A Timeline of Willard Library


Katherine Imbusch became Head Librarian. She had worked at Willard Library since 1895. She was later praised in John E. Iglehart's history of Vanderburgh County, for her "courteous manner, accommodating treatment, and highly efficient work."

May 1919

The Willard Library Board petitioned the Evansville Park Board to cooperate in making the Library grounds a nice public park. Since that time, the city has provided grass cutting, occasional driveway repair, and, in flush times, plantings.

October 3, 1919

Well-loved Head Librarian Otilda Goslee died at age 76. Perhaps her greatest contribution to the Library was to firmly establish the tradition of warm, friendly service for which Willard Library had become known, and is still known today.


Permission was granted by Willard Library for a large collection of Native American artifacts to be displayed by the Southwestern Indiana Historical Society, on the second floor of the Library. The collection remained on display there until 1928, when the Evansville Museum opened.


Head Librarian Katherine Imbusch died. Sara Denton, a Library Trustee who had also been serving as assistant librarian, became Head Librarian. (Denton, a widow, later remarried and became Sara Davidson.)


A night janitor at the Library reported seeing an 'all-grey' lady, with grey shoes and grey veil, as he entered the basement during his 3 a.m. visit to stoke the coal furnace. He was so startled that he dropped his flashlight. He reported that the image then dissolved into shadows. The night janitor quit his job shortly thereafter.


A two-year WPA project began to bind the Library's newspapers. Work was conducted in a basement room. Workers had complained about the damp brick floor, so a layer of wood was added over the floor in the room.

September 1941

Gray Davis Williams of Indianapolis was hired as Head Librarian at a salary of $150 per month.

April 13, 1942

In response to the request of Head Librarian Gray Williams to move the children's section (with its 8,000 books) to two unused rooms in the basement, the Library Board allocated $300 for the project. Within 47 days, the new Children's Room was complete, thanks to the efforts of the librarians and volunteers.


The Library began a tradition that continued throughout generations, with the first Summer Reading Club for young people.

February 20, 1943

The Library held its first children's story hour, with Margaret Maier as storyteller.

April 1943

Anticipating wartime shortages, one of the Library trustees moved that Head Librarian Gray Williams be instructed to order as much coal as could possibly be stored in the Library, for use during the winter of 1944.


Head Librarian Gray Williams and several volunteers took about 200 books every Monday night to the City Trailer Camp north of town where hundreds of war workers were living. Because of their work schedules, the workers could not come to the Library during regular hours.


Throughout the war, used books withdrawn from circulation were donated to military bases, with books in German going to prisoners of war facilities. Two hundred and forty volumes were put aboard an LST that sailed from the Evansville Shipyard on Christmas Eve, 1944.

May 1944

The Board gave the Evansville School Corporation permission to use part of Willard Park for recreational purposes.


During 1949, in addition to books furnished to elderly ladies at the Rathbone Home and to the girls at the Christian Home, more than 1,200 books were loaned to patients at Welborn Hospital.


Willard Library's first Easter Egg Tree, inspired by the Katherine Milhous book Egg Tree, was created by children's librarian Margaret Maier. The Willard Library Easter Egg Tree became an annual tradition, later featuring eggs decorated as literary characters.

June 13, 1953

A storm caused serious damage to the Library building, requiring considerable repair to the tower and roof.

November 1953

After his death, the historical papers of Judge John E. Iglehart came to Willard Library. This was the beginning of Willard's collection of original local history source materials.

November 1954

The Library was used as a polling place during the election. Head Librarian Mrs. Williams found the process most interesting, but noted that it put the janitor so out of his routine that all he could manage for the next two days was to stoke the furnace twice a day.

October 1, 1956

Gray Williams retired as Head Librarian, and Marcia Wheeler was promoted to that post. Williams' approach to patron service, her philosophy of book selection, many of the procedures she inaugurated, and the special collections she began, became the foundation of many of the operations at Willard Library.


The arrival of television in Evansville created an unexpected upswing in circulation of children's books. Nearly 11,000 more books were checked out (than in the previous year) by children whose interest in various topics had been piqued by television programs.

February 1957

A microfilm viewer was installed. Film of the Evansville Gazette, published between 1821 and 1824, was ordered from the Library of Congress and the Indiana State Library; and the Evansville Courier was being put on film.


Book circulation was on the upswing, with 5,729 more books checked out than in the previous year.

February 1958

The Library received a gift of $1,000 from Bessie Thrall, along with a letter asking "that the gift appear on the records as an endowment, the annual income of which shall be used to add to the present store of whatever things are good, true and (or) beautiful—preferably in the realm of art." That endowment was increased by subsequent gifts from Thrall in later years, and the interest was used to build a collection of art books and recordings.