Sharing our story: TCPL’s history

The library’s collection of books actually began in 1882 through the interest of James J. Perrin, a Lafayette school trustee. During his term of office, he turned over to the school trustees the sum of $10,000 for the purchase of books for a public library which was known as the Lafayette Public Library.

“Mr. Perrin could have placed this interest money in his pocket if he had desired to do so, for the courts had decided that there was no legal obligation resting on him to pay it over. He preferred to place it where it would do the most good; and that was in the advancement of the education of the children of Lafayette. In the years to come, when this library shall have grown into greater proportions, the name of James J. Perrin will be mentioned in words of loudest praise.”
Sunday Leader of Lafayette October 16, 1881

“The Library will open to the public on Wednesday, November 1. The extract from the rules is stated for the information of those who wish to borrow books:
Citizens of Lafayette are entitled to use the books of the library upon registering their name and complying with either of the following conditions:
First, giving satisfactory security in the form prescribed by the Board; or
Second, depositing three dollars. For such a deposit, a receipt will be given.”
Lafayette Daily Courier October 16, 1882

The collection initially shared space with the public school offices and was located in the “Old White House” at the corner of North Sixth and Columbia Streets. This building was erected in the early 1840’s as the home of Albert S. White, former U.S. Senator from Indiana. Capacity 7,000 volumes.

Old White House Old White House
Old White House

From 1888 to 1889 the library is temporarily located in the old post office on the southwest corner of Fourth and Ferry streets while a new school/library is being built. The number of volumes is up to 9,418.

In February of 1890 the public library was moved into the new school building at Sixth and Columbia to encourage use by the students. Capacity 22,000 volumes.

The library remained in the high school building until 1901. The need for more space coincided with the donation of an old house from Mrs. W.F. Reynolds. The Reynolds home was situated on a large piece of ground embracing an entire city block at Fifth and South Streets.

Former Reynolds Home Former Reynolds Home
Former Reynolds home circa 1909.

Dr. Albert A. Wells , a local medicine manufacturer and owner of the Wells Yeager Best drugstore, donated a building at Seventh and North Streets for the use of the public library. Dr. Wells stipulated the library be called the Albert A. Wells Memorial Library and that a place for children be included. The interior of the library was planned by Mrs. Wells at the request of Mr. Walter Scholer Sr., architect for the building. Mrs. Wells also selected the inscription for the front of the building, which read: “THIS LIBRARY IS DEDICATED TO ALL LOVERS OF BOOKS.” The Wells Library was dedicated on August 27, 1927. Initially it opened with 45,000 volumes, by 1988 it was bursting at the seams with over 130,000 volumes.

Today the old Wells Library continues to serve the community as the home of Tippecanoe Arts Federation

Wells Memorial Library Wells Reading Room 1930's
Old Wells Old Wells at night

In 1963, control of the library was turned over by the Lafayette School Corporation to an independent library board composed of seven members organized under provisions of the Public Library Law of 1947. A Tippecanoe County Contractual Library was established in 1971 to serve county residents through a contract with Albert A. Wells Memorial Public Library. In 1983, these two merged to form a single library district, known as the Tippecanoe County Public Library. The Library District covers all areas of Tippecanoe County except for the Town of Otterbein (served by the Otterbein Public Library) and the majority of West Lafayette (served by the West Lafayette Public Library.)

Due to the lack of space in the Wells Library (10,263 sq ft), the Library Board decided to acquire a site and construct a new library. Through a bond issue in 1988, the present facility was constructed, and the library opened in October of 1989. The 48,000 sq ft library on South Street opened with over 140,000 volumes. By 1997 the number of volumes had expanded to over 350,000. Within the first year of operation usage increased 60%. By 2001 over 1,600 people passed through the doors every day.

1882 – First Lafayette Public Library Opens.
1927 – Dedication of Wells Library.
1968 – First Mobile Library
1989 – Dedication of 627 South Street library.
1990 – Swezey room of Indiana History dedicated.
1991 – Heartland Odyssey sculpture dedicated.
1991 – Outstanding Library Award by the Indiana Library Association.
1994 – TIPCAT computer system replaces card catalog.
1996 – Free Internet access first offered.
1997 – The library checks out over 1 million items (per year) for the first time.
2000 – ILF/SIRS Intellectual Freedom Award.
2000 – Ranked in the Top Ten of American Libraries by HAPLR Index.
2002 – First branch library opens on Creasy Lane.
2005 – Renovation of Downtown Library expands meeting rooms and adds computer lab
2006 – Free WiFi first offered.
2007 – Klondike Branch opens on Lindberg Road.
2008 – Downloadable ebooks and audiobooks first available.
2012 – Renovation of Downtown Library and Stein building adds The Portal.
2015 – Family Memory Center opens
2016 – Wyandotte Branch opens on East County Road 50 South
2020 – Wea Prairie Branch opens on South 18th Street

 Indiana Room
Youth Room Construction of 1989 Library

Extension Service began in 1968 with a federally funded demonstration grant that provided a bookmobile, library materials and staff that visited 36 stops throughout Tippecanoe and Montgomery Counties. In 2002 the new Mobile Library made its debut bringing over 4,000 materials and electronic access to sites around the county.

 1968 Rolling Library
1990-2002 Bookmobile

The 35,000 sq. ft. Campus Library opened January 14, 2002 at 3101 S. Creasy Lane on the Ivy Tech campus. Its construction was a unique joint effort between Ivy Tech State College and the Tippecanoe County Public Library. It served as the first branch of the Tippecanoe County Public Library and as the main library of Ivy Tech State College-Lafayette for 14 years. The partnership ended in 2016 with Ivy Tech looking to expand their services on campus and TCPL moving toward a neighborhood branch model

Campus Library

The 13,500 sq. ft. Klondike Branch opened June 10, 2007 at the intersection of Klondike and Lindberg roads. It is TCPL’s first neighborhood branch, sitting in a rapidly expanding residential section of the county. The building features a drive-up book return, a fireplace and an imaginative children’s area.

Klondike Branch

The 14,000 sq ft. Wyandotte Branch opened July 27th, 2016 at the intersection of 5542 E and 50 S just East of Wyandotte Elementary School. Modeled very closely on the Klondike Branch, Wyandotte offers the same cozy atmosphere with popular materials and a public meeting room.

Wyandotte Branch

The 14,000 sq ft. Wea Prairie Branch opened July 19th, 2020 at the intersection of South 18th Street and 430 S just North of Wea Ridge Elementary School. The branch fulfilled the promise made by the library to residents on the South side of the County to bring a library there after the closing of the Campus Library in 2016.