North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library Leaders Talk Facility’s 100-Year Legacy

Writer / Julie Yates
Photographer / Tony Straw

For 100 years the North Judson-Wayne Township Public Library has met the needs of the community in a multitude of ways. Since the beginning of its existence, its been an amenity that residents have appreciated. As the years have gone by, it has kept up with the times while offering services for every age group.

North Judson-Wayne Township PublicWe are very happy to celebrate this anniversary,” says Kelsie Purcell, library director. “Its a vibrant library and its always been important to the town.”

Library Board President Venita Cunningham agrees.

It was very important 100 years ago according to newspaper clippings,” Cunningham says. “The townspeople really wanted it. In 1916 a committee was formed. A dentist, Dr. Corbitt, was a strong leader behind it. A Carnegie grant was received in 1917 so it is a Carnegie library, but because of World War I construction was put on hold.”

Carnegie libraries sprung up in small towns across the United States during the late 1800s and early 1900s. They were funded by grants given by Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest men of the age. An immigrant from Scotland, he made his fortune in the steel industry. He was influenced by a man he knew in Pennsylvania who allowed working boys free use of his personal library. Carnegie felt that the books he read contributed to his success and that he, in turn, had a moral obligation to better society.

By 1919 the war was over and the town was ready to build the library, but prices had shot up,” Cunningham says. “For two years the committee asked for bids, but no one would bid the price they needed. In 1920 a womens group got books and set up a library in an upstairs room of a downtown building.”

Meanwhile the town board was developing a wish list. A municipal water building plus a site for the fire department was needed, and there was a desire for a town park. Also at the time, all area students were being served by a one-room township school. There was no high school. At that point a wonderful turn of events happened.North Judson-Wayne Township Public

All the agencies worked together and combined their resources,” Cunningham says. “The original $10,000 Carnegie grant was combined with funds from five other sources. When it was finished, the block contained the water department, fire department, library, high school and park. Today the school is gone, but a monument marks the spot it occupied on the side of the library. A police station is there, but there is no longer the fire department or water works.”

By the time the building opened, there was no money left to buy books. The temporary downtown library was closed and the 600 books from that site were moved to the new library. To remedy the situation, attendees at the dedication held in the spring of 1922 were asked to bring a book to donate. Today the library has an inventory of 24,575 volumes.

It has stayed open ever since,” Purcell says. “During World War II it was a location where Girl Scouts were trained in first aid and it could have served as a medical facility if needed. The first kindergarten in town was held in the basement, and over the years its been the site for many clubs and organizations such as preschools, 4-H and Kiwanis.”

North Judson-Wayne Township PublicCurrently the library hosts reading programs for all ages. In recent times, summer programs for grown-ups have been based on games such as “Monopoly” and “Clue.” The baby program for infants up to 18 months features singing, lap games and book reading. The tot program is for children up to age 3, and story hour is for ages 3 to kindergarten. Other programs encompass school grade levels.

The library offers unique resources to the community. The Library of Things allows individuals and families to check out items they would not ordinary own such as ice-cream makers, movie projectors to be used outside, games, record players, and even seasonal, shaped baking pans. In a partnership with the Starke County Community Foundation, patrons can check out educational tablets. Since they are not dependent on internet connection, this learning tool is safe for children to use. They are preloaded with brain games to stimulate reading, STEM and even social skills.

The library has always provided whatever is needed at the time,” Purcell says. “Even if people dont have a library card, they can use our fax, copiers and computers. We have a maker-space room where people can come in and use the heat-press machine to make designs on T-shirts, mugs and metal water bottles. We have LEGOs, a robot for programming, STEM kits and a sewing machine. We are still reaching out to provide services. The library has always reflected the town. Its a safe, welcoming space.”

North Judson-Wayne Township PublicNorth Judson-Wayne Township Public Library is located at 208 Keller Avenue in North Judson. For more info, call 574-896-2841 or visit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Welcome Back!

Login to your account below

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.

Send me your media kit!

hbspt.forms.create({ portalId: "6486003", formId: "5ee2abaf-81d9-48a9-a10d-de06becaa6db" });