Roanoke Public Library going strong in centennial year

Celia Bandelier, library director at Roanoke Public Library, says the library has been an asset to the community for 100 years as it marks its centennial birthday on Feb. 19..
Celia Bandelier, library director at Roanoke Public Library, says the library has been an asset to the community for 100 years as it marks its centennial birthday on Feb. 19.. Photo by Andre B. Laird.

February 19 will mark 100 years of operation and service by the Roanoke Public Library, which since its arrival, has been an integral thread in the fabric of the community.

According to library archives, a group of local women was the driving force behind talks for a library in 1909. On Feb. 5, 1909, the women met at an area United Brethren Church to discuss the specifics. Florence De Long was elected temporary chair of the committee and the Library Club was organized to sponsor a library in town.

After election of officers on Feb. 19, a membership drive was started with the intent to raise funds, with members paying dues.

Local businesses were also solicited and the money raised along with the money from dues collected was used to start the library.

Also, in anticipation of the new library opening, the first "Gift Day," a common way to acquire books, was held on March 12, 1910. A total of 42 books were received during that drive.

Shortly afterwards, a small room was rented in the upstairs of the E. E. Richards building and the Roanoke Library officially opened its doors. New books were added each year via fundraisers, including dinners, suppers, lecture courses and Chautauqua. The largest single book donor was Dr. Chaffe, of Huntington, who donated over 100 books (mostly reference). He was a former resident of Roanoke.

The state library visited the branch and showed the staff how to catalog and arrange the books in alphabetical order.

Funds appropriated for books in 1910 totaled $126 and the amount steadily fell each year to $9.10 in 1919.
The discussion to turn the library over to the town was first brought up in May 1920, with the first board meeting held on Nov. 1 of that year.

The Roanoke Public Library's first library board was formed as well as the first librarian hired in 1920. Faye Davidson served as librarian until her retirement on Aug. 4, 1924.

Davidson's successor was Mino De Long, who served until her death on Oct. 12, 1926. Her sister, Elizabeth De Long was appointed to fill the position.

The library's first certified librarian was Mildred Winchester and shortly afterward it was decided that only a certified librarian could be hired.

Throughout its lifetime, the library had been housed in numerous buildings around town. Previous locations include the Richards, Regedanz, Wasmuth and Grim I.O.O.F. buildings.

In 1975, bonds were issued by the town board to purchase a building that would provide updated facilities for the fire department, Town Marshal, town hall, clerk treasurer and library.

The library made its big move in the winter of 1978-1979 and with the help of numerous volunteers, 8,000 volumes were moved by April 1979.

That same year Roanoke Public Library was awarded "Library of the Year" by the Indiana State Library.
The library joined the digital revolution in the late 1980s, with the purchase of a computer, partially funded by the Friends of the Library group.

Grants were secured to purchase three more computers, a fax machine as well as to convert local newspapers to CDs for preservation.

Current Library Director Celia Bandelier says the library has experienced a lot more changes since her arrival in January 2006.

"I had previously served on the library board before assuming this post," Bandelier states. "Since I've been here, we've got through two automation systems, first TLC and our newest one Evergreen."

Automation systems connect libraries with each other, allowing members to borrow copies of books not housed in their local libraries.

"With the Evergreen system, we have access to a lot more libraries and over 36 million books now," Bandelier says. "This gives our members a wider variety to choose from."

She adds that the TLC system did not allow the Roanoke branch to share its materials with other libraries, even though it could borrow from other libraries.

"That system was implemented on Jan. 28 this year," Bandelier notes. "The system requires us to issue new cards, which we are currently in the process of doing."
The transformation into the digital age has included wireless Internet access for visitors, she adds.

With its storied history, Roanoke Public Library continues to meet the needs of its members and serves as one of the pillars of the community.

Upcoming events to mark the celebration, include a free presentation on Feb. 27, by Michael S. Hart, inventor of eBooks and founder of Project Gutenberg.

Also, on April 4, a benefit auction will be held in the library's honor.

For more information on the library and its history, contact Bandelier at 672-2989 or visit

The library is located at 126 N. Main St., Roanoke.