History of the St. John Branch

First established in 1952 through contracted services from Gary Public Library, the Lake County Public Library became an independent library system in the state of Indiana on January 1, 1959. The new library system had five full-sized buildings in Griffith, Highland, Hobart, Munster and Schererville; one room buildings in Cedar Lake, Dyer and Lake Station; a trailer shared by St. John and Independence Hill and a bookmobile shared by Black Oak and Forty-First Avenue.

The St. John Traveling Library (1959 - 1961)

St. John Branch in the St. John Motel
The St. John Motel Branch

In 1959, a "traveling library" was shared by the St. John Branch and the Independence Hill Branch in Merrillville. The library was actually a house trailer that was pulled by a truck and parked for a week at each location. After parking the library trailer in the St. John the Evangelist Church Parking lot and attaching electrical wires from a utility post, the library would be open for business.

Eventually, the trailer, weakened by years of hauling heaving books, was deemed unsafe in 1961. This initiated rental of two motel rooms directly across the highway from its present site. The Lake County Public Library Board made plans to construct a new library building. This major undertaking was hampered by lack of funds. The library board did not have enough funds to buy land and construct a building.

The Hugh A. Kuhn Memorial Library (1966 - 2005)

St. John Branch 1972
St. John Branch, 1972

Former Town Board member Hal Foltz farmed the land owned by Hugh A. Kuhn and his wife, Dr. Hedwig Kuhn. Hal Foltz convinced the Kuhn Family to donate two acres on the northeast corner of the farm to the Lake County Public Library Board. The only restriction being that the library be dedicated as the "Hugh A. Kuhn Memorial Library." This is the present site of the St. John Branch Library.

The Hugh A. Kuhn Memorial Library was dedicated on July 31, 1966. Family and friends helped move books in a borrowed truck from the local gas station. The 3,500 square foot building with a capacity of 19,000 volumes was designed by the architect, Joseph P. Martin, and constructed by Prosser-Howells, Inc. This library served its community for 39 years!

Lake County Public Library is committed to providing quality library service and financial responsibility to its citizenry. To maintain these standards, the library district served is continually assessed. After evaluating the town of St. John's demographic and population changes, the library board made a decision to build a new and larger branch in 2004.

The St. John Branch (2005 - Present Day)

St. John Branch 1972
Newly Constructed St. John Branch

The St. John Branch was carefully designed to meet the library needs of the community by Carras-Szany-Kuhn & Associates and construction was done by L.I. Combs & Sons, Inc. The building is a 16,000 square foot facility. Special features of the building include a 130 person meeting room, a children's programming room, increased space for library materials, and 18 computers which provide the community with web access and electronic databases with full text information. Other features include a conference room for small group meetings, an outdoor patio for programming and a small quiet study room. A beautiful mural featuring fairy tales was created in the children's programming room by Michael Naples of the Maclyn Group in Chicago.

Part of the new mural at St. John Branch
Part of the mural at St. John Branch

The new St. John Branch was opened to the public on Monday, December 12, 2005. An open house was held on Saturday, December 17, 2005. The new library served the community 48 hours a week (Monday & Thursday 12:30 pm–8:30 pm, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday 10:00 am–6:00 pm and Saturday, 9:00 am–5:00 pm). At that time, St. John Branch staff included 1 full-time branch supervisor, 4 part-time clerks, 2 part-time pages and a part-time janitor.

On January 2, 2013 the St. John Branch expanded its hours of operation, with a total of 58 open hours. (Monday–Thursday 10:00 am-8:30 pm; Friday, 10:00 am -6:00 pm and Saturday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm.). The size of the St. John staff was increased and now included a full-time branch manager, librarian and children's librarian, 5 part-time clerks, 3 part-time pages and a part-time janitor. The small quiet study room was converted to an office and the conference room was converted to a quiet study room.

The expanded St. John Branch provides programs for adults, children and teens in the library's meeting room as well as in the children's programming room. Staff has also visited local elementary & middle schools in St. John and provided library tours to visiting classes. In the past several years, the St. John Branch has also co-hosted programs with St. John Parks & Recreation, St. John Historical Society, St. John Garden Club, GFWC Women's Club of St. John, the Master Garden program and became a polling place at election time.

During 2013, approximately 87,056 people walked through the door of the St. John Library and received wonderful library service from the St. John staff. Over 5,950 people attended a total of 426 adult, children, teen or outreach programs that were presented. Today, the branch continues to provide services and classes to all of these people and more!

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