In honor of the library’s 75th anniversary, an open house was held on Sunday afternoon, July 1, 1979. Then Elwood mayor, Lynn G. Chase, proclaimed that day “Elwood Public Library Day” to encourage the citizens to celebrate seventy-five years of progress in the current building and to participate in its programs.
1985 brought the opening of a new library in Summitville. The North Madison County Public Library System was now serving five townships with the Elwood, Frankton, and Summitville branches.
Early in 1993, disputes began on the possibility of constructing new facilities at Elwood, Frankton, and Summitville. Wiring problems and lack of space were the main arguments for a new Elwood library. Built to house 20,000 volumes in 1903, the Carnegie building had become obsolete with the 1994 circulation report expected to surpass 100,000 and the current stock over 40,000 books. That figure did not include audio/visual tapes and equipment, such as copiers, fax machines, computer terminals, microfilm reader-printers and other new technological fixtures and services.
On October 10, 1994, the library board received plans for a new Elwood library to be built at a cost of $2.3 million. This figure was scaled down from the $3.5 million plan to construct new libraries at each of the branches.
The next year, in October, 1995, after overcoming many obstacles, holding several debates and public hearings, permission was given to build. Architect Joel Blum, of InterDesign Group of Indianapolis, announced the acceptance of a $2,118,000 bid from M.D. Rowe Construction Company and construction was to begin immediately. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on November 1, 1995 on the present site at 1600 Main Street, across from the Elwood City Hall and the Carnegie Library Building.
Although the Frankton branch was not to have a new library constructed, they moved into a new building in January 1996, at 111 Sigler Street in downtown Frankton. Learn more about the history of the Frankton Community Library. The newly expanded and renovated Ralph E. Hazelbaker Library at Summitville was rededicated in August 1997. Learn more about the history of the Ralph E. Hazelbaker Library.
While the new Elwood building was being completed in 1996, an announcement was made for the sale of commemorative ‘memorial’ bricks. These bricks, with individual engravings, would be placed in a patio plaza area located outside the building on the east side. Also, citizens were invited to bring items and/or memories to share. These would be endorsed in a time capsule and sealed in a wall in the building.
On Sunday, January 12, 1997, the new Elwood Public Library opened with a formal dedication and open house. In spite of bitterly cold temperatures outside, over 300 persons attended the standing-room only opening ceremony. Library director, Kathi Wittkamper, spoke during the ceremony and introduced the staff.
Ms. Sue Grubbs, harpist, provided music as individuals enjoyed browsing throughout the new building. It featured large, round wooden pillars with matching tables and furnishings. Burgundy, hunter green and navy blue highlighted the decor.
The library board members who, at that time, saw their efforts at last realized were: Linda Sizelove, president; Beverly Austin, Jerry Kaiser, Pamela Bohlander, Barbara Abernathy, Brenda Carey, and Sharon Pace.
The state of the art building showed public access computer terminals for locating books, computer work stations, a children’s room and young adult section. Space was also provided for a story time room, an Indiana room with Elwood and Indiana history and genealogy material, a large selection of audio/visual tapes and a community meeting room. All were new features.
By the end of the second full month in operation, March 1997, Kathi Wittkamper, the present library director, stated approximately 10,000 persons had visited the new facility. For the year 1997, the patron count totaled 94, 484!
A new permanent sign on the south lawn was unveiled in February 1998. In October 1998, the new facility had been open for twenty-two months. From 300 to 500 persons were using the library each day. New technology, such as Internet access and other computer programs, had been installed.