The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update


August 22, 2010

Library started in room above bank

MIDDLETOWN, Ind. — As early as 1889, the editor of The Middletown Newsd, J.O. Lambert, stated in an editorial that the town should have a public library.

A few years later, in 1913, the school superintendent, J.A. Abell, suggested a library be financed by subscription and use the state traveling library.

Through the following years, the need for a public library was evidenced by the fact that the Methodist Church established a small library, and while downtown, Walter Becker had a small library of new books in his drugstore, which was available to the public for a $1 a year membership fee.

In 1927, a group of citizens met in the board room of Farmers State Bank, located on the southwest corner of Locust and Fifth streets. By July 1, 1928, preparations have been made for the formal opening of a library on Oct. 1, 1928 in the room above the bank. It was to be financed by the property taxpayers of the town and township, which by 1973 amounted to 20 cents for each$100 of assessed valuation for town residents and 7 cents per $100 for township residents.

A library board was established that included C.J. Pickering, Lola Strickler, Harry Burcaw and J.F. Frazier from Middletown. Thos representing Fall Creek Township were Emily Weeks and Homer Wood, both from Mechanicsburg, and Montrew Sander from Honey Creek.

Weeks had published a book about Mechanicsburg in 1907 and Mrs. C.J.(Rose) Pickering was one of the town’s early historians. Mrs. Charles (Mary) Clifton was chosen as librarian and upon her resignation was replaced by Martha R. Jones, who started in 1934 and served until retiring in 1989.

They received 400 books on loan from the     Indiana State Library, 94 books from organizations and individuals, a contribution from the Henry County Historical Society, a generous gift of books from the library in Liberty, Ind., and $300 from the Methodist Church. By December 1928, there were 1,212 books with 487 borrowers.

Currently, the library has 64,520 volumes and serves 4,811 people.

In 1931, branches were established in the Honey Creek Post Office and J.W. Goodin general store in Mechanicsburg, which were discontinued by the end of the 1940’s. The library was moved from the bank in January 1967, to the Merchants Building located on the north side of Locust St., just west of the alley between Fifth and Sixth streets, the present site of H&R Block Tax Service, 540 Locust St.

While administering the estate of Halcyon Post (widow of Byron), who died Nov. 29, 1987, with no children or beneficiaries, local Lawyer Robert F. Wisehart realized her trust could be used for educational purposes which led to the construction of a new library on the northeast corner of Eighth and High streets. The site was dedicated Oct. 29, 1989. Due to increasing number of participants, fast expansion of items for circulation, including audio books, videos, and internet service, a children’s addition was added to the east in 200.

While planning for the new 6,000 square-foot library, the governing body was reorganized leading to a true uniform tax rate for taxpayers. With expenditures of $135,561 for 2009 and a total town and township assessed valuation at $145,033,000, taxpayers shared the same tax rate of .0496 payable in 2010.

Due to declining tax revenues, the budget has decreased annually since 2006 without any debt.

With no salary raises, the 2010 budget is 16 percent, or $28,000 less than in 2006.

Grants, private donations and proceeds from the sale of donated materials are a major funding source for the library. A partial list since 2007 includes: $1,000 for books and DVDs from Psi Iota Xi, $1,000 for books from the Athene Society, $5,400 from the Gates Foundation for three computers, $4,000 from the Friends of the Library for the summer reading program and $3,000 from the Henry County Community Foundation for three computers and a walkway. Teresa Dennis is the current librarian.

The seven library board members are now appointed without political affilations, serving staggered four-year terms. They meet at 2:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month.

Currently, one board member, June Slick, was appointed by the Middletown Town Board. Bonnie Garrett was appointed by the Fall Creek Township Trustee. Three were appointed by the Shenandoah School Board: Anna Emswiller, Larry Hale and Gwen Russell. Two were appointed by the Henry County Commissioners: Paula Ramsey and Maynard  Powell.

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