A Timeline of Willard Library

October 1958

In her will, Anna Polster gave the Library $2,000, money which was used to renovate the lower hall and the Children's Room.


Book circulation continued to increase, with 7,643 more books checked out than during 1958.

February 1959

A 10-year remodeling project began on the Children's Room in the Library basement.

September 26, 1962

The first burglary into the building was reported, with items taken amounting to $30. As the board considered theft insurance, another burglary took place five months later. Eventually, an entry alarm system was installed to discourage after-hours visits.


In the fall, microfilming projects were underway covering the Journal from 1871 to 1936 and the Courier from 1875 to 1930. The Indiana State Library and William Caddick of the Courier underwrote all but $200 of this project.


An air conditioning system was installed for the main floor and the Children's Room.


The remodeled Children's Room opened in the Library's basement. The opening also marked the beginning of Sunday library hours for the Children's Room; previously only the adult department had been open on Sundays.


Comic books were added to the Children's Room as a way to encourage non-readers' interest in reading. The first collection of comic books was donated by the Library's youngest patrons.


As part of a three-year archives program of the Indiana State University Archives with a grant of $70,000 from the Lilly Endowment, Willard Library's manuscript holdings were listed, and copies of the list were shared with three participating libraries to make it easier for researchers to locate archival materials.


Willard Library was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Willard Library joined the Evansville Arts and Education Council.

September 1972

Marcia Wheeler retired as Head Librarian. In preparation, her replacement, Bettye Elaine Miller, had been hired in May.

December 1972

Friends of Willard Library was formed, in order to "promote awareness and use of Willard Library by providing volunteer service, by increasing financial support, and by sponsoring cultural programs for the community."

Willard Punch Recipe

This locally famous punch is served by Friends of Willard Library at its events.

Willard Punch›
1 part burgundy
1 part white champagne
1 part ginger ale

"Pink" Willard Punch
1 part rose wine
1 part white champagne
1 part ginger ale

February 1973

With an allocation of $5,000 from local revenue sharing funds, Willard Library microfilmed its large collection of Evansville German-language newspapers, and purchased a microfilm reader/printer. The Mead Johnson Company assisted greatly in completion of the project.

February 1973

Friends of Willard Library reported having 135 members, an elected board of directors, and $1,100 in dues collected.

July 1973

The board created a list of priorities for future renovation - including parking; widening the drive; installing heat and air conditioning, lighting, and solar screens for the second floor, and painting that floor; and enlarging the Children's Room; among others. That October, $30,000 in federal revenue sharing funds was allocated to start addressing these renovations.


A library consultant visited Willard Library to provide recommendations to help the board with long-range planning. As a result, the board determined to establish an archives and research center, building on the strength of the Library's special collections. It would be named the Regional and Family History Center, and would be housed on the second floor.

October 1974

The Library trustees decided that books on the topic of sex would no longer be kept in a closed book section, but would be placed on the open shelves.

March 1, 1975

A renovation on the second floor was completed and the area was opened to the public.

September 1975

Friends of Willard Library conducted its first annual used book sale at the old Farmers' Market across First Avenue from the Library, a tradition that continues to this day.

December 1975

Donald E. Baker was hired as Head Librarian. He replaced Bettye Miller, following her resignation.

December 7, 1976

The Regional and Family History Center, located on the newly remodeled second floor, was formally opened at a cocktail buffet for city officials, followed by an open house for the general public the following Sunday.


Friends of Willard Library reprinted old Evansville scenes in Evansville Illustrated of 1889 and Art Work of Evansville of 1901. The books were sold as a fundraising activity of the Friends.

March 1977

The Tri-State Genealogical Society was officially begun. By 1983, the society had more than 500 members. To this day, the Society continues as an effective partner with the Library in promoting the study of family history in the Evansville area.

October 1977

An agreement was drawn between the Library trustees and the newly organized Tri-State Genealogical Society, which included the Society's use of Library space.

August 1978

A new era of library science began at Willard Library, as the board authorized an application for a computerized cataloging system. Membership in the Online Computer Library Center brought Willard into a network of information exchange with thousands of libraries throughout the country.


Books from the Thrall Art Book Collection were moved to the circulation area of the Library to make them more accessible to patrons.


Through grants and the Library's first public fundraising efforts, resources were marshaled to expand and remodel the Children's Room in the Library's basement.

February 1979

A building survey begun in 1978 was completed by McDonald and Mack Partnership. It served as a guide for the next five years of continuous capital work on the Library building.

September 10, 1980

A ramp to facilitate Library access was dedicated on September 10, 1980. The ramp was one of several projects for the improvement of the building's safety and access features, and was made possible by grants of federal Community Development Block Grant Funds in the 1970s and 1980s.

September 10, 1980

The newly remodeled and expanded Margaret Maier Children's Room and Helen Kamm Activities Room were publicly dedicated, in a ceremony sponsored by Friends of Willard Library.

February 1981

The Library received a gift of $10,000 from William A. Gumberts, to be used as an endowment for the restoration and preservation of the Library's collection of portraits.

June 8, 1982

A devastating storm separated part of the Library's roof from the building, toppled one of the chimneys, and destroyed cornices, gutters, and more than half of the roof slates. The repairs cost $140,000 and took almost a full year to complete.

July 29, 1982

Fantasy Animals in the Park, a series of five whimsical stained-glass designs by Charlotte Paul, a stained glass artist from Bloomington, Indiana, were installed in the Children's Room. They were dedicated in memory of former Head Librarian Gray Davis Williams.

December 1982

A newly installed elevator, paid for with an $11,000 donation from an anonymous business owner and $75,000 from a community fundraiser, was dedicated to the memory of Judge Azro Dyer. Judge Dyer had been one of the speakers at the dedication of the Library in 1885.

May 31, 1983

A public reception was given for Eleanor Lansing Dulles, at which she announced her intention to give Willard her personal collection of books and other writings by and about members of the Foster and Dulles families, as well as the writings of her husband, philologist David Blondheim.

Fall 1983

Willard Library joined an automated circulation cluster with the Evansville-Vanderburgh County Public Library, the Indiana State University Evansville Library, and the Knox County Public Library in Vincennes. Significant work was done that resulted in a tax increase needed to fund the improvement, and installation of the computer system was scheduled for 1985.


The Library's ancient restrooms were remodeled, completing six years of improvements, which included a new heating system, new windows, an elevator, a handicap-accessible ramp and entrance, a new roof and sheet metal repair, a new Children's Room, and numerous smaller projects.


A gift from the estate of Mary Elise Euler provided more than $150,000, which was placed in trust. Half the income would be used for maintenance and the other half for book purchase and programming.

March 28, 1985

The community observed the one-hundredth birthday of Willard Library.

March 23, 1986

The Library hosted a reception to mark the publication of Where There's a Willard, a history of Willard Library.

June 18, 1986

The Library announced construction of a climate-controlled room in the basement for storing rare documents, such as letters and photos.

July 23, 1986

Anna Louise Thrall died at age 78. She had worked at the Library from 1945 to 1973, having become the special collections librarian when the John E. Igleheart manuscripts were donated to the library in 1953.

August 27, 1986

Three Sanborn Map books, dating from 1910 to 1968, were donated to the Library by Citizens Realty and Insurance Co.

October 11, 1986

Willard Library was the first stop in Victorian Evansville's Regressive Dinner. Its hor d'oeuvre menu included hot crab dip, chicken in puffs, assorted cheeses, cucumber surprise, braun-schweiger molds, salmon mousse, spinach on croustade, crudites, ancoiade nicoise, chipped beef canapes, and water chestnuts wrapped in bacon.

November 6, 1986

The church of the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) microfilmed its local records, an effort coordinated by Special Collections Librarian Joan Elliott.

December 25, 1986

The Library received the files of Courier journalists Karl Kae Knecht and Jeanne Suhrheinrich.

February 1, 1987

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the 1937 Ohio River Flood, the Library showed home movies of the disaster.

April 9, 1987

The Library installed computers for use by staff and patrons, but still maintained personal service.

June 6, 1987

Willard Library received a grant to process the Knecht and Suhrheinrich collections, which came to the Library in 1986.