History of the Munster Branch

Library service in Munster dates back to 1939 when the Munster Board of School Trustees officially granted the Gary City Library use of a room in Lanier School. Actual service began in early 1940. In 1942 the book collection was moved to a trailer in order for the school to reclaim needed classroom space.

Two years later a 20 x 20 ft. building at the corner of Ridge Road and Howard Avenue was purchased by the Library Board. Jennie Keller served as librarian from 1945-1951 and in 1953 this tiny building was moved to Schererville to serve as a library there.

Munster Branch: 1050 Ridge Road (1953 - 1968)

Temporary Headquarters
Munster Branch at 1050 Ridge Rd, 1967

The first building in Munster purposely designed as a public library was dedicated on August 8, 1953 (R. S. Kastendieck & Co., Architect). A 60 x 150 ft. plot of land, located next to Lanier School on Ridge Road, was donated to the Lake County Library Board from the estate of Wilhelmina Kaske on April 12, 1949. It would take another few years and the combined resources of the Lake County Library budget, the newly created Munster Library Association, and donations from several Munster organizations, businesses, and individuals to raise enough money for the project. The building’s main floor housed the book collection (capacity – 5,000 volumes), with a community meeting room and kitchen located in the basement. Evelyn Freese began her nearly 25 years of service as librarian in 1951.

In 1959 the Munster Library ended its partnership with the Gary Public Library to become part of Lake County Public Library. The first director’s office was located in the branch library’s reading room.

Munster Branch: Calumet Ave (1968 - Present Day)

Temporary Headquarters
Munster Branch Dedication, 1967

By 1964 the collection had outgrown the library on Ridge Road Property was secured on Calumet Avenue fronting Community Park in 1965. In January, 1967 ground was broken for a 6,300 sq. ft. structure. The library was dedicated on March 3, 1968 and opened to the public on the following day. The new building, designed by Turner & Turner, Architect, had space for 25,000 volumes and a community meeting room, complete with a kitchen. It had central air conditioning and, in keeping with the times, bright orange walls!

Adding on to Munster Branch

An addition to the Calumet Avenue building, completed in 1980, increased the library’s square footage to 16,900 and allowed for 62 parking spaces. Interior space allowed for 50,000 books, audio visual materials, and magazines, along with ample seating in the adult and children’s areas and a community meeting room that accommodated 75 people. Architect for this addition was William Bachman & Partners. Charlotte Picha was librarian at the time of this construction project. She served the Munster Branch from 1972 – 1989.

Munster Branch 1998
Munster Branch, 1998

Linda Dunn began her tenure as Munster Branch manager in 1989. A number of new services were implemented that same year: a new system-wide online computer system (Dynix) was installed; fax service between library locations was instituted; public access catalogs (PACs) were installed.

In 1993 the meeting room got a face lift (new carpet, walls painted) and several ADA projects were completed, including the installation of new drinking fountains and modifications to the public restroom lavatories. In 1994 circulation topped 200,000 items for the first time. The entire building was painted in 1995.

The facelift continued into 1996, this time in the form of new carpeting, reupholstered furniture, new lobby lights, and wiring for Internet access. Additional services and special collections were introduced over the next 10 years, among them: Internet access in 1997, CD-ROMs in 1998, DVDs in 2000, Bestsellers Express in 2001, Always Something New and Su Biblioteca in 2002, computer classes in 2004, a new integrated library system (Horizon) in 2005, and a Bollywood film collection in 2006.

The Town of Munster celebrated its Centennial in 2007. Linda Dunn served on the Town's Centennial Committee and helped plan several activities, including a Munster Centennial Speakers series, scheduled monthly at the Munster Branch from September, 2006 - June, 2007. Branch staff participated in the Centennial Independence Day parade on July 4th as well. It was an important, fun-filled year. While these activities unfolded, preparations also began for the branch's renovation.

Renovations: 2007

Munster Branch under construction, 2008
Munster Branch under construction, 2008

As part of a system-wide renovation plan, construction on the Munster Branch Library began in November, 2007. The architectural firm of Carras-Szany-Kuhn & Associates addressed the need for an updated infrastructure and a brighter library interior. Since its dedication on December 13, 2008, Munster patrons have enjoyed the redesigned space with its new circulation desk, a separate children’s program room, additional lighting, a teen area, new furniture, drive-up book and AV drop boxes, and new public computers. The Munster Branch received the 2008 Appearance & Beautification Award from the Munster Chamber of Commerce on January 31, 2009.

Improvements to the building, the materials collection, and service continue to this day. In 2009 a new roof was installed on the north half of the building, along with exterior courtyard lights and a security (fire alarm) system. In October of that year we began to officially count the number of daily patron visits. 2010 marked two new services: Groovix (software designed to ensure secure public access computers) and Evanced (events calendar). 168,890 patrons visited the Munster Branch in 2010.

Munster Branch 2014
Today's Munster Branch

Staff began training for another new integrated library system in late 2011; in January, 2012, we migrated to Polaris. During the year we also phased in wi-fi service, KitKeeper (software that tracks use of our Book Club to Go kits), and LibraryInsight (software for library events and room use). Downloading ebooks and audiobooks took off in 2012, and with it we began to see a slight decline in the number of actual branch visits by patrons. Our patron count for 2012 was 163,414. Another noticeable trend was the increased circulation of items to Hammond residents. With only one library remaining in Hammond, 5.8% of our total circulation was to Hammond residents; this figure rose to 7.1% in 2013.

Technology figured prominently in overall library operations during 2013. New offerings included Zinio (online magazines), OpenOffice software for staff and patrons, AWE (an interactive Early Literacy station), and a new phone system that provides easier communication between library locations and departments.

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