The Alexandria-Monroe Public Library has been serving Alexandria and Monroe Townships for over 120 years.
The Alexandria Library was founded in 1896 with 200 books donated from local citizens. It was located within the Alexandria Bank building on Harrison Street in the Harlan and Phillips block but quickly outgrew the space there. In 1898 it was moved to the basement of the newly build Central School on the corner of West and Washington streets where it resided for one year. From there it relocated to the I.O.O.F Hall above the post office on West Church Street until moving to the current address of 117 East Church.
In 1901 the Indiana Legislature recognized the library system and granted it funding due to its rapid growth and development. Alexandria then had to form the library’s first Board of Directors to find a suitable space for a new building. The board approached Mr. Anthony Bertsche about acquiring the vacant lot next to his home located at 119 East Church as a location for the library. Mr. Bertsche agreed to sell the vacant lot next to his home. Eventually, the city of Alexandria would purchase the home and lot after Mr. and Mrs. Bertsche passed away many years later.
In the spring of 1902, the library board wrote to philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in hopes he would donate funds to build a library. The correspondence that developed between the board and Mr. Carnegie’s secretary resulted in Mr. Carnegie donating $12,000.00 for a new building. The funds were released in increments of a few thousand dollars at a time. The new library was completed in 1903 and dedication ceremonies were held on December 3rd. The original correspondence letters remain preserved in the library today.
The library remained unchanged for several decades with only minor improvements made. In 1958 the building’s electrical system received an update with new wiring and in 1960 gas heat was installed. The local Jaycees painted the exterior bricks and completed several additional projects in 1964.
By 1988 the collection had exceeded the existing building space and expansion plans were proposed. The City of Alexandria offered to sell the vacant Bertsche lot to the library for the sum of $1.00. That fall the library received a federal grant for the expansion wing and it was completed in 1989. The new addition was in keeping with the existing historic design of a Carnegie library.
In 1991 the library purchased the Superintendent’s office building from the school system. It was a small building located next door to the library. It was removed to create the employee and patron parking area. The library was last updated in 2014 with key interior areas rearranged to create a smooth activity flow for patrons.
Below is a list of Head Librarians and their years of service.
1896: Edna Elrick
1896-1898: Effie Bertsche
1898-1899: Birdie Find
1899-1902: Daisy Lindley
1902-1905: Sarah Cunningham
1905-1907: Ortha Maud Peters
1907-1912: Miss Jayne
1912-1914: Miss Zada Carr
1914-1919: Miss Jennie Henshaw
1919-1940: Mrs. Cornelia Ralph Bertsche
1940-1953: Mrs. Ethel Pecke
1953-1961: Mrs. Edith Laws
1961-1964: Mrs. Evidean Peterson
1964-1984: Mrs. Elverda Songer
1984-1985: Lisa Manners
1985-2004: Nancy Norris
2004-2017: Montie Manning
2017-2018: Samuel Neal Starkey
2019-Present: Sarah J. Wallace