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Indiana Library Tour

Stop #4: June 8, 2009
Lebanon Public Library

Where Innovation Meets Tradition

Lebanon Public Library

The Lebanon Public Library began in 1905 as a Carnegie library. The town of Lebanon wanted their library’s exterior to match that of the court house’s limestone exterior, making the building more expensive than other Carnegie libraries in the state. Unfortunately, this added cost left little money to buy books. The Lebanon Library staff reacted resourcefully and held a community book shower through which patrons donated books. This event was only the beginning of the public and the Library’s mutual concern for the Library’s success. While renovations and additions in 1992 and 2006 have changed the Lebanon Public Library, the original Carnegie Library building’s sophistication is still very much apparent today, including in the new second story addition.

Kay Martin, Director of the Lebanon Public Library, began working at the Library in 1982. At that time she microfilmed and indexed obituaries from the 1800s and catalogued Boone County WPA materials.  She worked in a variety of positions at the Lebanon Library until she was eventually named director. Since then, the Library has grown considerably under her guidance and incredible enthusiasm as she serves as a remarkable resource to the Lebanon population, the Library itself and its staff. Her vast knowledge of all areas of the Library became obvious during the in-depth tour Kay gave me during my visit on the day of the ribbon cutting and grand opening of their building’s new second story.

Upon entering the newly-opened second floor, I immediately noticed the combination of practical and whimsical features that give the space an intriguing twist. The upstairs holds a business conference room that allows many local nonprofit boards a site to hold regular meetings, a large computer lab used by classes and community partners such as workforce development and a large meeting room and kitchen, complete with an old-fashioned popcorn maker. Another unique feature the Library now offers patrons is the Avon Video Center. The Library’s AV department frequently sponsors a free dinner and movie date night for numerous couples who could not afford it otherwise. In addition, the Library also uses, and allows patrons to borrow, an outdoor movie screen that is 12’ x 9.’  The screen has already been used to show Jaws at the local pool and is certain to be put to good use at all times of the year.

Traveling downstairs, Kay explains how the Library’s main floor came to boast an eclectic interior design through the generosity and creativity of local patrons and library staff. One family donated a 200 year-old church pew, and art made by local adult and children artists adorn several walls throughout the building. In conjunction with more traditional aspects of the library’s first floor, a Young Adults room was recently added as a replica of a 1950s Lebanon diner, the Sugar Bowl. The 1950s theme is set by bright red tables, chairs and booths on a black and white tile floor and completed with a juke box. This room is attributed for the tripling of the YA circulation in the Library after it opened.

The basement contains the brightly decorated and very busy children’s room. Scattered about the room are duck-feet chairs and children’s chairs with cutouts of the sun, moon and stars – a consistent theme throughout the space. A child-sized handmade chair made from recycled materials adds to the room’s charming decor. While children partake in summer and winter reading programs through which they can earn books as prizes, many young mothers meet and develop friendships in this space. Library Director Kay Martin strongly believes children need to have books in their hands; for this reason, the Library gives free books to children three times a year.

The Lebanon Public Library serves as the Genealogy and Local History repository. The Genealogy librarian answers reference questions and provides programming for children and adults.  The Indiana and Boone County History Camp, one of the annual summer programs at the Library, is devoted to teaching children about family and local heritage.  Not only do the children learn how to use the Genealogy materials, but they tour the courthouse, other downtown buildings and the local cemetery. While learning about their town’s history, they can even capture every moment using cameras donated to the program by CVS. At the end of the program, the children partake in a pizza party and dress as their favorite historic character.

Kay tells me that Veterans' Day is another major event in Lebanon.  Traditionally, the town has speakers and memorabilia, including a display and discussion of the different military medals. Last year, the Library also participated in the “Honor Flight.”  WWII veterans were flown free to Washington DC to participate in Veteran’s Day events and to visit the WWII Memorial.  Keeping with the patriotism, the Library also looks forward to July 4th celebrations. Several organizations collaborate to produce a parade, wine tasting, a frog jumping contest and many more activities that bring local patrons together in the community.

The Lebanon Public Library is continually thinking of ways to promote their collections and encourage local use of their facility. There are several shelves of books that do not need to be checked out, but can be borrowed and returned, or even not returned without consequence. Patrons frequently donate additional books to this shelf. There are special shelves for Oprah’s Book Club and local book clubs’ titles. There is also a section of books in danger of being weeded because of lack of use, which patrons are encouraged to check out in order to keep the oldies, but goodies in use and circulation. Additionally, behind the circulation desk are several shelves of books that patrons can buy for the Library in memory of someone or just to support the Library.

The Library also regularly researches ways to increase loans and traffic to the Library and its website. It began using Evergreen ILS nine months ago and has already experienced a huge growth in interlibrary loans to and from the Library. Evergreen has allowed Library patrons to see all of the materials in the 37 libraries currently on Evergreen. The patron can then request a book for themselves, at their own computer, at home or work.

One of the most interesting programs at the Lebanon Public Library is the Roving Librarian program. This librarian takes books and other materials to local schools, summer camps, daycare providers, jails, and hospitals at least monthly, if not more frequently. During each visit, she exchanges the books for new books. This is a popular program at all of the sites and the books are well worn.  Then the books are recycled to children at the county fair through the 4-H program. The books that are part of this program are not in the circulation system, but they do circulate frequently. 

From the Library’s limestone exterior to its creative book-lending ideas, the Lebanon Public Library would not exist and thrive in the manner it does today without the guidance of Kay Martin, the hard work of her experienced and innovative staff, and the generosity and dedication of the great citizens of the City of Lebanon.

View the Entire Lebanon Public Library Gallery