Allen County Public Library 2017-04-07T09:57:36+00:00

Allen County Public Library

The Allen County Public Library has been an important part of the social and cultural aspect of life for residents in Fort Wayne, Indiana and surrounding communities since 1895. The concept of a public library had its beginnings in 1850, when Allen County provided for a library in its budget. Although state law had authorized a tax levy for a public library in 1881, the Fort Wayne City Council refused to establish one until 1893, when the Woman’s Club League of Fort Wayne persuaded City Council to change its mind. The Fort Wayne Public Library opened in January 1895, in a room in the City Hall building on East Berry Street. The Fort Wayne Public Library served residences with 3606 volumes.[1]

In 1904, with a grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation, the first permanent public library building was constructed at Webster and Wayne Streets. During construction of the Carnegie library, the collection was moved into the Elektron Building across the street from City Hall. The Carnegie building remained the library’s home until 1968, when it was demolished. The present building was constructed on the same site and the northwest wing was added in 1981. In 2004, the library embarked on a renovation and expansion of its main branch in downtown Fort Wayne. The project was so extensive, the library moved out of the building and relocated to the old Lincoln Museum building on Wayne Street. The library expansion project was completed in 2007

The Allen County Public Library holds the largest genealogical collection in the United States and was the first public library to obtain all the available Federal census records. The origins of this extraordinary genealogical collection can be traced to the Great Depression, when library director Rex Potter and his young friend and disciple, Fred Reynolds, went on the road searching for inexpensive books to fill the library’s shelves. Without much money to buy expensive new books, they found many local and family histories, directories, and other records.

When Fred Reynolds became the director of the library in 1960, he focused the collection specifically on genealogy, with a special room set aside in the old Carnegie building. Reynolds made arrangements with the famous Newberry Library in Chicago (then the largest genealogical collection in the country) to preserve Newberry’s precious and rapidly deteriorating books and records through a massive photocopying effort at the Allen County Library. Originals and a cop were sent back to Newberry, but a copy also stayed in Fort Wayne. As many as 37,000 volumes of very rare reference works were acquired by the library in this way, and these became the foundation of the great genealogical collection.[2]

Today, the Genealogy Center has an extensive collection of 350,000 printed volumes and more than 513,000 items of microfilm and microfiche. The collection is continually growing by active library purchases and through donations from generous genealogists and historians.[3]

[1] Allen County Public Library, About, http://www.acpl.lib.in.us/home/about

[2] The Bicentennial Heritage Trail Committee, On the Heritage Trail: A Walking Guidebook to the Fort Wayne Heritage Trail (Fort Wayne: ARCH, Inc., 1994): 176-178.

[3] The Genealogy Center, “The Genealogy Center: A Tradition of Excellence,” http://www.genealogycenter.org/docs/default-source/resources/aboutusbrochure.pdf?sfvrsn=2.

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