Jan. 7—RUSSIAVILLE — When the town of Russiaville and Kokomo-Howard County Public Library officials announced in 1996 they were building an updated branch in the Western Heights subdivision, the news was met with enthusiasm.
For more than 30 years, Russiaville's KHCPL branch had been housed in the town's old train depot that was once owned by the Norfolk and Western Railroad.
But the train depot — listed at around 816 square feet — was simply running out of room to properly function, according to Tribune archives and as shown by the results of a library survey conducted in September 1995.
Per an Oct. 22, 1996, Tribune article, the KHCPL board's decision on an updated structure was split 3-3, forcing then-president Steve Maus to vacate the chair and break the deadlock.
Shortly after that is when a Carmel developer named A.D. Bean donated one of three lots in the Western Heights subdivision, with the other two purchased by the Russiaville Town Council, with funds raised through the town's Capital Improvement Fund.
Then, in January 1998, Russiaville officially opened its new 3,600-square-foot library building, with excited patrons on hand to be the first ones inside.
And from 3-4:30 p.m. Sunday, officials are holding a special celebration inside the library's meeting room to commemorate the building's 25 years of service in Russiaville, as well as to look ahead at what's still to come.
Along with live music and dessert, library officials note there will be a chance to participate in a community photo that will celebrate the milestone event.
After all, as library officials pointed out, it was the people of southwestern Howard County who embraced and spearheaded the creation of a new building all those years ago, and it is many of those same people who are still instrumental in the building's continued success.
"It's their branch," said Tammy Keith, head of outreach and collections at KHCPL. "They (the residents of Russiaville) wanted that library, and they still want that library."
Lori Seaman, Russiaville's branch assistant, agreed with Keith, adding that the strength of the library lies in the relationships built there.
"Part of what I like about Russiaville's library is that we're smaller," she said, "so we might see the same people every day. They might come in and use the computer, and then we might see them the next day. So constantly being able to build those relationships is part of the fabric (in Russiaville)."
And because of the library's location, Seaman added that the branch also gets patrons from across county lines.
"I think it's a hidden gem in some cases," she said. "... We're not just seeing Howard County folks who come in and attend our programming. We're seeing people from Clinton County and Tipton County who are also coming. So, we're growing now and will continue to grow as a system to meet the needs of those we serve."
Part of meeting those needs is the consistent evolution of programming the Russiaville branch has offered over the years, from the library's one-of-a-kind Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom to its unique events like summer outdoor movie nights and its celebration of the Winter Solstice.
"The Russiaville library, if you'd have told me 25 years ago that it would be as busy and bustling today ..." Lori Hugley, head of branches at KHCPL said as her voice trailed off. "I mean, it warranted a library, but it was quiet. You could have one person there all day.
"But now it's bustling," she added. "There are days they have 50 kids at a program. So, I'm amazed at how far it's come in 25 years, and I'd love to see all that continue."
Russiaville resident Peggy Hollingsworth has been a loyal patron of the Russiaville branch for several years now.
A former librarian herself, Hollingsworth said she enjoys spending time at the library and seeing all the families utilizing its space and participating in its programming.
"If I'm in town, I'm in there every day it's open," she said laughing. "I don't know what it'll be in the future, but I hope with the programming, especially with the kids, it'll just keep people coming back for more."