Library Building

The new library was dedicated on April 20, 1997. It is located on an eight-acre site which has been landscaped with attractive gardens and footpaths.

  • Total cost of building: $2,300,000 @ $68.00/sq.ft.
  • Construction costs: $1,988,000 @ $59.00/sq.ft.
  • Furniture and equipment: $183,637
  • Site cost: $50,000
  • Other costs: $123,363
  • The bond was paid in full on December 31, 2006.

We moved from the Carnegie library building located at 143 E. Walnut St. in downtown North Vernon to our present location at the north end of town. The Carnegie building, the first library, was dedicated in April of 1920 and continually used as the Jennings County Public Library until March of 1997 when the library moved to the new building. The Carnegie building was transferred to the county for office space in 1998.
 
In January 2009 the library took over the running of the learning center from College Corporative Southeast Indiana.
 
In August 2010 the county council rejected a $1.1 million bond option to renovate the library. In August 2011 the library undertook a scaled back renovation project. The project consisted of expanding the children’s area, the genealogy/local history area, redesigning a main area, creating a teen area and a fourth smaller conference room. The teen area and the conference room were created in a space that was used as storage. The total cost of the renovation was $634,000. Harmon Construction, Inc. was the general contractor and Demco Library Interiors and Kim Bolan Cullin created the layout of the building.

 

Library Service

Jennings County holds the distinction of being the first county in the United States to legislate for free county library service. In 1813, Colonel John Vawter, who plotted the town of Vernon, provided that ten percent of the sales from all town lots be set aside for the maintenance of a free public library for the County of Jennings.

The first record found of library service in Jennings County is in the Biennial Report of the State of Indiana, 1908-1910, which states that Jennings County had eight traveling libraries.

The first meeting of a legally authorized library board was August 17, 1917. In less than three years they were able to open the doors of the library to the public. The Carnegie Foundation gave the county $20,000 for the building and equipment.

Elizabeth Ronan, Indiana Library Commission was the first director of the Jennings County Public Library. She was placed in this position temporarily while the library was being built and was still there when it was dedicated on April 10, 1920. She was recalled by the Indiana Library Commission and was replaced by Mary O’Brien. Ms. O’Brien was replaced by Mrs. Isaac Caldwell who had previously worked at the Jeffersonville Township Public Library. All of this took place in 1920. The first Board of Trustees were Alice Rohrer, J.N. Culp, Everett Bemish, Eula Hutchings, Fay Hargshelmer, and Frank Layman.

Through the years reading stations were established out in the community, and the county became known as “The Reading County” of Indiana.

Changes came in the usage of space in the library. In 1966 the basement, which was originally a meeting room, became a children’s room. In one corner of this room genealogy and local history collections were established into a Heritage Room, a section known as “Around the Corner.”

A bookmobile service, called Jennie, was implemented in 1970 but discontinued in the early 1980′s.

An addition to the library was completed in 1975 which gave the library a street level entrance, as well as the original Carnegie entrance. The children’s collection was moved back upstairs, and all the adult collections were located in the lower level.

An effort was made to build a new building in 1981-1982, but the bond petition failed. A new building program was started in 1995. The bond issue passed without a single remonstrance signature.

The new library with 33,972 sq.ft. was completed in February 1997 and officially open on March 3, 1997. It was dedicated on April 20, 1997.

 

Library Directors

The Jennings County Public Library has had nine directors and nine interim or acting directors in its history, not including Elizabeth Ronan. They are as follows:

Mary O’Brien Acting 1920
Mrs. Isaac Caldwell Director 1920-1926
Harriet Hinchman Acting Director 1926-1927
Dorothy Wightman Acting Director 1927-1928
Pearl McConnell Director 1928-1936
Hazel Dawson Director 1936-1938
Caroline Bemish Director 1938-1944
Ethel More Acting Director 1943-1963
Marjorie Woods Acting Director 1963-1964
Frances Fawcett Director 1964-1978
Marjorie Woods Acting Director 1978-1978
Gail Patterson Director 1978-1979
Marjorie Woods Acting Director 1979-1980
Lynn Marmaduke Director 1980-1985
Jackie Nentrup Acting Director 1985-1986
Larry Cunningham Director 1986-2006
Edwin Kellar Acting Director 2006-2008
Mary Hougland Director 2008-Present