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.
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Crawfordsville Public Library Gallery