A New Year at the
Brown County
Public Library

~story and photo by Bob Gustin

The new year brings a celebration of the old and a welcoming of the new to the Brown County Public Library.

The library will celebrate its 100th birthday this summer, and plans are under way to mark the anniversary in conjunction with the annual ice cream social in July.

But before that happens, new programs and equipment will be in place early in 2019.

One of those programs features “express library bags,” or “mystery bags,” as the staff refers to it.

The bags are closed and tagged, and each has a theme for the adventurous reader. Most bags have three items in them. It could be a book, an audio book, a DVD, a music CD or some combination of those. Staff members have chosen a theme and filled the bag, which can be checked out as one unit for a period of three weeks.

Tags on the bags identify a general topic, such as “Nineteenth Century Arctic Explorer,” the “Victorian Era,” “Sherlock Holmes,” “Books about Books” or “Fairy Tales.” The library staff encourages patrons not to peek inside, but to take a chance on the selections, and expand on a topic in which a patron has an interest, or explore something new. In a sense, it replaces recommendations librarians sometimes give people who are unsure about what they want to read.
Librarian Stori Snyder gave an example by opening one of her choices, “Women of the Civil War.” Contents include an audio book, “Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen” by Sarah Bird and the novel “Varina” by Charles Frazier, author of “Cold Mountain.”

“You can start by not knowing what you want to read, or by totally knowing,” Snyder said.

Though the program started with adult books, it is expanding to children’s selections as well, which are specified not only by subject matter or author, but also by reading level.

Other improvements planned for 2019 include 10 new computers for public use, replacing ones which are heavily used by patrons of all ages.

New lighting is planned inside the library, along with a rearrangement and remodeling of the adult section. The rearrangement will attempt to better accommodate the existing space. For example, Snyder said the adult area sees lots of single users, but many of the tables are built to seat four persons, resulting in an inefficient use of space. More single-top tables are planned.

The adult section, which includes the first-floor fireplace, has large windows opening onto a sweeping view of the ravine behind the library on one side, and the village of Nashville on another. But tall bookcases block much of that view. A consultant will help determine placement and size of bookcases to open the view and improve traffic flow.

“We want to entice people in their 20s and 30s and 40s to want to go and explore” that section of the library, Snyder said. But at the same time, she wants to keep current users of that section happy, so they will be surveyed on what they like and what they would like to see changed.

New lighting will improve nighttime use of the library, she said, and will be paid for not through tax funds, but with money earmarked for physical improvements to the building, willed to the library by patron Tesh Wickard in a perpetual endowment.

Similar improvements were made to the children’s area of the library a few years ago, and it sees heavy use on a daily basis.

The library’s five-year improvement plan includes a new roof, which may need to be moved up to 2019 because of recent problems, Snyder said. Some carpeting and furniture may also be added this year. As always, new books and other materials will be purchased at a level similar to past years, which totaled $85,000 in 2017.

The current library building was dedicated on January 21, 2001. But the public library in Brown County goes back much further than that.
On November 20, 1919, a group of citizens formed to begin
organizing a public library. By the next year, the library had branches in each township in the county, some located in private homes or school buildings.

In 1921, the main library moved to a former Knights of Pythias lodge banquet hall in Nashville and had over 3,000 volumes.

Other locations around the town housed the library including 246 East Main Street, before construction of the current building at 205 Locust Lane.

The library also has a branch in the Cordry-Sweetwater community.
For more information, visit <browncountylibrary.info>, call (812) 988-2850, or visit the library.