Photos from the Kendallville Public Library Dedication and Open House - June 2, 2007

KPL Celebrates 10 Years at Bixler Lake

The Kendallville Public Library's been around more than a hundred years; just ten of them at its location on Bixler Lake. But in that decade, we've seen a lot of change – most of it for the better.

Buildings tell a story, and our library has lived in three of them. Each one had its own significance, its own chapter, and its own tale to tell. The Carnegie building on East Rush Street was an icon of its time, and is still easily recognizable today for the library it used to be. The stone façade of the building on West Rush Street filled the need for a larger library with more space for a growing number of people, new items like computers, and expanded programming.

The building at Bixler Lake came at a time when people said libraries were dying. The Kendallville Public Library staff and board knew differently, and worked toward creating a building that would last well into the future.

"The decision to move forward with a new library was not an easy one for the library board," said Jenny Draper, who was the library director from 1998-2011. "There were many lengthy discussions, focus groups, studies of circulation and usage that went on for many months. Fred Inniger, who was a board member at the time, finally brought the issue to a vote by reminding the board of the extensive discussions and studies. His comment was to either 'make a decision or move on.' The motion to build a new Kendallville Public Library was put to a vote and the decision to move forward was unanimous. As the project moved through its stages, all board members stood 100% behind this decision."

Was there dissention in the community before the library was built? Certainly. Would the library have survived if it remained in the West Rush Street building? Definitely. Has it thrived since moving into the larger, more modern Bixler Lake building? Absolutely.

When Draper held open the doors with both arms for the Grand Opening on June 2, 2007, hundreds streamed through. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and that was just a reaction to the beauty of the building.

Leah Dresser, now the library's Adult Services Manager, can relate to being stunned by the building's look and feel the first time she saw it.

"I finished up at the school I was working at in Fort Wayne and then headed to Kendallville for my job interview," Dresser said. "When I pulled up to the building, I was shocked at the library in terms of size and design. In my head, I called it the Hampton's House Library. I knew instantly that I wanted to work here, and the interview with Beth (Children's Services Manager) and Jenny (Draper) only confirmed that."

"I know that others agree that our building is beautiful because I can't even count the number of times visitors from out of town comment on how fortunate we are, and I couldn't agree more," continued Dresser.

Current Library Director Katie Mullins' first day in her new role as Teen Librarian was on the day of the library's Grand Opening. She recalled Mayor Suzanne Handshoe giving her presentation before the doors opened.

"She mentioned that she and her son had ridden their bikes over to the library. They stopped and looked at the building, and she told him to "mark this day.' She said that 'this library will be here for your entire life, and you can say you were part of it when it opened.'"

That Grand Opening was just the beginning.

Dresser said she still loves working here, even six and a half years later.

We have gone through many changes in that time, but I think we are currently the strongest we have ever been."

The staff and the public both knew the building was beautiful, but it's just a shell. The staff also had a plan to make the library the heart of the community.

"Our ultimate goal is to be the go to place for patrons of all ages if they need books, research help, socializing with our various programs, or just a friendly face," said Dresser.

"Our collection has developed tremendously in every way," added Camilla Dean, Senior Circulation Clerk. "I'm extremely happy working here and I'm eager to continue watching the library grow."

The library's impact on the community continues to deepen, as well.

"As the library grows it takes on a bigger part in the community," said Technical Services Supervisor Anita Brown. "Many needs are met both ways. As people let the library know the items and programs that they would like to see, they place value on our commitment to Kendallville and the State of Indiana. It is very gratifying to feel that your job matters to people."

Kimberly Rhodes spent a lot of time in the library as she was growing up, and now she's on the other side of the desk as a Circulation Assistant. The library was important to her then, and still matters to her now.

"I have so many stories to tell even prior to working here for this past year," said Rhodes, when asked about her memories. "There really aren't many spots in here that aren't accompanied by a significant memory in my teen years. I have been so incredibly lucky to have such a great environment to develop in. I event met my best friend during an Anime Day event hosted by the teen department years back."

Now, she sees the library from a new point of view.

"The library provides so many opportunities for free from nifty crafts to the new 3D printer. We have definitely changed with the times to mold to the new technology and interests."

"Technology has allowed us to assist more people throughout the state," said Technology Trainer Lee Ann DePew. "Materials are sent to and from our library with ease because technology has made this a much simpler process. We still assist our patrons with books and traditional library materials, but we are also able to help them learn and use technology, and this is especially evident in our makerspace, The Cortex."

The Cortex is an example of one of the many, many ways the library has continued to evolve over the years. But the library's backbone, books, hasn't diminished in importance.

Before she became a Library Board Member, Brandi Hicks visited the library with her children.

"It all started with Book Buddies," she said. "I remember Hayden sitting on my lap and we would read different stories, sing songs, play with different toys, and get tips on aiding in our children's development. It was so nice to connect with other parents.
When we had a home based therapy program for our son I often checked out different puzzles, puppets, books, and toys to use in his program. The library was such a nice resource."

The resources offered by the library only continue to expand.

"I love how the library has evolved to continue to fit the needs of the community and exceed any expectations we have," said Hicks. "I have friends from all over and I often talk about all the different things our library has to offer. They are shocked by the programs and items you can check out."

"I look forward to seeing what the Kendallville Library will continue to offer in the future. I also feel very blessed to be a small part of this amazing organization that serves the community is such a large way."

There is really no limit to where the library may go from here in its next ten, twenty or thirty years. With a vibrant, creative staff that's committed to serving its community, anything is possible.


The Cookies That Built a Library

Usually it's concrete, wood and steel that create a building. But in the case of the Kendallville Public Library, cookies were the driving force.

"During the building of the library there was a construction meeting every two weeks and I took homemade cookies to almost every meeting" said Jenny Draper, who was the Library Director at the time of the building project. "It was a win-win for me. I got to try new recipes, sample a few of the cookies and the rest went to the meeting. Surprisingly there were never any left for me to bring home."

"If you remember, the library had purchased a house next to the building site that was used as the construction office during the project. I begin to notice that a lot of the workers were finding their way to the office just about the time the meeting was over. I soon realized why that had become "break time"! They were just waiting for the meeting to end and finish the cookies that were still on the plate."

In honor of the cookies that built the library, the staff created a cookie cookbook that was given out to guests at the Open House. Ten years later, a few of those copies are still found in kitchen cupboards. In honor of the library's 10th anniversary, the winners of the Rambling Rocks 10th Anniversary Hunt will receive a cookie cookbook in addition to their prize pack.

More information on Rambling Rocks and this special event taking place June 2-9 can be found here.