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La Porte County Public Library

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

La Porte, Indiana

The La Porte County Public Library embarked on a new mission to redefine the role a public library could play in Northwest Indiana, one that dedicates itself to lifelong learning and public involvement. The backbone to every good community is a functioning relationship between three places: (1) home, (2) work, and (3) social hubs. These hubs, more commonly referred to as “third places,” are the gatekeepers to our community’s personality. They are the places where we interact with one another and, in many ways, frame our perception of the world around us.

In his book, The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg formally defined a third place as “a generic designation for a great variety of public spaces that host regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work.” From historic churches to local pubs, these are the magical places that shape our lives. They are where we tell our stories, expand our talents, and share our dreams with sympathetic friends. Every good library is a third place.

With a growing patron base, the La Porte County Public Library was reconsidering their role within the community. In analyzing their seven locations spread across two counties in Northwest Indiana (Main; Rolling Prairie; Coolspring; Fish Lake; Hanna; Kingsford Heights; Union Mills), they knew improvements needed to be made to ensure they could provide services for future generations. However, it was also clear they needed to be perceived as more than a warehouse of books. With MKM’s guidance, they embarked on a $12 million comprehensive capital improvement plan focused on transforming each library into a “third place” for the different communities they serve. Most importantly, they strived to create inclusive civic space designed to engage people of all ages and abilities.

During the design process, MKM facilitated numerous focus groups with staff, patrons, and community stakeholders to better understand the needs and assets within each community. In response to these discussions, key goals were established as guiding principals for the project:

  • Fuel passion for reading, personal growth, and learning. Build a community around books, contribute to the education of local youth, support and develop literacy initiatives for all ages, and provide high-quality free instruction and programs to support personal growth.
  • Expand access to information, ideas, and stories. Develop relevant and inspiring collections that meet evolving need and expectations, improve information access and delivery through technology, and lead the community in providing enhanced access to digital materials.
  • Create and empower vibrant thriving communities. Bring library resources to people, establish the library as a focal point and resource hub within each community, and adapt spaces and services to support local user groups.
  • Build partnerships to make a difference in people’s lives. Deploy an organized approach to partnering that best leverages library and partner resources, and create alliances with government agencies and community groups to benefit residents.
  • Foster an organizational culture of innovation. Develop individual and collective ability to innovate, use rigorous analysis to provide positive user experiences, proactively manage change with flexibility, and communicate and celebrate progress at the local level.

Each branch serving the La Porte County Public Library system was designed as a third place – each having a scope and scale that catered to the community they served. But what mattered more was that each space was designed to empower the library’s staff to engage patrons and enrich their experience. As third places, these libraries were designed for more than books and computers; they were designed for compassion and camaraderie.



AIA Fort Wayne Merit Award – La Porte County Public Library, Main Branch

Michiana Builders Association Excellence in Construction Award – La Porte County Public Library, Main Branch

Main Branch

Library services have been available in La Porte County since 1834 and have continued to evolve and grow. In 1915, it was clear more space was a necessity for the library. Successful application was made to the Carnegie Foundation for funds to erect a new library building, and in 1920, the new library opened its doors. Since that time, several additions to the building were made to deliver services. The most recent renovations ensure the library is best equipped to serve the community for years to come.

Union Mills Branch

The Union Mills Library was originally founded in 1956 through the efforts of the Federated Women’s Club. It became a branch of the La Porte County Public Library in 1957. The library moved to its current location in 1989 and was renovated as a part of the capital improvement plan.

Rolling Prairie Branch

The first library in Rolling Prairie opened in 1957 in a small building, which had been remodeled and renovated by the community’s Lions and Lionettes organizations. The Library Board of Trustees purchased the former Methodist Church in 1979 and renovated it into a library, officially opening for business in 1980. Due to structural issues, a new facility was constructed as a part of the system-wide capital improvement plan. There are several items from the church which have been incorporated into the new building.


Up until the mid-1980s, library service to Coolspring Township was delivered by LPCPL’s mobile library. The new building was constructed in response to the community’s growing population, offering additional square footage and amenities.


The Fish Lake Branch’s original building, a former bank building, was purchased by the library system in 1975 and converted to a branch of LPCPL. Due to the original building’s structural issues, this new facility was built as a part of their system-wide capital improvement plan.


In 1962 the Kingsford Heights Boy’s Club approached the library with the idea of starting a library in the community. A vacant house adjacent to the Kingsford Heights Elementary School was purchased by the library and renovated by the Boy’s Club. In 1989 a new building was constructed on the site and most recently, was renovated to update the interior.


The first library in Hanna was organized in 1935 by members of the Culture Club of Hanna and was located in a former post office building. Its collection of about 200 books was provided by a “book shower” in the community. Members of the Culture Club worked in the library as volunteers. The new facility was constructed as a part of the system-wide capital improvement plan.