Muncie Public Library History
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The citizens of Muncie gathered for a meeting called by school superintendent Hamiton S. McRae to organize a new public library and reading room. Many citizens of Muncie were sold shares in the library, and within a short period of time, the collection had nearly 2,200 books.
Muncie Public Library, located in the City Building, opened its doors on January 9. Mrs. Hattie Patterson was the first librarian and served in this role until 1881. Her salary was $250 per year, and she was permitted to sell stationary in the library rooms in order to make a living.
Due to lack of space, the Muncie Public Library board wrote to Andrew Carnegie to ask him for a $50,000 gift to the city for a new library. Carnegie accepted on condition that the city spend $5,000 each year for its upkeep, which was accepted. He later gave $5,000 for furniture and books, making the total donated $55,000.
Muncie Public Library, now the Carnegie Library building, was dedicated on January 1. Miss Artena M. Chapin was the librarian. The library was open 7 days a week with the hours of 9am-9pm, except on Sundays and holidays on which it was open 2-5pm.
Muncie Public Library purchased a Dodge truck to serve as the library’s first book wagon, aka bookmobile. The truck made weekly trips to the residents of Center Township, and during the summer months the “Traveling Library” made trips to city parks around Muncie.
The Grace Keiser Maring Branch Library, the first branch library in the MPL system, was dedicated on October 20 at the southeast corner of Heekin Park. The library was built in response to rapid population growth in that area and petitions from residents for a library.
The Lincoln School Branch of Muncie Public Library opened. Webb Hunt, the principal of Lincoln School at the time, led the movement to establish a branch in the school. Due to Depression era funding, the School Board, Ball Brothers, and Lincoln Community Club helped with the space.
The Webb Hunt branch opened and was dedicated on April 3. Named for former Lincoln School principal Webb Hunt, the collections from the Lincoln branch library were transferred to the new building. The building now serves as the location for Friends of MPL book sales.
The Kennedy Library branch opened. Originally intended to be called Norwood Branch Library, the name changed to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Branch Library in order to honor the late president. Over a thousand books were borrowed on the first day attesting to its popularity!
The Friends of Muncie Public Library group was established under the sponsorship of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Its purpose then, as it is now, was to strengthen and support the library as an institution, which included fundraising for initiatives, programs, and collections.
The audiovisual collection due to its growth moved from Main Library (Carnegie Library) to its own branch location at 209 N. Walnut Street. Known as the Audiovisual Center, this branch would change locations twice more to 200 E. Main Street (pictured here) and then finally High Street Square.
The library branch that had been established in the Huffer Memorial Children’s Center in 1972 was already running out of space. Muncie Public Library moved branch operations from this location to the corner of Elgin and Centennial, becoming known as Centennial Branch.
Muncie Public Library introduced C-LION (Community Library Information Online Network), the first digital version of the automated public access catalog. The summer prior, MPL staff barcoded the entire collection to prepare for computerization, and MPL was one of the earliest libraries in Indiana to automate.
The branch library at the corner of Elgin and Centennial was renamed and dedicated as the Vivian Conley Library. Conley was a member of Muncie Public Library’s board when she died in 1993. She was well-known in the community as a civil rights activist and advocate for others.
The Audiovisual Center on High Street closed on March 1, and the materials were dispersed to the other branch locations within the system, primarily Carnegie and Kennedy, in order to better serve its customers. The action led to increased library usage within the community.
Muncie Public Library launched the Cybermobile, a new take on the bookmobile service. Equipped with computers, the mobile service offered computer classes all around Muncie. It was so innovative that the library presented the Cybermobile at the American Library Association conference.
Maring branch closed on March 1 due to a number of reasons. The branch would have been costly to repair and update. Staff were suffering health problems due to the air quality within the building, and it would have been difficult to make it handicap accessible to patrons.
Hunt branch closed its doors, and it along with the old Maring branch are combined into the Maring-Hunt branch located on High Street. Maring-Hunt Library now serves as the main branch of the Muncie Public Library system and is where our administrative offices reside.
After the opening of Maring-Hunt Library, administration decided to turn the old Wilson Middle School football field that was part of the property into a garden space as a place for residents to gather and hopefully foster a sense of community within the neighborhood.
The Local History and Genealogy (LHG) Center opened behind Carnegie Library. This branch was something rare within public libraries due its specialization. Once open, staff began digitizing historical records on a wider scale. Unfortunately, due to property tax caps, the building closed in 2009.
With the help of a Title I grant and the Indiana Department of Education, Muncie Public Library launched a supplemental education service called Great Achievers in order to aid student success in school. MPL was the first library within Indiana listed as a Title I site and to work so extensively for literacy efforts. It continues today.
Muncie Public Library sent its bookmobile to Grand Isle, Louisiana along with books and other donated items to help the residents there rebuild their seven libraries that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. This marked the end of the MPL bookmobile service within the community.
The LHG Center closed, and Carnegie Library became the Local History and Genealogy branch. Today, it houses a collection of resources for historical and genealogical research focusing on Muncie and Delaware County and serves as the repository for our special collections.
Due to property tax caps and decreased funding for the library, Muncie Public Library made the difficult decision to close the Vivian Conley branch. Local residents tried very hard to persuade MPL to reconsider its decision through discussions and protest due to their love of the library.
The Vivian Conley branch was reimagined as Connection Corner, the technology branch of Muncie Public Library, and reopened in 2012. When it opened, it offered the community a wide range of digital services including laptops, iPads, ereaders, video recorders, and workshops.
Muncie Public Library introduced a new area called the UDo Center at Maring-Hunt. Intended to inspire creativity, the space was outfitted with 3-D printers, programs for design work, color copiers/printers, and tablets. UDo rebranded as the Maker Loft in 2015, and renamed Idea Studio in 2017. In 2022, Maring-Hunt discontinued Idea Studio and instead offers creative technology assistance as a drop in and appointment only service.
Stemming from a city-wide initiative to expand early childhood education opportunities, Muncie Public Library started an Early Literacy Program aimed at helping children develop their reading skills in order to be successful. Now known as Ready Readers, this program continues to grow every year.
Expanding upon the previous community garden, the Gateway to Gardening Pavilion celebrated its grand opening at Maring-Hunt Library. Designed by mentor Pam Harwood and Ball State University students as an immersive learning project, the pavilion includes a kitchen, nature play pockets, reading nook, a health track, gardens, and more!
Muncie Public Library won the ALA Library of the Future Award for its Digital Climbers program. Digital Climbers motivates and inspires children to experiment with technology and master skills that contribute to learning in science, technology, engineering, art, and math.
Developed in partnership with Muncie Community Schools (MCS), the library released Union Catalog (UCAT), which is a shared online union catalog between Muncie Public Library, MCS, and Motivate Our Minds. As part of the initiative, every student enrolled in these organizations has the opportunity to receive a library card with MPL.
Muncie Public Library’s new book bike Pedals & Pages was made possible by a grant from the Ball Brothers Foundation. It delivers books and other material to outreach locations within the community. It has already distributed over 5,000 books to people at local events!
2022 and beyond
Muncie Public Library continues to evolve and serve the needs of the residents of Muncie, Indiana and surrounding areas. MPL has four branch locations. They are Maring-Hunt, Kennedy, Carnegie and Connection Corner.