The main part of the library is 106 year old, but the library is modern and efficient because it was remodeled and expanded in 1996. Once--many years ago—I served as president of the library board of trustees, so I know about their alarm system and insurance. The fountain and grounds weren’t affected, and there is no exterior damage that is visible. Inside the building, however, there is extensive smoke and heat damage, pretty much throughout the entire structure. As the librarian stated, “The work will be intensive because smoke gets into everything, particularly printed materials.”
On Monday, the day after the fire, I had library materials that were due. Even if I didn’t, I would have gone anyway to see for myself that the news and pictures in the newspaper were true. I found a metal fence around the beautiful historic building. I with other citizens who came to see, stood looking at the beautiful historic building feeling helpless. The librarian was stoic, but everyone is devastated.
Restoration experts believe they can take care of the building, but the losses that hurt are the collections, books, paintings, furnishings, and the cultural soul of the community.
Although the internet has made changes to the way people utilize libraries, they are central to the quality of life in a city. People don’t move to a community unless there is a vibrant library. Our little city is proud that Andrew Carnegie offered to build a library, but Charles Eckhart, owner of the Eckhart Buggy Company and magnate in the local automobile industry, offered to build a library on the condition that the Carnegie contract could be canceled. Carnegie withdrew and the library trustees turned the construction over to Mr. Eckhart who ultimately spent more than $40,000 on the building. The cornerstone was laid on May 10, 1910.
Our town, now classified as a city, is thankful that a number of local philanthropists are making the downtown area a classy-looking place with restored buildings, a cultural plaza, and showcase parks. This place fairly hums with activity, and its reputation is not only because of the world famous Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automotive Museum that is here, but also because the local arts commission has staged a number of outstanding art exhibits. We have interesting boutiques, restaurants, taverns, and art galleries. Some years ago, I wrote a little souvenir guidebook about the town because I felt the locals might not be aware of the treasures of their hometown. Sometimes it takes a person from outside the area to note special features of a place. My husband and I talk about towns and cities as we travel to and fro. We realize this place in northeast Indiana is just a speck on the map and other cities can boast amenities more elaborate than what we have, but I do believe our library is one of the best. Now we must heal, restore, and remodel.
Already people from the area have stopped by the library to offer emotional support, money, and donations of books from their personal libraries. The library will come out stronger than ever, but meanwhile, there is work to be done. It may require a few prayers for guidance and a whole lot of patience.