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Indiana Library Tour
September 29, 2009
Crawfordsville Public Library

A Destination Beyond Books

Crawfordsville Public Library

The beautiful Crawfordsville Public Library, completed in 2005, is one of many cultural centers in the heart of downtown Crawfordsville.  The city also hosts many museums and historical sites, including the Carnegie Museum of Montgomery County, the General Lew Wallace Museum, Lane Place, the Old Jail Museum (one of the few rotary jails remaining), and the Ropkey Armor Museum, among many other historic sites and bridges. The library is in the enviable position of being one of many cultural community organizations, and yet it is unique.

In 2005, the public library was built across the street from the original Carnegie building.  Prior to the construction project, Director Larry Hathaway visited numerous libraries in Indiana and other Midwestern states determined to glean the best ideas from each library. Above the entrance to the current building is a beautiful, original stained glass window originally donated by the library board president (pictured above). The building is spacious and open with natural light that coming through numerous large windows.  Horizontal shades are used on sunny days to block some of the natural light.  Space is maximized at the Library. The Director’s office and several staff offices are locating on a mezzanine over looking the second floor of the library. The Friends of Library frequent the Library’s basement where they utilize the 3500 square-foot space for frequent book and video sales.

Art is an important part of almost every area within the building. The large inviting children and young adult area in the library has three color murals covering most of the wall area.  The murals in the children’s quarter are brightly painted pictures of children playing and reading in a woodland library.  The mural in the young adult quarter features a reading dragon amidst pictures, within pictures, within more pictures.  The murals invite all ages to relax and read.

Pictures are readily apparent throughout the Library. Some canvasses are permanent, owned by the library, while a gallery area is frequented by changing artists and exhibits. The Library is also one of twenty statewide stops for the Hoosier Salon, which provides a variety of pieces from Indiana’s most renowned artists.  Additionally, the building walls are adorned with several quilts throughout the library, some completed by staff.

The Crawfordsville Public Library is as intellectually satisfying as it is aesthetically pleasing. The Library provides an extensive collection of fiction and nonfiction to their patrons.  Their impressive genealogy and local history collection, comprised of information from Montgomery and adjacent counties, is completely open to the public. The Library also opens its meeting rooms to a wide variety of local interest groups. The Montgomery County courthouse, a few blocks from the library, is smaller than many Indiana courthouses, and relies on the Library to host many local government meetings and civic engagements.

Once the new library building was in order, staff turned their attention to restoring the original Carnegie Library building – the first Carnegie library opened in Indiana (1902).  The Library now owns and operates the Carnegie Museum out of this original building. The Museum is very interesting, interactive, and interdisciplinary for local students and adults alike. It has an extensive collection of local history, art, science and culture all in one place. Catherine Burkhart, director of the museum, oversees the exhibits, collections, tours and collaborates with the Montgomery County schools.

After entering the original building, but before entering the museum, there is a large blank, white wall.  Museum staff had a contest to determine what would cover the wall.  The winning idea is a large collage of numerous Montgomery County architecture and sites.  There are also six more galleries throughout the two-story museum. Each gallery has a unique theme, such as business and industry, history, politics, literature, and the military. Some of the rotating exhibits are created by local children, through a school and museum collaboration.  This year’s exhibits include, “Before TV” and “Medicine Maladies & Marvels.”  Other Museum exhibit highlights include a very large telephone switchboard from the first half of the 20th century, and a historic printing press that allows visitors to create a page of a book by forming words letter by letter.

The Crawfordsville Public Library is a unique setting that meshes history, art, culture and technology. More than just a first-class library, it is a destination spot. Even after spending several hours at the Library, I departed with a longing for the many uncovered experiences and treasures that will have to wait until my next visit. If you’re ever in the area, a visit to the Crawfordsville Public Library is highly recommended. Just be sure to clear your schedule.

View the Entire Crawfordsville Public Library Gallery