History of the Hobart Branch (1909 - Present Day)

Current Hobart Library
The Current Hobart Library

The Long Road to a Library

Over 100 years ago, in the year 1909, a group of young women involved in the Y Society (a branch of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union WCTU) met and decided the town needed a reading room for young children and residents to enjoy.

A year later, in the spring of 1910, the idea of a library resurfaced when it was revisited during a session of the Women’s Reading Club. In April 1912 a library committee was formed. A letter was written to Mr. Carnegie asking what procedure a town should follow to institute a library.

In the months that followed and while waiting for a response from Mr. Carnegie, the library committee raised money for the new library. By September of 1912 the women had received a $200.00 pledge. As no response had come from Mr. Carnegie, the committee wrote a new letter to the Carnegie Library Commission. On December 5th Mrs. Werner, the library committee president, received a discouraging letter from the commission. Undeterred, the library committee wrote a new letter on January 27, 1913. A reply came quickly on February 2 recommending the committee contact the Indiana Library Commission.

The Indiana Library Commission replied and stated a member of the commission would visit the town of Hobart on February 15th. The chairman of the Indiana Library Commission explained the process of beginning a library. First and foremost was the requirement of obtaining a site for the library. The ladies obtained the Rodman property at East and 4th Streets though luncheons, recitals, teas, dances and rummage sales. The property was purchased on June 21, 1913. The bid was $1350.00.

Gary Public Library Steps In

Around this time Miss Orpha Peters, assistant librarian of the Gary Public Library, met with the Women’s Reading Club. Miss Peters offered library services to the city of Hobart through a low cost co-operation with the Gary Public Library. With a population of 4000 residents, the Women’s Reading Club members were enthusiastic about this plan. However, the Library Extension Act of 1911 required 50 taxpayer signatures and the creation of an annual appropriation and levy for the support of a library.

First Hobart Library Temp location across from the High School
The First Hobart Library, 1914

After obtaining 84 signatures Hobart Township's library extension plan became a reality. A contract between Hobart Township and the Gary Public Library was made. The contract enabled Hobart residents the use of Gary Public Library materials.

With tax support secured, the Woman’s Reading Club was very excited about founding a library. The Woman’s Reading Club purchased land directly across the street from the high school and the first branch was established in a small house on the property on January 5, 1914. This was only a temporary location as the town was still hoping to secure money from the Carnegie Commission for an official library building.

In October of 1913 Gary Library Director Louis J. Bailey wrote the Carnegie Library Commission seeking monetary assistance to build a library. A reply came in January 1914 along with a $16,000.00 grant for the new library building. A.F. Wickes of Gary was hired to design the building, an English Tudor style, with Ingwald Moe of Gary as contractor.

Brick Layer Richard King working on the Hobart Carnegie Library, 1914
Richard King, Brick Layer, 1914

Finally, Hobart's Own Library

The dedication of the new library was held on Sunday, January 10, 1915 at 3:00pm. Lewis E. Barnes presided over the dedication. Throughout the presentation instrumental and vocal music was provided by Mrs. S. G. Stoltz, Miss Aurelia Sadler, and Mr. Claude Frett. Mrs. Fannie A. Werner gave a speech on “The Story of Our Library.” The Presentation of the Building was given by Judge O. L. Wildermuth, who was the President of the Gary Library Board. J. M. Ballantyne, President of the Town of Hobart, accepted the building. Rev. J. A. Ayling gave the dedicatory prayer. Miss Mary Eileen Ahern, Editor of “Public Libraries,” and former State Librarian of Indiana, gave the dedicatory address. A reception followed that was sponsored by the Officers and Members of the Woman’s Reading Club of Hobart. Nearly 300 residents attended the event.

Library hours were:

Week days 2-9pm except Wednesdays and Fridays which were 11-9pm. Sundays were 2-6pm.

Miss Dorothy Thomas was the librarian except on Wednesdays and every other Sunday when Miss Bessie Banks was in charge. Mr. John Gaff was the janitor.

Mr. and Mrs. Louis Bailey in front of the new Carnegie library in Hobart
Mr. & Mrs. Louis Bailey in front of the Hobart Carnegie Library

In 1915 the Hobart Branch Library housed over 8,740 volumes and current magazines. They had an excellent selection of educational films and cultural records. An average of 4,200 patrons visited the library every month and the circulation of books and other items averaged 5,500.

Dorothy Stratton Mellon of Hobart was quoted in the book Growing Up in Hobart by the Hobart Historical Society, Inc. as remembering the library fondly. In the book, Mrs. Mellon talks about the wonderful, special lady that was the librarian at the time: Miss Bessie Banks.

Mellon said that Miss Banks made every poem or reading come to life. "As a first grade student I remember when she brought the class into the library to introduce us to its surroundings. Her (Miss Banks) first comment was, "This is a library, not a liberry." Then, putting her finger to her lips, she said, "We must always whisper, never talk out loud!" That picture of her standing so eloquent will always be in my memory pictures."

Hobart Library Relocates and Expands

Hobart Branch, 1968
The New Hobart Branch, 1968

Some 52 years later the library outgrew their Carnegie building and prepared for a new location. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new library at 100 Main St. were held on Monday, October 16, 1967 at 11:30 AM.

The 10,000 square foot building was designed by the architectural firm of Wildermuth and Bone of Portage, Indiana. Charles Bone followed the thought that the library of today is where the action is and apparently kept that thought in mind as he designed the building. Eight 90 degree rotated interconnected squares made up the new building. The view was the most appealing aspect as it overlooked Lake George. The dedication ceremony was on December 15, 1968. The new library more than doubled the capacity of the current library by holding approximately 38,000 volumes.

On July 19, 1977 it was publicly announced in the Post-Tribune that the Lake County Public Library was planning an addition to the Hobart Library. Construction began in the spring of 1979. A total of 6600 square feet added room for numerous books, audio visual materials, a large meeting room, a typing room and a small study room. The addition was completed the spring of 1980.

Nearly 30 years later the Hobart library survived another remodeling project. Although no additional space was added, staff relocated materials to create better reading environments. New furniture was purchased. The circulation desk was refurbished to provide a more efficient work space. New carpet, paint, and tile were also replaced and modernized. The lower level meeting rooms were updated to provide a space for Portage Adult Education’s GED and ESL classes as well as a room for community and programming use.

Hobart Branch, 2015
Hobart Branch as it appears today

In 2007 the Lake Station and New Chicago libraries combined to make one library, Lake Station New Chicago Library. In 2013 the Lake Station New Chicago Library expanded it's hours to become a full time library requiring their own branch head. The Hobart and Lake Station New Chicago branches no longer serve as a township. Every year since 2009 we have circulated over 200,000 items. In 2013 we served over 14,000 patrons. Every year we provide over 600 classes for children, teens, and adults.

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