It was one large paneled room. The second location opened 20 March 1978 in the Borden town hall. The main part of the library shared space with the town clerk. Other books were on shelves in the town board meeting room. The rent was $125 per month. In May 1982, the library was moved to an old restaurant on Highway 60 with rent at $225 per month.

Henryville Library
Henryville Library first opened in the former Ruth’s Yarn Shop formally a gas station located at Highway 31. H.G. Furnish provided the building for $50 per month plus utilities. The library had two small paneled rooms and a storage room. The last rental location was the old store building at about 249 Main Street which was later torn down to make room for parking next to the new library. The library moved to this location in October 1980 with rent at $225 per month.

New Washington Library
New Washington Library was first located in the former Mike & Irene’s Restaurant on Highway 62 across from the school. The rent was $125 per month plus utilities. It had one large room, one small room and a storage room. Due to the building being sold, a move took place in November 1978. The library was located at the corner of Center and First Streets in a portion of the Silgas office. Another move happened in October 1979 when a larger space, which had been a grocery store, became available. It was on Poplar Street. In 1983 the landlord asked that the building be bought or that the library move out. Then in April, a lot at 210 S. Poplar Street was purchased for the purpose of building a new library.

Sellersburg Library
Sellersburg Library was first set up in an old beauty parlor at 103 Helbig Avenue. The rent was $75 per month plus utilities. There was a large room, a small room and a storage room. It was paneled and carpeted. On 12 November 1979, the library opened in a new location in a house at 121 S. New Albany Street. The property was owned by Sellersburg State Bank and provided rent free to the library.

Services offered in 1977 by Charlestown Township Library

The bookmobile was taken to the Clark County 4H Fair in late June 1977 to promote its service and the new library locations. That first summer in 1977, the four new libraries were able to have a successful Summer Reading Club for the kids. A weekly story hour program was started at each branch as well as other programs. The bookmobile made about 23 bi-weekly public stops and about 15 weekly stops including senior centers and elementary schools which did not have their own library. Professional personnel were added over time to increase library services.

The collection included 17,000 circulating items including nonfiction and fiction for adults and children, paperback books, magazines, general reference materials, records, puzzles, and framed art prints. Children’s services included story hour, reading clubs, film programs and extension programs for local elementary and nursery schools. Adult services included special speakers, films and craft activities. The library was open 6 days a week. Equipment available for public use included 16 mm projector, filmstrip projector, screen, tape recorders, record player with earphones, portable loudspeaker system and a copy machine. Circulation was over 40,000 with monthly attendance at programs and films of 325.

Cooperative Library Services within the State

Heritage Hills Area Library Services Authority (HHALSA) was formed in 1977. The organization provided cooperative library services to Southern Indiana. Washington, Floyd, Crawford, Clark, Harrison, Scott and Orange Counties formed this organization. In 1979, the HHALSA services in Southeastern Indiana were consolidated to become Southeastern Indiana ALSA. Services provided by SIALSA include reference referral, inter-library loan, and continuing education for library employees and trustees. Interlibrary loan functions allowed the loan of materials between libraries throughout the United States.

Preserving Local History

Part of the efforts of Charlestown Library was to maintain an Indiana Room to provide a place to house local history. When each of the branches were opened, a space was set aside for local history. In November 1978, Indiana State Library brought a microfilming machine to Charlestown Library to microfilm the Clark County history and documents at the library. In November 1980, the library purchased a microfilming machine to continue microfilming newspapers and other items of local history. The machine was used by other local libraries. Another project started in 1978 by the library was to document cemeteries in Clark County. Lists of names from tombstones were created.

In 1981, the Indiana Room was established at Charlestown Library. It was located in the glass-walled room next to the front door. Susan Bennett was hired to work in the Indiana Room and increase the library’s history collection. She increased local history programming at the library and was instrumental in creating three local history books for the library. They are School Days Gone By, Opera House to City Hall and Charlestown Through 200 Years. The Indiana Room remained in that location until the summer of 1987 when an addition was made to the building.

Saving the Branch Libraries

After two years of success of the four branches and bookmobile, the library board decided to form a new library district. The new district would be for the 10 townships which were being served by the branches and bookmobile. This included Bethlehem, Carr, Monroe, Oregon, Owen, Silver Creek, Union, Utica, Washington and Wood Townships. The federal grant money that was being used to run the branches and bookmobile was going to run out in March 1980. The library board had to establish a new property tax levy in these 10 townships.

The Clark County Board of Commissioners had to approve a tax levy for a new library district. At their February 1979 meeting, the commissioners refused to approve the levy and the branch libraries were faced with the threat of closure.

The only way around the commissioners’ decision was to get 20% of the taxpayers in two-thirds of the ten townships affected by the tax levy to sign a petition in favor of the tax levy. A campaign was started to get the signatures on a petition to create the library district. More than 3,200 signatures (over 30% in 9 of the 10 townships) were obtained. In April the petition was accepted by the commissioners and the tax district was approved.

Clark County Contractual Library is Formed

The Clark County Contractual Library was formed in May 1979 to keep the bookmobile and branches operating. A four-member volunteer board was appointed to oversee the formation of policies, budgets and operations. Under the agreement, the Clark County Contractual Library contracted with the Charlestown Township Library for services. The Charlestown Township Library seven-member board continued to govern the Charlestown Township Library and governed the new contractual library in conjunction with its new four-member board. The four branch libraries continued to operate in rented space.

Permeant Locations for the Four Branches

The Charlestown Township Library Board and Clark County Contractual Library Board realized that permanent modern facilities were essential for each branch library. At the time, the libraries serviced 30,000 people in 11 of 12 Clark County townships and had a collection of about 50,000 books. In 1983 the first step was taken toward a new permanent facility for one branch.

New Washington Library
The decision was made in April 1983 to purchase a lot at 210 S. Poplar Street for $8,000 and to build a new library. A new permanent library facility was financed from the Library Improvement Reserve Fund. Before the new building could be built, the library had to move to a temporary location into a house behind the old high school owned by the school. The new library was just one-room at 1,200 square foot. It was dedicated 25 March 1984 with 5,000 books, 15 magazine subscriptions and a copy machine. The cost of the property, construction and parking lot totaled about $80,000. An addition was added to the north side in 1998 bringing it to 2,000 square feet. This added a meeting room and more main floor space.

In February of 1985, the library boards decided to seek federal funds and to petition for a bond issue which would finance the construction of permanent buildings for the Borden, Henryville and Sellersburg branches as well as a 3,200 square foot addition to the Charlestown Library and a garage for the bookmobile. The library received notice of a $250,000 federal grant to help finance the project, but the Gramm-Rudman budget balancing law held up the release of these funds. Construction plans were initiated with $1.2 million in bonds. After surveying locations and negotiating with owners, three sites were chosen.

Borden Library
Borden Library was built next to town hall and below the school at 117 W. Main Street. It opened in September 1986. The facade was planned to match the old bank building housing town hall. The building is 2,048 square feet with an entrance facing Main Street and an entrance in the back which opens to the parking lot. A small meeting room was included.

Henryville Library
Henryville Library is the same building as Borden with a mirror image floor plan, a porch and different brick exterior. The land cost $12,000 and estimates for the building were $156,975. The library is located at 214 E. Main Street (north side of Main Street). The library opened in October 1986 with a small parking lot next to the building where the prior library stood. A small meeting room was included. In 1994, Johnie Adams donated the land across the street to the library which became a large parking lot. The former barber shop land to the west of the library was purchased in 2005 for $50,000.

Sellersburg Library
Sellersburg Library has prominent architectural features to showcase the cement industry heritage of the area. The land cost $15,000 and the estimated cost of building was $506,000. The 6,386 square foot facility is located at 430 N. Indiana Avenue and opened in November 1986. A meeting room was included. The property and house to the left of the library at 440 N. Indiana Avenue was purchased in February 1991. The house was removed and a parking lot was created. The house to the right of the library at 420 N. Indiana Avenue was purchased in August 2006 for $110,000.

Charlestown Library
Charlestown Library had a 3,200 square foot addition added to the west end of the building in 1985. This addition brought the total square footage to 7,819. This allowed for a meeting room to be sectioned off in what was the children’s area. That same year a garage for the bookmobile was added in the parking lot in front of the library entrance. Prior to the garage, the bookmobile librarian would park the bookmobile at her house. The addition and garage cost $250,000. The original entry point to the garage was closed off with two metal gates. In 2003 an automatic over-head garage door was installed.

A Merger and New Name

In the process of establishing new permanent homes for the branches in October 1985, the Charlestown Township Library and the Clark County Contractual Library boards applied to the State to merge the libraries. This merger formed one administrative unit and one library system. The libraries were provided the support of one administration and staff for budgets, programs, reference, collection development, representation to local, state and national associations, planning, and consultation. On 1 January 1986, the library became known as Charlestown-Clark County Contractual Library but is more commonly known as Charlestown-Clark County Public Library (CCCPL).

Services Offered in 1986

The services offered by the library in 1986 included adult and children’s programs and collections, art prints for rent, genealogy and local history programs and assistance, information files, large print books, cassette tape books, magazines, photocopy machine with enlargement and reduction and color, meeting rooms, 16 mm films and projectors, filmstrips with sound and projectors, overhead projector, Polaroid camera, tax forms in season, programs for clubs and organizations, and video tapes. Videocassettes were first purchased in 1986 with a starting collection of 250.

Charlestown Clark County Public Library was named the 1987 Outstanding Library of Indiana by the Indiana Library Association.

Updating the Bookmobile

After 14 years in service, the original bookmobile was retired. A new panel van was purchased and converted into a bookmobile in December 1991. It began service 7 January 1992. With a full range of adult and juvenile materials, large print books, videos and audios, the bookmobile continued to supplement the branch library system with community stops. There were 32 stops twice a month when this new bookmobile began service. Its main focus was with daycare and shut-in populations. With a LSCA grant, the bookmobile obtained special collections for these populations. The materials included professional reading for childcare providers, puppets, theme boxes for daycare program development, flannel boards and story kits.

Selene Lowe had been the bookmobile manager since 1981 and upon her retirement in November 2016 the second bookmobile was retired from use. Public stops were discontinued at this time. In an effort to continue service to daycares, several staff and the couriers, who moved materials between branches twice a week, were enlisted to deliver children’s books and DVDs to the daycares.

A new modern bookmobile was purchased and arrived in December 2018 from Summit Bodyworks in Denver, Colorado at a cost of $144,000. It was put into service in August 2019. Sherry Cissel and Karen Barnett, both of whom have worked in the library’s technical service department for years, became the co-managers for the bookmobile.

Utica Library - the Fifth Branch

A fifth branch was established in Utica in March 1994. A LSCA Grant funded the opening of this branch. The first location at 106 North 4th Street was in a trailer owned by the town which had been used as the town hall. In 1995, a park expansion required the removal of the trailer and the library moved to a nearby residence. Due to low patronage, the library was closed 31 December 1998. Utica Township subdivisions were a focus of service by the bookmobile for years after the Utica branch closed.

Interlibrary Loan Services

The Statewide Remote Circulation Service (SRCS), better known as interlibrary loan, provides access to materials from over 200 Indiana public and academic libraries. This service is available free of charge to all library card holders. Materials are requested through an online portal which accesses the catalogs of the participating libraries. A state-wide courier service delivers the materials between the libraries.

Reciprocal Borrower’s Agreement

Through a Reciprocal Borrower’s Agreement, all Clark County residents may obtain a library card at over one hundred sixty other public libraries in the state of Indiana. This agreement also allows library card holders from these other public libraries to have a library card with CCCPL.

Modern Technology at the Library

Fax service started about 1992. In 1993, computers were brought to the libraries for public use. The computers provided for more effective word processing then a standard type writer (which the library continues to offer the use of). The most profound change happened in 1995 when public internet access was offered.

In 2001 with money from a Gates Grant, the library purchased computers for public use for each of the branches. System wide there were 26 public computers. This allowed for many more people, young and old, to take advantage of the service. For years there were wait lists for use of the computers especially after school and into the evening. 30-minute time limits had to be imposed. With increased internet usage, the internet bandwidth line was upgraded to a fiber line in 2009 from the T1 line installed in 1998. Computer upgrades have been made through various grants over the years.

Eventually technology provided copy machines that were also printers and document scanners. Each of the libraries has a wireless hotspot for the public to use giving people access to the internet from the parking lot. Documents can be printed directly from a smartphone to the library’s printers.

Film strips gave way to VHS tapes which later were replaced with DVD. Record players changed to CD players. DVD, Blu-ray, books on CD and MP3 are the current technology of physical material that can be checked out. With the introduction of downloadable e-book and e-audio book in 2006, the library began offering this service from various companies over the years. New technologies have created new downloadable and streaming media including music, magazines, tv shows, movies and learning courses. These downloadable services led to the implementation of Online Borrower Registration (OBR) in June 2020. OBR allows patrons who do not have a library card to register for a digital library card that allows access to the downloadable services provided by the library. Other online resources offered by the library include World Book, Mitchell’s Automotive, Ancestry Library Edition, Heritage Quest Online, NoveList, and Tumble Books.

Online Catalog and Circulation System

In April 2003, work began to barcode the entire collection of the library and automate checkout procedures. The new automated system went into effect on 30 May 2003. The online catalog and integrated circulation system allows connection from inside and outside the libraries. Cardholders have access to their accounts from any internet connection to renew books and place hold requests. In May 2003, the first website was started at www.clarkco.lib.in.us.

Creating a Digital Collection of Historic Items

In 2005, an effort began to digitize CCCPL’s historical collection. Many libraries across the state were doing the same so the Indiana State Library created Indiana Memory for institutions to contribute digital materials. CCCPL was in the first group to join Indiana Memory. LSTA grants were obtained in 2007 ($4,424) and 2008 ($8,800) to digitize the Jesse G. Dorsey World War II letters. In a partnership with Indiana University, more than 1600 WWII letters and postcards were added to the Jesse G. Dorsey World War II Correspondence collection on Indiana Memory.

After the success of this digitization project, CCCPL received donated funds to purchase a large bed scanner for the purpose of digitizing more of the library’s collection in-house. Michelle Adams became the manager of the digitization project in 2011. Since then more than 47,000 images have been added to the Clark County Collection on Indiana Memory and additional materials were added to the Jesse Dorsey WWII collection. These items include ledgers, photographs, scrapbooks, maps, Civil War letters, family papers, letters, newsletters, church histories, court records, yearbooks and much more. The project continues. A microfilm scanner was purchased in 2020 to convert all the microfilm into a digital collection.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the library to close in March and April of 2020 when the State imposed a mandatory lockdown on non-essential businesses. The library reopened with curbside service only for a couple months. Patrons were able to place hold requests online or call the libraries to requests books. When patrons came to the library, they called the library and their items were taken out to them. Faxing and copying service was still provided in the same manner.

Once the libraries were re-opened to the public in June 2020, public computers were spread apart and some were removed to create social distancing. This continued until June 2021. Extra cleaning measures were implemented. Materials that were returned were placed in quarantine. Mask wearing was required by everyone when the buildings reopened. By June 2021, masks were just recommended for the public but staff continued to wear them until March 2022. The meeting rooms were closed and no in-person programs took place. Various take home crafts for kids, teens and adults were offered in place of in-person programs. Summer reading club was able to happen without in-person programs in 2020. The adult art program became a live virtual painting class and the teen art class provided pre-recorded online painting instructions both in 2020 and 2021. In-person programs began in June 2021 and the meeting rooms were opened for public use in August 2021.

A new service that came about because of the pandemic was having 25 mobile hotspots for checkout. A federal funding program provided the hotspots at no charge to the library. This program helps provide internet in rural areas. The hotspots checkout for 30 days with a $30 charge.

compiled by M.A., June 2022