Origins of the HPL
In many towns, villages, and cities throughout our country, it was a group of women, committed to literacy, who became the gatekeepers for the establishment of a public library. In that way, Homewood is no different.
It was just such a group of Homewood women who began meeting to exchange and discuss books in 1920. They first met in Fred Gold’s real estate office on Ridge Road – currently the location of the Homewood Science Center -- with shelves built by their own husbands and donated books to share with each other. They became knows at the Homewood Women’s Club.
By 1924, the Homewood Women’s Club looked beyond their group and established a volunteer-run library to serve the approximately 1,500 Homewood residents. They purchased the Homewood Railroad Station that year and relocated it to Triangle Park, at 17900 Dixie Highway, bounded by Dixie Highway and Harwood Avenue. A new foundation was built there and the 54-year old building was retro-fitted to serve as the new library for the next 37 years.
It didn’t take long for the Women’s Club to realize that the growing demand for services for the community required a professional staff. By April 1927, a tax referendum for a Village Library was on the ballot. It passed, generating just under $10,000 per year. A board of trustees was elected and staff was hired. Volunteers from the Women’s Club remained very much invested in the library, donating time for repairing books and decorating the library.
By 1958, the building had been remodeled twice. Enter Mable Murphy who assumed the position of library administrator. She oversaw a December 1960 referendum of $175,000 for a new building (by a vote of 2,177 to 715) and she was there to open the doors in 1962. She retired in 1976.
Larry Gelfius was the next Homewood Library administrator. He coordinated the establishment of the Homewood Public Library District in March 1986. By September 1986, the Village had deeded the land to the Library District. In 1989, it was Gelfius’ turn to oversee construction of a new library building. The current location of 17917 Dixie Highway opened on Valentine’s Day 1990 across the street from the previous building.
Gelfuis’s “take 10” campaign received national attention for its ingenuity. In order to reduce moving costs, each Homewood card holder was requested to check out 10 books from the old location and return them when the new building opened up. The books came flooding back and amazingly, only 10 items were never returned.
Through two more administrators (Cindy Rauch from 1995-2012 and Amy Crump since 2013), Homewood Public Library has remained a prominent institution in the community, staying true to the ideas that established it – passion for reading and access to a vast array of materials to appeal to all ages and interests.