Bremen Public Library rich history displayed
The Town of Bremen has a rich history, remembered and acknowledged by locals that meet regularly to discuss such things. Attendees to the area historians’ meeting July 27 learned that the library has a past that is just as interesting as the town’s itself.
The Bremen Public Library Children’s Librarian Sandy Krost and BPL Library Director Marsha Patterson brought some of the past into the present, much of which they recalled from their tenure as employees there. Krost has been with the library for 25 years and Patterson for 34.
Krost explained that the first library was founded at Harvard in 1638 but it took Bremen until 1932 to have a collection big enough to deem worthy of registering borrowers to return them. At first the town assumed the responsibility of the collection. She said that Melvil Dewey, the man responsible for the Dewey Decimal system of library categorization, (and many other reputable things) that is still used today, became the youngest American Library Association member in 1876 and was elected president in 1891 (at the age of 40).
Andrew Carnegie was said to have begun the idea of buildings made especially to house books to be borrowed in the 1920s so that libraries could be available to everyone, not only academics. He personally donated $50 million to go toward the creation of 250,000 library buildings, 164 of them in Indiana.
Though Bourbon’s was the first area “Carnegie library” Bremen did its best to create one of its own with a collect of 100,000 books, the management and sweat from members of 23 Bremen organizations, a $900 donation from the Christian Scientist Church, and a $15,000 donation from Mrs. W.E. Walter, the W.E. Walter library was erected in Bremen in 1924. Vice President of Historic Bremen Inc., Patricia Rowe was one of many featured in a slideshow offered by Krost — in a photo of Rowe at her retirement party after 22 years of serving on the library’s board. She smiled when explaining to those present, “Originally people (from Bremen) went to Bourbon, and after seeing their library, decided to go two feet wider and two feet longer than theirs.”
The Carnegie libraries were known for featuring a large, glass-covered hole in the floor that could look down into a children’s section, and while Bremen’s library did have one, space restrictions and concerns about rising heat and noise coming through to the adults’ section resulted in its being taken out in 1976. Some at the history meeting remembered the dumbwaiter that was used to take things from one of the four levels to another. Now there is an elevator to make trips less taxing.
By the fall of 1967, organizers found themselves planning an addition which was completed in 1972, making more room, and extending to the north of the original structure. In 1992 more space was added, the building literally doubling in size toward the east. It was also made handicapped accessible to conform to basic regulations.
As the building has grown, so have the numbers for patrons and books. In 1957 it was recorded that there were 4,254 books and 792 library members. In 2010 those numbers rose to 51,394 books and 5,642 patrons, those numbers not including the 6,908 videos, CDs, magazines and newspapers available.
The present librarians noted that the library board is made up of members appointed by the following entities: Three from the school board; one from the county council; one from the county commission; one from the advisory board of township trustees, and one from the Bremen Town Council. Krost and Patterson displayed and explained several devices used in the circulation process, stampers, boards, cards and flip books to keep track of due dates.
“Libraries are continually changing,” said Krost, to which Patterson added may actually have a detrimental affect on library revenue. “We scan the bar code now when they check books out,” she said. “It’s hard on patrons not to have a due date in the book but it’s printed on the receipt and if patrons give their email address, we will send them email reminders. … Which has considerably affected our collecting fines.”
Presently, the library holds 44 computers, 18 of them desktops and 15 laptops for use by patrons. Additionally, online, patrons can renew books (if they aren’t already past due), or view their entire rental record as well as access the Internet. The Bremen library also has a collection of Bremen Enquirers from as far back as 1888 (though not indexed) and a webpage that patrons can access that lists area burial plots through 2007. There are scrapbooks that patrons can look through that have newspaper clippings through the years that feature the library and Dr. Bowen.
The library also offers reading programs and activities in the spring and fall for all ages. And while most students can use the school’s library facilities, Krost said, “the schools have been very vocal about promoting public library use during the summer when school is not in session.”
“The parents have been very appreciative to have that resource,” she added. The librarians said they estimated 60 percent of the “reader population” of the Bremen library were of Hispanic origin. Krost explained, “We have picture books in Spanish and we stress to the families that ‘it doesn’t matter what language you speak, read to your children.’”
Though the local library is open to German Township residents, and there is no county library, Patterson said that BPL has a “reciprocal borrowing system,” though the libraries are not collectively run. Bremen’s library in fact, is 97-percent funded from local property taxes but is not funded by the town, county or state government.
“We have people who really love the library, who tell us they moved here fort the library or that commented on our wonderful staff members.” Krost said that she had been at seminars where people, after finding out she was from the Bremen Public Library, told her that they had patrons that had moved to their area from Bremen and had complained because “we don’t do what you do.”
“There was an article in the ‘50s that said people were going to abandon books,” said Krost. “There will always be books,” Patterson added. “