The Valparaiso Library Association was formed in the summer of 1838. This early subscription library was the forerunner of the Valparaiso Public Library. The Valparaiso Library Association was organized in accordance with an act of the Indiana legislature dated February 17, 1838. A public subscription was taken and $67.25 was collected. In those days 25 cents was a laborer’s daily wage. The early library contained mostly sets, and primarily covering the subjects of history, religion, geography, and travel. These books constituting the first library were kept at various homes of the trustees in turn. This haphazard library continued until 1894.
A group of citizens from Valparaiso formed a library committee consisting of 30 persons. Professor W. H. Bates was elected president, W. J. Upthegrove, secretary, and W. H. Vail, treasurer. The city was districted for canvassers and a body of men and women made the rounds soliciting funds for the library. The canvassers were met with rebuffs and discouragement from local bookstore owners.
In 1904 the Valparaiso School board, Valparaiso City Council, and the judge of the Porter County Circuit Court, acting under a new state law, took the necessary steps to have a free public library board appointed in Valparaiso. The first board meeting was September 20, 1904 with the following board members: Oliver P. Kinsey, President William E. Pinney, Vice-president Mrs. Clara Demotte, Secretary Mrs. William H. Gardner A. A. Hughart Mrs. Alla Bryant Mrs. N. L. Agnew Hubbard and Finette M. Hunt donated the first public library building to the city.
The old Hunt homestead stood at 74 N. Washington Street. By the terms of the bequest the property was to be used by the city for a public library. The free public library opened on October 26, 1905 with a collection of 575 volumes upon its shelves. The first year’s book circulation was 9,014. The first year’s income was $4,000. The library used two of the first floors rooms for the public and one room for staff and book preparation. The first librarian was Miss Bertha Joel who served until 1919. The Valparaiso Public Library became a township library under a state law of 1903.
February 9, 1911: Mr. Tilton, a representative of the Andrew Carnegie Corporation attended the library board meeting. Mr. Tilton presented a plan from the corporation to offer the city of Valparaiso $20,000 to build a new public library. The city had to purchase the site and have money to support the library. The community rallied and raised $8,500 to purchase two lots at Michigan and Jefferson Street.
On October 23, 1916 the library opened to the public. The library contained 7,800 volumes, 72 magazine titles, 727 bound magazines, and had 4,201 registered borrowers. The first year circulation was 22,010. Miss Joel retired in 1919 and Miss Zada Carr became librarian. Mr. Gordon Bebeau became librarian in 1955 upon the retirement of Zada Carr Williams and in 1961 Maurine Wittgren became acting librarian until 1963. The first weekly pre-school story hour session began on March 1, 1962. Mr. Wade Kanney of Laporte, Indiana became librarian in 1963.
County bookmobile service began through an LSCA state grant from the Indiana State Library. This project began on October 15, 1964 in Porter and Starke Counties. On May 1, 1965 a second rural bookmobile was put into service. Bookmobile circulation for 1965 totaled 97,213 from Porter County and 26,963 from Starke County. Maurine Wittgren was bookmobile librarian. The library became a member of the Indiana Library Film Circuit on December 5th. On January 1, 1967 the Porter County Contractual Library began. The county commissioners adopted a resolution creating this new county service. The new county board met with the city library board to conduct business.
On July 1, 1973 the city and county contractual libraries merged to form the Valparaiso-Porter County Public Library.
On November 15th the board awarded 20 contracts for construction. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on January 12, 1979 in Valparaiso and Portage. On April 18th the board opened bids for a new bookmobile. Contract was awarded to American Commercial Coach Company of Indianapolis. The contract for the bookmobile was $34,536 including a two-way radio communication system.
The new Valparaiso Library opened to the public on August 1st and dedication ceremonies were held on Sunday, September 28th. August 15, 1984 the board agreed to change the name of the library district. The new name became the Porter County Public Library System.
On November 15, 1993 Dynix began installing the library’s first ever totally automated circulation computer system.
On September 24, 1994 groundbreaking was held in Valparaiso for renovation and additions. City parking lots purchased for the Valparaiso Library addition. Hebron Library moves to temporary quarters. Valparaiso administration and bookmobile move to NBA bank building.
The Porter County Public Library System received the 1996 Library of the Year Award by the Indiana Library Federation at their conference in Indianapolis. On April 29th the Valparaiso Library moves into its new building and opens on May 8th. On May 15th the Valparaiso Library was the recipient of the 1996 Chamber of Commerce Community Improvement Award for its new building.