Mary Shannon

CARTHAGE – Sometimes small towns are known as places where there is little to do. Hopefully this bi-monthly column will be able to introduce new or forgotten venues and events in and around Carthage that offer a variety of experiences for residents and visitors alike.

Today’s highlight is the Henry Henley Public Library. The library was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on Dec. 27, 2016 and is a source of pride for many Carthage residents. In 1883, the first library in Carthage was created as a subscription library. It housed 177 books that town residents could borrow if they paid the one dollar yearly subscription fee.

In around 1889, Henry Henley, one of the founders of Carthage, motivated by a desire to benefit the people of the community, gave $1,000 to establish a fund for a free public library. This gift was added to by private residents and local businesses, and some small local taxation. The library at that time was located in the old Carthage Bank, but the demand for more books and more room led to an effort to supply both. The children of Henry Henley gave $2,000 to the building fund.

Other patrons contributed as well and the additional sum required was raised by taxation. As a result, the present beautiful building we see today on Main Street was erected in 1902 at a cost of $6,500.

Today the library houses more than 5,000 books. In addition, former Director Delaine Thomas incorporated Evergreen, Indiana, a consortium of more than 100 public libraries located throughout Indiana. Carthage library card holders can easily update their current cards to the new Evergreen Indiana Card, allowing patrons to view the catalogs and borrow materials from the more than 100 member libraries.

Newly appointed Director Arlene Reynolds is working on funding to include eBooks as well. Reynolds has big plans for the library. Her vision is that the library once again becomes a central hub for our small town. The atmosphere is very welcoming for both children and adults.

While visiting the other day, I saw two little ones making puppets designed after the main character of a book that they had just read with Reynolds. As a retired teacher, three constants that I know about reading are reading to preschool age children is the biggest indicator that they will be successful in school, children who see their parents enjoy reading are more likely to enjoy reading and in Grades 1 to 3, one learns to read – the rest of one’s life they read to learn. Being a proficient reader is an advantage every child should have.

We have a wonderful resource in Carthage that is just waiting for more people to visit and utilize. Computers and Wi-Fi are readily available. Unknown to some, there is a Carthage School and Town Museum on the lower level of the library. It houses a multitude of historical memorabilia. There are pictures, scrapbooks, newspapers and other references to explore.

In order to better plan the direction of the library’s future, Reynolds has also posted a survey to determine patrons’ needs and interests on the library facebook page which can be accessed at Henry Henley Public Library Carthage Library. Suggestions currently include Children’s Storytime and Activities, Yoga, Genealogy Club, Book Club, and Quilting. Make your ideas known by filling out the easy survey.

This beautiful historic building is a fine example from the past of what a community can do when it works together. As current residents, we need to carry on the tradition of preserving our heritage for the next generation. The library survives on a shoestring budget. Volunteering one’s time and private donations are also greatly appreciated.

Local groups like the Lions Club and Future of Carthage have been strong supporters of the library, but for the library to continue to grow with both hands-on activities and technology, community involvement and financial support is needed. The library is located at 102 Main Street. Hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Donations can be sent to Henry Henley Public Library PO Box 35 Carthage, IN 46115. Please consider being a part of one of the special experiences Carthage has to offer.

Facts stated in this article were taken from the History of Ripley Township Web page and the HHPL Facebook page.

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