Connie Gerth was 6 when her father took her to get a library card.

Now in her 70s, the Seymour resident is still a library patron. She checks out books, audiobooks and DVDs and reads newspapers.

She also has taken classes in cooking, genealogy, photography and computers; and her grandson once used a private room for a tutoring service.

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Before visiting the library, she can use her home computer to see what’s new and to reserve materials.

Gerth said the variety of services makes the Seymour library a valuable place for area residents.

“I just think it’s wonderful,” she said while walking around the library Monday, which happened to be the 110th anniversary of the facility at 303 W. Second St.

The Seymour library collection dates to 1857, when a library room was completed at a different location and offered books to the public.

On Jan. 5, 1905, Seymour’s Carnegie library opened at its current location on West Second Street.

This week, in honor of the anniversary, the public can visit the library and view a display and scrapbooks of library history near the Information Services Desk.

“I think they keep changing and updating,” Gerth said. “Seymour is very fortunate to have the Carnegie library and then the Swope art gallery (inside the library). Many years ago, I belonged to an organization, and we met in there (art gallery). We should be very proud. There’s just a lot of services.”

In 1905, there were 2,066 books, 988 registered users, and circulation totaled 17,031.

In 2013, the library had 109,380 items, 19,644 registered borrowers and recorded a total of 340,588 borrowed items from the Seymour, Crothersville and Medora branches and the Discovery Bus mobile library.

Changing needs

Julia Aker, library director, and Becky Brewer, head of information services, have worked at the library for 27 and 13 years, respectively. During their tenure, much has changed, especially technology.

Many materials, such as encyclopedias, magazines and databases, are accessible online.

Some people don’t even step foot in the library because they go online and reserve books, music and movies and then pick them up at the drive-thru window, Aker said.

Also, people used to take computer classes at the library. Now that they know how to use them, they ask for help with specific programs on their computer and other electronic devices.

“Before, they just came to get books and maybe ask some reference questions,” Aker said. “But they are getting more and more complex as society gets more complex. You never know from one day to the next what somebody is going to come in and ask for help with.”

Bringing people together

There also are people — including social groups, business people, military recruiters and families on court-ordered supervised visitation — who use the library as a public meeting place.

Brewer said there are times when the library runs out of meeting space.

“We had so many people here in the afternoon (after Christmas) that I could not put somebody at a table to do a meeting type thing. They were all taken up,” she said. “But that’s a good thing. We love to have people here.”

Aker agreed, noting taxpayers pay for libraries.

“Indiana’s way of funding libraries is based on taxes, and our community has grown, and that’s helped us grow,” she said. “Some states, like Ohio, the money comes from the state, and they’ve cut that money off at times. We don’t have that problem because we are a community-based library.”

That’s why it’s important for the library to be fiscally responsible, Aker said.

“We know that it’s taxpayers’ money,” she said. “We don’t blow the money on things. There have been a few things we’ve tried that didn’t work, but we don’t keep doing it.”

More than books

The library also has offered programs for a variety of ages for many years. Now, with the introduction of “makerspace,” people can participate in do-it-yourself projects at the library.

“There’s a huge trend for libraries to start providing a lot more stuff for people to be able to use without paying high costs for them,” Brewer said.

Donna Jordan and Basil Miller were among the library’s visitors on the anniversary. Like Gerth, Jordan is a longtime library patron.

“I grew up in Seymour, and my dad brought me here,” Jordan said. “He loved to read, and this has just been a part of my life, and I think it has for a lot of people in the community.”

Jordan said she often uses the study room and computer lab and checks out books and movies.

“This is the only place in town where you can go and have free access to education as far as if you’re out of school,” she said.

She said it’s also a good place for someone to meet up with their friends.

“With this weather, where do kids go?” Jordan said. “This is a place they can go, and it’s warm. It’s a good environment, and they are not going to get in trouble.”

Miller grew up in Columbus but recently moved to Seymour. At the Seymour library, he said, the staff knows him by name and knows what he needs.

“In the time that I’ve been using it and the time I’ve lived in Seymour, I’ve noticed (the library is) working very hard to be progressive and user-friendly,” he said.

Miller uses the library to check his email and play games on his laptop, and it’s a quiet place for his stepdaughter to do her homework. They also have joined reading groups and book clubs.

“My schedule at work changed, so I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the writing group that they started late last year,” he said.

Check it out

With all the library has to offer, Aker encouraged people to check it out. It’s always changing, and more is being offered, she said.

“People just need to come in and look because I know tons of people drive by here and have not been in here lately,” she said. “Come and see what your library is like. It’s your library. Your tax money pays for it. If we don’t have something you like, tell us because we go on recommendations a lot or we see what other libraries are doing.”

If you go

The Seymour Library is celebrating 110 years of existence at 303 W. Second St.

It opened on Jan. 5, 1905, as a Carnegie library.

Through Saturday, visitors can check out a display and scrapbooks of library history near the Information Services Desk.

Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. today, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

At a glance

Key events in the history of the Seymour Library

1857: A library room is completed in Seymour and ready for reception of new books.

1901: Seymour Mayor James Shields writes to Andrew Carnegie, a Pittsburgh steel magnate and philanthropist, to obtain $10,000 for a city library.

1903: Carnegie says he would provide the funds if the city agreed to maintain the library at a cost of not less than $1,000 a year.

1904: The Seymour City Council awards a $200 contract for design of the new library building to Harris and Shopbell of Evansville and a $7,350 construction contract to Travis Carter Co. of Seymour.

1905: The completed Carnegie library building at Second and Walnut streets opens with 2,066 books and 988 registered users. Library books also could be borrowed from city and township schoolrooms and the hospital in Seymour.

1928: In April, librarians move 12,000 books to temporary quarters in the Burkart Building on East Second Street for about six months as work begins on expansion of the library. In November, the public is introduced to the Swope Memorial Gallery and the new adult stacks and Children’s Room.

1940: A branch library is opened at Crothersville.

1964: Bookmobile service is initiated.

1977: Preparation begins to remove houses west of the library to make room for parking.

1981: Library Links classes begin, offering instruction in arts, crafts and other areas. In August, Friends of the Seymour-Jackson County Public Library is formed.

1986: Computers begin to be available to provide reference information on disk.

1987: Seymour Public Library and the Jackson County Contractual Library merge to form Jackson County Public Library.

1992: In January, Crothersville Library is moved to a new building and a branch opens in Medora. In September, the Carnegie building, expanded from 10,000 to 25,000 square feet, is rededicated.

1993: Seymour Library is named Indiana Library of the Year by the Indiana Library Federation.

1995: The library goes online with a website.

1996: Computer-automated library system is introduced.

2005: A 10,000-square-foot addition is completed, including expansion of computer lab, addition of a computer classroom and doubling the size of the Children’s Room.

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.