History of the Black Oak Branch (1915 - 2014)

Black Oakís library history began as early as 1915 with service from the Gary Public Library. Later, as part of the Gary Libraryís traveling trailer system, stops were made in Calumet Township. The Gary Library also lent books, both recreational and classroom supplements, to the schools in the area for six week periods.

The Black Oak Bookmobile
Mrs. Marvel Deistler leads story hour at the Black Oak Trailer

In 1953, Calumet Township was brought into the Lake County Library system with services provided by trailer. In 1961, the trailer was parked as a permanent facility on the corner of 25th and Colfax to service the Black Oak community.

Building a Permanent Library

A year earlier in 1960, a local Library Committee headed by Mrs. Cecil Schutz, set out to promote the building of a permanent library for the community. In the spring of 1964, a $1.5 million dollar bond issue was approved and planning began for 11 new libraries to be built by the Lake County Public Library System. Black Oak was to be the first with a contract signed for construction on December 22, 1964.

Property was purchased from Mrs. Eulalia Darnell at 5921 W. 25th St., two blocks from the trailer location. Planning began and on Sunday, October 31, 1965, the Black Oak Branch was dedicated. U.S. Congressman Ray J. Madden gave the dedication address. Senator Vance Hartke was represented by Earl Thompson of Hammond, and Senator Birch Bayh sent a telegram from Washington, D.C., congratulating Black Oak on itís new library building. Opening to the public on November 1, 1965, the 4,300 sq.ft. building cost $110,575. It held over 12,000 books with a capacity for 22,000. Mrs. Marvel Deistler, who had worked in the trailer, became head librarian, with added staff Mrs. Marie Riegle and Miss Judy Ferrell.

Marie Riegle, Librarian, 1968
Marie Riegle, Black Oak Librarian, 1968

The Community Pulls Together for Black Oak

Work by the Black Oak Friends Committee did not stop there. Residents were invited to donate to a fund to purchase needed items for the branch. From 1960 to 1971, residents filled the call with purchases being made of drapes, a kitchen unit, record player, radio, film projector and chairs. The residents saved trading stamps, while groups such as the Black Oak Lions Club, World War II Mothers, St. Annís Sodality, and PTCís and PTAís from the area schools donated to furnishings. The Black Oak Jaycees purchased a second set of drapes, some blackout curtains and a Black Oak Library sign for the grounds. The Black Oak Eagles group donated $100 for a slide projector to use in programs for senior citizens. Mr. Bernard Bennett, proprietor of the Black Oak Pharmacy, gave the library a house directly east of the property to sell, with proceeds going to the library.

In 1969, the Lake Ridge Booster Club donated a flag pole to the library as their first fund-raising effort. The Dulles School pupils raised the money to purchase the flag for the pole. The pole was dedicated on December 6, 1969. In 1990, Ed Malinea, Commander of American Legion Post 393 gave the Library an old VFW War Memorial which had been the property of the Old American Legion Post in Black Oak. This was set in concrete by Daniel Spoor (Calumet Councilís Two Waters District Troop 77) as part of his project to attain scoutingís Eagle Rank.

Mrs. Marvel Deistler was branch head until 1971, when she was transferred to the 41st Avenue Library. Mrs. Martha Carpenter succeeded her in the position. Marge Berry became the Branch Head in March of 1976 with Marie Riegle as her full-time assistant. When Marge Berry left Black Oak, Mrs. Riegle was head and Carol Roark was hired.

Marie Riegle, Librarian, 1968
Black Oak Branch, 1973

The Birth of the Griffith-Calumet Township Branches

Kathy Cotton Deal was transferred from the Highland branch in 1981 and became head over the Griffith Branch and the Black Oak Branch. When Marvel Deistler retired from the 41st Avenue Branch, Administration started to refer to the 3 branches as Calumet Township and Kathy Deal was placed as head over all three. Mrs. Riegle retired in 1985 after 20 years of service in Black Oak. Carol Roark moved into the assistant position and Ruth Ferguson was hired. Several other clerks came and went during this period until 2000 when Elizabeth Farler was hired and Carolyn Sharp was transferred. After Kathy Deal was transferred to Highland, Ingrid Norris became head of the township. She moved to Central and an office position and Mary Tuytschaevers became head. She left the Lake County system and Mark Furukawa was transferred from Hobart Township to Calumet Township as head in 2002. Mindy Riegert was transferred to 41st Avenue in November of 2002, but during the monetary crunch in which the smaller branches went on half time, spent 3 days a week at 41st and 2 days a week at Black Oak. After opening full time again in 2005, she transferred full time to Black Oak.

In May 2010, Mark Furukawa retired and Chris Rettig was promoted from Librarian at Dyer-Schererville Branch to Calumet Township Manager. In January 2013, hours at the branch were reduced to Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Black Oak Branch closed August 15th, 2014 to merge with Griffith and 41st Avenue and become the Griffith-Calumet Township Branch.

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