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Wabash celebrates National Library Week

BOOK BROWSING: Cardholders at the Wabash Carnegie Library browse the collection of books on Wednesday during National Library Week.

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@wabashplaindealer.com

The Wabash Carnegie Library is celebrating National Library Week with late fee forgiveness and book prizes to renew public interest in the historic library and thank patrons for their loyalty.

According to state records, there are 164 libraries in Indiana made possible by the donation of $2.5 million by the Carnegie Corporation, all mostly built between 1901 and 1918, including the Wabash Carnegie Library.

Wabash’s first library was established 13 years after the founding of Wabash in 1833. The first collection of 300 books was managed by Librarian John U. Pettit, who had to pay for missing books out of his own money. The library later found itself scattered throughout the old courthouse building, also the former Wabash High School building. In 1890, the Women’s Library Association sought the help of Andrew Carnegie, who provided $20,000 to build the library seen on West Hill Street today. That amount is equal to more than half a million dollars today, according to U.S. inflation statistics. Framed below a portrait of Andrew Carnegie in the library today is the letter written describing the terms of the agreement for the $20,000 grant.

The limestone building features a Neoclassical design and a stained glass dome covered by copper. It was funded in 1901 and finished in 1903, expanding the original 300-book collection to 3,000, which would later expand again when over 14,000 square-feet was added onto the library in 1972. Now the library has over 85,000 items available to the public.

Library Director Ware Wimberly III said National Library Week highlights both the library’s presence as a resource to the community and chan es in how libraries are used today. Wimberly said while something like late fee forgiveness is a way of showing their appreciation to book lovers using the library, he added that it may become a thing of the past.

Wimberly said libraries across the country are revisiting the purpose of late fees and wondering if it’s deterring people from viewing the library as a resource.

“We want to encourage library materials to be returned but libraries are wondering if a system of fines the best way to address that,” he said. “That is something we want to look at. We realize also that life happens and sometimes it is easy to lose track of the due dates for library items.”

In addition to zero penalty for returning overdue items to the library, Wabash Carnegie Library is encouraging people to pay off their fines, no matter the amount, for $1.

Wimberly also said residents can stop by the library for a free key chain, window decal, button, or ink pen and enter to win a book bag full of books and other prizes at the end of the week.

“When you have a super community like Wabash, it is important to say thank you in some manner,” he said. “Hopefully, this week also highlights the high value of libraries to communities and important partners in the community.”