Dedication ceremonies were held in the Methodist Church at 7:30. After an invocation by Rev. Neal, Mr. C. M. Greenlee, on behalf of the building committee, turned the library over to Mayor Smith, who, in turn, resigned control of it to the library board, represented by C. W. Bennett, who accepted the trust. Then followed the address by Dr. W. L. Bryan, president of Indiana University, speaking on faith in education. In closing, the benediction was given by Rev. Howe.
At 9:30 followed the public reception at the library building. It continued for an hour and a half during which time hundreds of visitors expressed their appreciation of the excellent work done by those who had the library in charge.
At times, for half dozen years or longer, the way seemed so dark and uninviting that ultimate success seemed impossible. But the loyal men and women who had the real interests of the institution at heart never faltered and, in the midst of adversity, brought victory to their side by persistent effort. It was their ‘gladsome’ hour.
In 1906, the Library of Congress referred the people of Boston, Massachusetts, to the plans of the Elwood Public Library, since it was “nearly ideal”. That same year the Indiana Library School students visited the library to see the grand building and to have the Elwood methods explained. Also in 1906, two members of the Frankfort library board came in order to study the building.
The year 1909 saw library privileges extended to all residents of Pipecreek township and a small branch was opened in Friend’s Store in Frankton in July that same year. In 1910, Miss Mary Baker, librarian, instituted the first ‘traveling libraries’ to the township schools and the Frankton branch was moved to a new location. A station was established at Dundee and a typewriter was purchased for the main library. When Miss Henriette Scranton became the librarian in October, 1912, she addressed six different adult groups in the interests of the library.
The number of volumes grew to over 5,000 in 1913. But by 1915, the statistics for the library were: 12,519 volumes, 97 magazines and 10 newspapers. A total circulation of 47,157 books for Elwood and the township, which included the branches at Dundee, Frankton and the township schools.
The Willkie family, prominent Elwood citizens, was involved with the development of the library from the beginning. Wendell L. Willkie’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Herman Willkie, were both lawyers. They were on the first board of trustees and Wendell’s mother was the first permanent secretary of the board in 1899. In 1917, Wendell himself was on the board. He married the librarian, a Miss Edith Wilk and his brother, Robert, married an assistant librarian.
During World War I, with Miss McMullen as librarian, books and money were collected for the war work. The Red Cross’ surgical dressing class was given permission to use a basement room three nights a week and the French relief class was allowed to install motors for sewing machines in March 1918.
In 1920, the library reorganized and conformed to state laws that said the library board shall consist of nine members – two appointed by the Mayor, two by the school board, three by the Circuit Judge, and two by the Township Trustee.
Nineteen hundred and twenty-three brought real expansion under librarian Miss Bertram French. She put the Frankton branch on a firm basis by renting a two room building on Church Street, across from the Post Office, for its 500 volumes and securing Miss Vivian Witmer as librarian there, under her management. A businessman, Mr. Pyle, of the Urmston Grain Company, saw to the building repairs and new furnishings. All would be ready in December.
Her work with children was outstanding. She not only arranged for a story hour at the library, but she also had story hour at the playgrounds during the summer. She instructed the children of grades 3 to 6 in the care of books and began a summer Vacation Reading Contest in the summer of 1925. Her book fund was inadequate her second year, so two sororities in town gave $103.25 for additional books.Miss French made a survey of the schools and established four new stations in town. A small library was opened at Martz’ Grocery Store at 9th and Main Streets in February 1924, to accommodate children and adult patrons in the west part of Elwood. The second station, opened to reach patrons in the southern part of the city, was at the Lehr Grocery on South J Street. Small branches were also opened in four rural schools: Red Corner, Brannock, Cale, and South Elwood. They contained about 35 volumes each and were changed every six weeks.
Miss French held the first library district meeting ever held in Elwood on April 2, 1925.
The changes in the interior by repainting the dingy walls and all new electric lighting fixtures installed by Neal and Reveal proved most attractive to patrons. The Draper Company, of Spiceland, supplied new window shades. The re-opening on September 25, 1923, was colorful with potted plants and autumn flowers lavishly used in the rooms. Miss French and her assistants, Miss Bessie Rose and Miss Lois Henze, extended a cordial welcome to all callers.
A continuous musical program, under the direction of Mrs. Henry Naumann, was given and the following young ladies served punch to the visitors: Mary Burdwell Davis, Jane Harting, Helen Dunlap, Venita Kelly, Margaret Zahn and Ruby McKee. The library board joined in the welcome. Its members at the time were: Sheridan Clyde, president; Mrs. W. Z. King, Mrs. O. A. Armfield, R. T. Boston, Dr. H. M. Brown, J. A. Nuding, F. P. Behymer, Miss Mary Cox, and Miss Margaret Dickerson.
In 1926, shortly after the death of their mother, Mrs. Georgia Chapin, of East Main Street in this city, a curio collection was donated by the Chapin brothers, former residents. Collected by their father, it contained samples of ore from many countries, rock formations, sea shells, Indian relics and numerous other articles, including some very old newspaper copies.
February 1926, brought an exhibit of 35 paintings by Leota Williams Loop, a former Elwood resident. One of her paintings is on display in the new library building today. Prominent display space has been assigned to paintings by T. C. Steele, noted Indiana artist. His “Autumn Sunset” was purchased January 4, 1927 out of the Leeds endowment fund at a cost of $300. That same year, an exhibit of paintings by well-known Brown County artists was held the last week of February.
Many district meetings of the library association were held in the Carnegie building over the years, as well as cultural events. A four act play entitled “Little Women” from the story by Louisa May Alcott, was presented by the library staff at the high school auditorium, during the week of November 13, 1927.
By 1927, the circulation had increased to 64, 589 with 48% being juvenile material. The stock was numbered at 12, 462 volumes, 2, 919 of which were juvenile books. Also maintained were 76 magazines and 8 newspapers.