By Brent Brown Daily News
Greensburg Daily News
---- — GREENSBURG – Blessed with modern amenities at every turn, the current incarnation of the Greensburg-Decatur County Public Library has found itself firmly rooted in the 21st century.
Public computer terminals with internet access in seconds, an electronic card catalog, and even digital books are a far cry from the dusty, tome-filled shelves of days gone by. It’s interesting to imagine what young Bessie Monfort, Greensburg’s first head librarian, might think of today’s public book repository.
But in spite of the changes a century of technological advancements have brought to the Tree City’s library, a love of reading remains the largest thread that will forever connect the distant past with the ever-changing present.
It was this same affinity for the written word that led Lori Durbin to start a part-time job at the Greensburg-Decatur County Public Library in 1998. Now, with the library poised to commemorate 20 years at its present location, Durbin, who now works as the facility’s teen librarian and marketing specialist, and other staff are looking back as they look forward to Saturday’s birthday celebration.
Twenty years at its East Main Street location will be celebrated with four hours of free snacks, carnival games, bounce houses and dunk tanks – and everyone’s invited. Lasting from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Durbin described the event as an “open house” for the entire community. In addition to a variety of festivities, the new Bookmobile will be on display, and all are invited to try a piece of birthday cake and take part in all of the day’s fun offerings.
The event comes on the heels of a lengthy renovation and the recent conclusion of the most successful Summer Reading Program yet. To be sure, those associated with the Greensburg-Decatur County Public Library have plenty of reasons to celebrate.
And the groundwork for many of today’s more successful library programs began with the opening of the present facility Aug. 29, 1993.
Less than three years after opening, the library had internet access to go alongside its mountains of physical reading materials. The computer lab saw a significant expansion after a 2000 renovation, and recent additions, such as the implementation of the Evergreen system, have only added to the information available to library visitors. The Evergreen system, Lori Durbin explained, allows users to access books at other libraries that are also enrolled in the program. Card members can have their desired book or movie sent to their hometown library through a sharing system, vastly opening up the number of items available to users of all libraries taking part in the program.
These advances would have been the stuff of science fiction in the time of Bessie Monfort, a young woman who took the position of head librarian at the Andrew Carnegie Public Library in January 1905. Bessie died unexpectedly that September, so her father, Frank P. Monfort, assumed her duties for the next 15 years.
In the nine decades since, there have been only eight individuals to serve in the same position.
Today, Andrea Ingmire is the director of the Greensburg-Decatur County Public Library. Joined by a staff consisting of Lori Durbin, Children’s Librarian Jill Pratt, Assistant Children’s Librarian Laura Jo Tebbe, Reference Specialist Vanessa Martin, Reference Librarian Lori Osting, Computer Lab Supervisor Kay Wessel, Computer Systems Technician Keith Kaffenberger, Outreach Librarian Amy Kuhns, Bookmobile Driver/Librarian Deb Smith, and longtime bookkeeper Steve Brown, today’s library associates work to carry on a legacy of learning and a public service they hold in high regard.
“We’re trying our best to provide the public with everything they want and need,” Durbin told the Daily News Thursday. “Everyone here is so passionate about what they do.”
A busy schedule of late has limited some of the spectacle of Saturday’s 20th anniversary celebration when compared to its 2005 counterpart. The library celebrated 100 years of service to Greensburg in January of that year with a time capsule and an event that included an actor portraying Andrew Carnegie, the famed industrialist and philanthropist. Then-Mayor Frank Manus even offered a special declaration celebrating a century of library service in the Tree City.
It was a $15,000 gift from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation in 1901 that would eventually become the first library servicing Greensburg. When the building opened in 1905, the total cost of the structure and everything within it was just over $11,000.
As time went on, the library expanded to include free access to all with a library card within Decatur County – a service offered by few libraries in the Hoosier State today. The Bookmobile debuted in 1985 and the library’s Westport branch opened in 1989.
It’s been a sea of change for the Greensburg-Decatur County Public Library since its inception, but if Bessie Monfort were somehow magically transported into the present day, there’s a good chance she’d be right at home in at least one aspect: community service.
“The birthday party is really an opportunity for the community to see a facility that really belongs to them,” said Durbin.
“The library was built by and for the community of Decatur County, and I would encourage everyone to come see it if they’ve never been here,” she continued. “It’s our intention for things to just be bigger and better in the future.”
Looking ahead, the library’s staff intends to continue to change as time will dictate while maintaining the same prominent place in the City of Greensburg it held under Will Cumback, a former Lieutenant Governor who served as the city’s first library board president.
“We hope to grow with the community and to be able to provide what our community needs and wants,” Durbin said. “We’re going to change with the times as much as can. That’s our goal.”
More information about the Greensburg-Decatur County Public Library can be found online at www.greensburglibrary.org.
Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056