THE FORT WAYNE PUBLIC LIBRARY IN RETROSPECT AND IN PROSPECT
Fred J. Reynolds
The modern public library was scarcely known in the United States before 1850 and
did not begin to develop to any degree until after 1876 when the American Library Association
was founded. New Hampshire was the first state to experiment with public library legislation
when it enacted a law for the establishment of public libraries in 1849. By 1950 all states
had enacted legislation for the establishment of public libraries and each state had its own
state library. The Fort Wayne Public Library is the direct result of City Council legislation
enacted in 1893, but the planning for this institution occurred much earlier.
When the first constitution of Indiana was drafted in 1816 the importance of books for
the public was recognized, and it was provided that "The general assembly at the time they
lay off a new county shall cause at least ten per cent to be reserved out of the proceeds of
the sale of town lots in the seat of justice of such county for the use of a public library for
such county and at the same session they shall incorporate a library company under such
rules and regulations as will best secure its permanence and extend its benefits."
In 1824 Allen County was "laid off," and in consideration of Fort Wayne being chosen
as the county seat, the county received from the owners of the land, Mr. Barr and Mr.
McCorkle, five hundred dollars, the site of the present court house and fifteen lots. Ten
per cent of the money received from Barr and McCorkle and from the sale of the lots was
set aside for the library by the county agent. During the next eighteen years the sum
amounted to about seventeen hundred dollars. The records are not very clear as to just
when the library was established, but reference to the appointment of new trustees, the
Members of the Quest Club authorize the Allen County Public Library to digitize and publish past, present and future Quest Club papers for dissemination on the Allen County Public Library website (Board of Directors of Quest Club, Inc., Resolution of May 2010).