The first library in Tipton County was in a corner of the County Superintendentís office in the log court house. Sometime after this, the state made provisions for a library in every county seat, with each county having the same selection of books, regardless of population. J. S. Ressler was the first librarian of this library, which began with 45 books. Funding for the library came from a 10% portion of the proceeds of the sale of county lots.
Apparently, this library closed because there is no mention of it in later publications. In March, 1901, Mrs. Ida Matthews led a discussion at the Literary and Suffrage Club in Tipton on the need for a library. Plans were made to set up a public library. At state law went into effect the following year to organize libraries and allow citizens to tax themselves for this purpose. Tipton was the first Indiana city to take advantage of this law.
Mrs. Matthews was appointed librarian in December of 1901. She held a book shower that same month at which 237 books were donated along with $472 to purchase additional books. With books costing between $.30 and $6.00, the donations brought the total number of books to 777. They were stored in a glass case in the county superintendentís office on the third floor of the courthouse. The library officially opened March 11, 1902 and was open two days a week.
At about this same time, Andrew Carnegie donated $10,000 to build a library in Tipton, with the city pledging $1,000 annually to maintain it. Choosing a site for the building proved to be controversial but it was decided to build where the Gilbert house stood so the library would be in a "beauty spot." The house was sold and moved with the stipulation that no trees would be harmed. Each tree in the park surrounding the library was considered a memorial and a chart identifying each one was hung in the library. The present library was built on the same site.
Mrs. Matthews ceremoniously laid the first brick of the new library and it first opened on March 22, 1903. It had two fireplaces, stained glass windows and a stage for plays and programs. Furniture was still needed, so Mrs. Matthews again wrote to Andrew Carnegie. His reply was curt and negative. Finally, Mrs. Matthews sent a silver library spoon as a gift to Carnegieís daughter, and received a check for $3,000 for furnishings. The Tipton library was one of the least expensive that Carnegie underwrote.
Mrs. Matthews continued as librarian for 41 years until ill health forced her to retire in 1942. In that same year, the county commissioners voted to make the library county wide. Thereafter, branches were opened at Windfall, Goldsmith, Sharpsville and Kempton. For several years a bookmobile delivered books to county schools until each developed its own library.
The Bear One bit of lore associated with the library is the stuffed bear cub in the Childrenís Room. Dr. Robert Collins went hunting with a group of men in the 1960's and one of the party shot a black bear. They later discovered the bearís cubs and Dr. Collins brought one of them back to Tipton and had it stuffed. In 1967 the bear was loaned to the Childrenís Room where it became a mascot. Because of all the loving attention it received, the tail fell off and the chest was bald. Still it was a favorite with the children and remained a fixture in the department for twenty years. It has since been given to the Tipton Historical Society for preservation as part of Tiptonís history.
The Carnegie building served the library until 1981. During its latter years the building suffered structural damage and, unfortunately, had to be razed. The present library was completed and opened on March 14, 1981. The building incorporated parts of the older building, including woodwork and columns from the Childrenís Room, stained glass windows framed and hung as artwork, and the beveled glass window from the adult entrance. Tables from the old library are still in use in the library.