History of the Union County Public Library

The First Attempts

The first effort to raise funds to establish a library in Liberty made by school teachers in 1887 was unsuccessful. In 1888, a lady visitor to the county offered to establish a 100-book library on the condition that it is in the public school building so the books would be available to pupils as well as adults in the county. Soon patrons lost interest in the collection. 

The School backs the Idea

   The school board decided to appropriate a small amount of money to increase and vary the book collection. Furthermore, this procedure continued each year and by 1900 the library owned 725 volumes. The Society of Alumni of Liberty Schools organized in 1902 and presented the library with a cash donation for the purchase of books. By 1905, the book stock increased to 1,005 volumes. Most books were for the use of students but included many books of interest to the general public. Members of the Alumni Society, Clytie Club and Criterion Club held a “Tag Day” on February 12, 1909 to collect books and cash donations from the public. Through this effort, the library got a donation of 150 books and $147.50 in cash. The money turned over to a committee that included Miss Laura Hill, Mr. A.A. Graham and superintendent of Schools, Thomas W. Record. Books purchased and donated raised the book stock to 1,700 volumes.

The Start of a Library

     In June 1913, the library moved from the public school building and transferred to the new Stanley Memorial Building, better known as the Coliseum. The county judge, the school board, and the Town Council appointed a board of library trustees to oversee the operation of the library. The trustees appointed were: Miss Ethel Coleman, Miss Laura Hill, Dr. E.R. Beard, Dr. Garrett Pigman, Mr. O.L. Stivers, Mr. L.E. Fosdick. After moving to the Stanley Memorial Building, the library received many books and magazines from the public as gifts. Many social events and fund- raising programs began to support the library. By 1915, the library boasted a record number of 2,270 volumes and 811 subscribers.

Establishing the Union County Public Library

     Liberty residents sent a request to the Carnegie Corporation of New York to establish a new library building. After some time obtaining a grant of $10,000 for a free public library building in Liberty. Therefore, twelve men canvassed the county and collected the $1,500 required to buy a lot on the corner of Seminary and Market Streets, the present location of the library. Ground broke on May 17, 1915 and the cornerstone for the new building laid on June 19, at 2 P.M. under Masonic auspices.

The State backs the Library

     A State Library Law enacted in 1917, made it possible for public libraries to get support from local taxes and the commissioners of Union County levied a tax to make service available to the whole county. By 1920, the library had 12 stations located throughout the county served by a book truck. When the 1930’s Depression struck, the stations cut to three due to the lack of operating funds for staffing. Hardships were also imposed when the library faced the restrictions and shortages of World War II.

The Library Grew Rapidly

     Until the early 1960’s, library service remained at a constant level. Then concept of Indiana libraries underwent a radical change. In addition, the Indiana Library Association, the Indiana Library Trustee Association, the State Library, and the Graduate Library School at Indiana University shared in the responsibility for many improvements and changes in individual public libraries in the state. The Union County Public Library has become handicapped accessible and has doubled its size in the 21st century. We continue to serve our community proudly.