Shirley family collection

The Shirley family collection is a recently-processed collection that contains an interesting item. The collection consists of a copy of “Stemmata Shirleiana,” along with a photo album belonging to Ellen Shirley of Baltimore, Maryland. The book was purchased by the Indiana State Library in 1951. The bookseller gave the library the album since it was in the same lot of items that he had purchased. The photo album contains several images of not only Ellen Shirley’s immediate family, but also more distant relations of William Shirley.

William Shirley, Ellen’s husband, was born January 1816 in London. His family was involved in the crockery and glassware trade, something he followed in their footsteps by being sent to Brussels to learn the trade.

When William was 18, he immigrated to Baltimore and found a job in a crockery firm. His brothers John and Jesse Shirley also came to America and traveled to California where they were involved with the glassware and crockery business. Jesse Shirley died in March of 1862 in Sacramento, California, while John died in 1911 in San Francisco. In the album is a photograph of Jesse Shirley probably from around the 1850s, as well as a later photograph of his brother John in California.

William and Ellen Shirley had four children: Henry Clay, William Walter, Hannah and Eliza Ann Shirley. Some of the children are represented in the photo album. There are also two photographs of Henry Clay Shirley’s sons – Henry Clay, Jr. and Joseph Whitney Shirley – in the album wearing uniforms from the Pennsylvania Military Academy.

William Shirley’s maternal cousins are also featured in the book. John and William Arnold along with William’s wife Emma left England in 1831 for the United States arriving and living in New York, before traveling south to Baltimore in the 1840s. By the 1860 census both John, William and his family are living in Terre Haute. After William Arnold’s death in 1860, the family moved to Indianapolis where they are found in the 1870 census. Two of William’s daughters married men who were photographers. His oldest, Elizabeth, married Adam Rodabaugh Miller in December of 1851 while his youngest daughter Mary married William H. Salter in September of 1865.

William H. Salter was born in Indiana in 1839. He married Mary L. Arnold in September of 1865. By 1870, William was a partner in a photography studio with his wife’s brother-in-law Adam R. Miller. He worked with Miller until 1872 when he went out on his own. Around 1873, he partnered with Judd. Their partnership only lasted a few years and by 1877 William was back out on his own. William ran his own studio until December of 1882 when he died of typhoid fever. He was buried at Crown Hill cemetery. In the collection are several photographs of his daughters Emma and Bessie, these were taken during his time at Salter & Judd’s.

Adam R. Miller was born in Montgomery County, Ohio on June 9, 1827. He married Elizabeth Arnold in Montgomery County, Ohio in December of 1851. He moved with the Shirleys to Terre Haute, showing up on the 1860 census with the family. In Terre Haute, Adam ran a studio, but by the mid-1860s he had partnered with Francis L. Frank operating a studio in Indianapolis. He would later partner with William H. Salter running a studio for a couple years in the 1870s. He had one daughter with Elizabeth, Sarah Lydia Miller, who would die in 1882. Adam and Elizabeth had a tumultuous relationship getting married and divorced twice. He also had issues with creditors and landlords due to nonpayment of bills. By 1880, Adam had ended his photography business and was a real estate agent. There are two unlabeled photographs by him in Ellen Shirley’s photo album, one of a woman and the other a young girl who could possibly be Elizabeth Arnold Miller and Sarah Lydia Miller.

You can see more of the Shirley photographs by going to the Indiana State Library’s Digital Collections page and searching “Shirley,” or by visiting the State Library.

Blog written by Sarah Pfundstein, genealogy librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3689 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Don Hurd: Proactive preservation

Currently, the Indiana State Library holds microfilm for over 100 Indiana newspapers. Two-thirds are dailies, and most of the remaining titles are weeklies. But, that number fluctuates amid the growing epidemic of newspaper closures. On one hand, only a small percentage of the nation’s documents can be saved. On the other hand, the newspaper is an exemplary specimen when examined against the checklist for archival preservation. A local newspaper is an official document that can be used in a court of law. It reflects the surrounding community, outlines changes in infrastructure, provides glimpses into the lives of citizens, and offers a record of marriages, crimes (sometimes even exposing them for the first time), graduations, deaths and new business ventures. Your town paper is an important piece of the national puzzle of U.S. history. Such documents inspired the first Constitutional Amendment, supporting journalism as well as assembly. Although free speech doesn’t allow me to cry “fire” in a crowded room, I must inform you that the future of our national history is indeed on fire.

The digital revolution has not diminished the need for newspapers in our communities. There is no other news source that is reliable enough to replace newspapers. In fact, the bulk of material being scrolled on smartphones has been altered by activists. Even so, most of us aren’t buying our local papers anymore, resulting in fewer ad dollars for publishers who must shut down their presses. 3,000 U.S. newspaper publishers have announced they were closing in the last 20 years. A large percentage of this number did so after the pandemic shifted our comfort zone into the current digital-consumption lifestyle that now leaves readers frustrated and confused.

Enter Mr. Don Hurd, an investor who has worked in newspaper management for over 40 years. With degrees in marketing as well as journalism, he has been able to invent new methods for financing local papers. Hurd was on the board of the Hoosier State Press Association for 18 years, and now provides us all with a working model for reviving a town newspaper. Having worked in the business of newspapers all his life, he understands the importance of a “hyper-local” record. In a statement that could bring a tear to the eye of an archivist, he mused that “I call it refrigerator journalism because my parents would always cut out articles about their children and post them proudly on their refrigerator for all to see.” As of 2022, he had revived over 20 Indiana titles, and he is still going. In April of 2021, he told the Seattle Times, “Whenever I hear of a community that’s supposedly losing their newspaper it really pains me when that happens so I do whatever I can,” he said. “I try to look for opportunities that are out there and make sure the community has got a local newspaper they can be proud of, and serve their needs.”

The Seattle Times reporter, Brier Dudley, obviously had a stake in this effort. He observed, “I’ve written about ways to help news outlets survive as the market evolves and they pursue new business models. But, ultimately what’s needed to sustain America’s free-press system is a multitude of local owners willing and able to support journalism in every city and county. That’s happening in large cities, where wealthy, civic-minded investors are trying to preserve flagship newspapers.”

In the increasing uproar about war overseas and the impending election, this subject is rarely discussed on news programs. But the federal government has been monitoring the problem. Congressional think tanks have been brainstorming newspaper revival techniques and sponsoring grants. Towns and counties are investing in their newspapers so that tax payers have an investment in their own journalism. Then, there are private citizens who have the means – either financially or by showing a working knowledge of the business – who can do the heavy lifting. There are many ways to revive our dying newspapers, but Hurd is in the vanguard of real-time research to increase financial stability. The journalists can do the rest. We must actively support and revive our local papers, or we will find that there is nothing left to preserve. We must allow newspapers to continue telling the “story of us.”

Some local newspapers have become mere reprints of pre-existing regional and national news. Following the rules of archival evaluation, one could argue that such newspapers no longer fit the paradigm to meet preservation standards. Others could argue that it is not the archivist’s place to question newspapers, but to preserve all of them without question. Do you believe that current newspaper assessment procedures will lead to “skipping” certain titles? Has this subject been addressed at your library?

This post was submitted by David Pleiss, newspaper librarian with the Indiana Division of the Indiana State Library. 

2024 National Book Festival and Indiana author event!

The Library of Congress is once again presenting the National Book Festival. The 24th annual festival will take place in-person on Aug. 24 at the Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C., but you don’t have to go all the way to Washington to experience the festival. Indiana is having a National Book Festival Event in downtown Indianapolis on Aug. 10th!

Each year the Indiana Center for the Book chooses two authors to feature during the festival, one who writes for children and one who writes for adults. This year we are proud to highlight Gabrielle Balkan’s picture book “What a Map Can Do” and Kaveh Akbar’s novel “Martyr!”

The Indiana Center for the Book is partnering with Indiana Humanities to host a program with Balkan in-person at 1 p.m. on Aug. 10 at the Indiana State Library. Please join us for this family-friendly event featuring a talk from Gabrielle Balkan and mapping activities for kids. Kids Ink will be on hand to sell books, and you can park for free at the State Garage across the street from the Indiana State Library. Bring your ticket into the library to get it validated. The event is free but registration is required.

In addition to these two authors, Indiana author Candace Fleming will also be at the festival in-person. Fleming’s book “The Enigma Girls” is featured in a toolkit put together by Indiana Humanities and Indiana Center for the Book. Use the toolkit to develop your own local programs related to these authors or the National Book Festival. If you do a local program, Indiana Humanities wants to hear about it. Fill out this form to share your local National Book Festival related programs.

Last year at the National Book Festival, Sammy the Interviewing Toucan was in attendance and got to speak with Kim Howard, Indiana author of the award-winning book “Grace and Box,” featured at the festival in 2023. It was a dynamic day full of people, books and conversations. Enjoy the video here.

Each year the National Book Festival is a time to celebrate our Hoosier literary heritage on a national scale. We hope you can participate by either coming to the festival in person, attending our Gabrielle Balkan author event, or interacting with the program guide. Indiana’s authors are definitely something to celebrate!

This blog post was submitted by Indiana Young Readers Center librarian Suzanne Walker.

Luther Donnell and the escape of the Beach family

Luther Addison Donnell was born July 6, 1809 in Nicholas County, Kentucky. His father, Thomas Donnell and uncle, Samuel Donnell, were involved in the Kentucky Abolitionist Society at its onset. By 1823, the Donnells and other abolitionists had moved to Decatur County, Indiana. In 1836, Luther Donnell established the Decatur County Anti-Slavery Society and helped found the Indiana Anti-Slavery Society in 1838.

Donnell aided a woman – identified in court documents as Caroline, but who later changed her name to Rachel Beach – and her four children in their flight from enslavement. They escaped Oct. 31, 1847, from Trimble County, Kentucky and were in Decatur County the next day when they were assisted by Donnell and other residents. After crossing the Ohio River into Madison, Indiana, they were transported by a man named Waggoner to Douglas McCoy at McCoy’s Station before attempting to make it to Clarksburg under the cover of night. The woman and her children were housed with Jane Speed, a black woman who unfortunately lived near a refuted “slave-hunter,” Woodson Clark, who spied Speed’s son delivering food to the family in an un-used building on the property. Clark lured and entrapped Caroline into a building on his son’s property, insisting that she was unsafe and with promises to deliver her to the African American settlement near Clarksburg. African American residents who had been expecting the family, tracked them to the home of Woodson Clark and enlisted the assistance of Donnell to reunite and free the family. Mr. Donnell and a Mr. Hamilton applied for a writ of habeas corpus to search Clark’s property for the detained woman. Not finding her on Clark’s property, the search was extended to include the property of his sons. Caroline, bewildered and searching for her children, was found on one of the sons’ farms. George Ray and several slave-hunters appeared in town with their own writ allowing them to search for the family, however they had been hidden in a deep ravine. The usual route of the Underground Railroad from that point had recently been discovered and in order to evade the men hunting for her, she was disguised as a man and separated from her children, who were couriered on to the next point. Donnell, Hamilton and several other local men then escorted the family via carriage to William Beard’s home in Union County, Indiana. According to Canadian census records and a reference to a letter made by Hamilton, the family did make it across the Detroit River to Ontario, Canada.

Donnell was convicted in 1849 in Decatur Circuit Court of aiding fugitive slaves. The document in the Indiana State Library’s collection is an early 1848 affidavit which identifies only Amanda, one of Caroline’s daughters. George Ray also filed a civil suit against Donnell for the “value of his property” and received a judgment of $3,000 including court costs. In 1852, Donnell’s appeal went to the Indiana Supreme Court and he was a defendant in State of Indiana v. Luther A. Donnell which overturned the verdict against him based on the unconstitutionality of the earlier law.

This blog post was written by Lauren Patton, Rare Books and Manuscripts librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Related digital collections:

Luther A. Donnell court document, 1848. S3480. Indiana State Library, Manuscripts Division, Indianapolis, IN. 17 June 2024.

Atlas of Decatur Co. Indiana. Knightstown, Ind.: Decatur County Historical Society, Inc., 1976.

“State of Indiana v. Luther A. Donnell collection, 1848-1849.” University of Michigan William M. Clements Library. Accessed June 17, 2024.

“The Story of Luther Donnell.” Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Accessed June 17, 2024.

“Escape of Caroline 1847.” Indiana Historical Bureau. Accessed June 17, 2024.

Eliason, Laura. “Luther A. Donnell court record.” Indiana State Library. Last modified October 7, 2021.

“Donnell v State 1852.” Indiana Historical Bureau. Accessed June 17, 2024.

Interested in pre-made escape room kits starring primary sources? Let us know!

The Indiana Young Readers Center at the Indiana State Library has been hard at work developing six circulating escape room kits for Indiana librarians and teachers to check out and use with their patrons and students. The kits are not yet ready, but the IYRC is looking for Indiana librarians and teachers who might be interested in testing the kits while they are still in beta form. We are also interested in knowing how many librarians and teachers might be interested in checking out the kits once they are completed in early 2025.

The kits are “escape room” type experiences where students are left in a room with clues, puzzles and locked boxes and must work together to search the room, crack codes and eventually unlock the last box that will allow them to escape. All six experiences include narratives based on Indiana history and feature facsimiles of actual primary source documents located in the Indiana State Library’s collections or collections from the Library of Congress. Most of the experiences have the same “villain,” Sammy, the Interviewing Toucan, who you might be familiar with from Author Interviews available on the Indiana State Library’s YouTube channel.

Escape rooms are perfect for teens – and even adults – as they promote teamwork, collaboration, communication, problem solving, independent thinking, leadership, curiosity and more. The Escape Room Experiences can be used independently or can be used with lesson plans to further explore the topics. Topics covered by the Escape Rooms include:

  • President Benjamin Harrison – Featuring the only Indiana president to date.
  • Genealogy – Featuring a diary written in 1904 by a 9-year-old from Rensselaer, Indiana.
  • Aviation – Featuring Octave Chanute, an early aviator from Indiana who worked with the Wright Brothers.
  • Basketball – Featuring the Crispus Attucks High School state championships in 1955 and 1956.
  • Quakers – Featuring Levi and Catherine Coffin, Indiana Quakers and abolitionists.
  • Hoosier Women – Featuring Madame C. J. Walker, Amelia Earhart, Eva Kor and more.

The kits have been designed with varying levels of difficulty, so that students young and old will be able to enjoy the mysteries.

Interested librarians and teachers should fill out this form. You’ll be able to indicate if you want to be notified in early 2025 so you can get a first crack at booking a kit. You’ll also be able to indicate if you are more specifically interested in testing a kit out this fall in 2024. If you test a kit for the IYRC, it is expected that you’ll provide feedback to the Indiana State Library on how the test went. The kits were designed for middle and high school students and are best used in small groups of four to eight students. If you have a larger group of students, you might consider booking multiple kits as four copies of each kit will be available.

Three in-person trainings as well as a webinar about these kits are coming in October. Trainings are currently open for registration. Click here for training dates and to register. In addition to these up-coming trainings, you can view a webinar on this topic that was done for Government Information Day in May of 2024. It is already available and can be viewed here.

This program is sponsored in part by the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Midwest Region Program, located at Illinois State University. Content created and featured in partnership with the TPS Midwest Region does not indicate an endorsement by the Library of Congress.

If you have questions or would like more information, please reach out to Suzanne Walker, the Indiana Young Readers Center Librarian and the Director of the Indiana Center for the Book. She’d be more than happy to answer your questions about this exciting upcoming program from the Indiana State Library.

This blog post was submitted by Indiana Young Readers Center librarian Suzanne Walker.

Register now for the 2024 Difference is You Conference

The Professional Development Committee of the Indiana State Library has a mission to support all libraries – academic, public, special and school – and offers events for library workers at every level to learn, teach, share and to make connections with others in the library world of Indiana.

The theme of this year’s Difference is You Conference is “Grow Your Garden” and we hope you can develop and cultivate what you learn at this event and that you can expand upon this knowledge at your own library. Friday, Sept. 20 is the date of the conference and it will run from 9 a.m.-3:45 p.m. Eastern Time at the Indiana State Library, located at 315 W. Ohio St. in Indianapolis.

The Difference is You Conference is the only statewide conference designed especially for library support staff and non-MLS librarians, but all are welcome. Come get inspiration and motivation, as well as several ideas for programming. Consider registering your staff as a group as a team-building outing.

The cost is $30 per person, which includes a boxed lunch. There will be a variety of options, including meat and vegetarian. A total of five LEUs are available for the conference, if you take the Indiana State Library tour.

Click here to register before Friday, Aug. 9. Payment is due by Aug. 23. Your library will be invoiced. Full session descriptions and presenters biographies are found on the Difference is You Conference page.

Conference Schedule
– 9-9:30 a.m. Great Hall desk.
Welcome – 9:30-9:45 a.m. Jacob Speer, Indiana State Librarian and announcement of DIY Award Winner.
Keynote – 9:45-10:45 a.m. “Artificial Intelligence in Libraries,” presented by Amanda Papandreou and Cassandra Jones-VanMieghem.
Session 1 – 11 a.m.-12 p.m.

  • “Building Relationships with Local Officials and Organizations,” presented by Vanessa Martin and Julie Wendorf.
  • “Communicating Across Generations,” presented by Amanda Stevenson-Holmes.
  • “Teen Mental Health – Taking Action and Sharing Resources,” presented by Jason Murray.

Lunch and Indiana State Library Tour – 12:15-1:15 pm – Meet at the Great Hall desk.
Session 2 – 1:30-2:30 p.m.

  • “Welcoming People with Disabilities to the Library,” presented by Jessica Minor.
  • “Services from the Indiana State Library,” presented by Paula Newcom.
  • “Teaching Technology to Your Community,” presented by Beth Gaff.

Session 3 – 2:45-3:45 p.m.

  • “Immigrants in Indiana: Data, Needs and Resources,” presented by Bekah Joslin.
  • “Emotional Intelligence,” presented by Amanda Stevenson-Holmes.
  • “State Data Center and Grant Data,” presented by Katie Springer.

This is a program of the Indiana State Library’s Professional Development Committee.  Committee members include: Paula Newcom and Kara Cleveland, co-chairs; David Eisen; George Bergstrom; Holley Nickell; Jenny Hughes; Jenny Kobiela-Mondor; Kimberly Brown; Lacey Klemm and Susie Highley. Special thanks to Courtney Brown.

Pro tips for attending conference:

  • Make sure you dress in layers, as some rooms are warm and others cooler.
  • Bring these items if needed – a water bottle, notebook and tote bag.
  • Make sure to bring your parking voucher in with you so it can be validated at the registration desk.

Click here for a map to the parking areas.

We hope you can attend this year’s Difference is You Conference. It is a wonderful way to network with staff from libraries across the state and to be able to explore the beautiful historic Indiana State Library.

This post was written by Northeast regional coordinator Paula Newcom of the Indiana State Library Professional Development Office.

The Rock House

The striking Rock House on State Road 252 in Morgantown, Indiana catches the eye of many a passer-by. It started life as a home for a local businessman and his very large family. Construction on the house began in 1894 and was completed two years later. James Smith Knight, the builder and owner, used cement blocks more than a decade before they became widely used in construction. He then embedded them not only with rocks and geodes, but also colored glass, keys, coins, dice, pottery, marbles, seashells and even doll heads. Most of the rocks came from nearby Bear Creek. Knight’s name, as well as that of his first wife Isabelle, were embedded into the house using small black stones. A side porch contained a block with a tusk of a wild boar that Knight had killed. The interior of the home included a dumbwaiter, laundry chutes and a bedroom designed for the delivery of Knight’s 22 children born between 1891 and 1932. The second story of the round tower was intended for the upkeep of Isabelle’s plant collection. The total cost of the construction was $9,000 or around $328,000 today.

The Rock House, courtesy of

There are several legends associated with the Rock House. Family lore holds that Knight was friends with the father of John Dillinger, and that Dillinger himself stayed in the house for a night along with a friend. Some of Knight’s children claimed that another man on the run from the law was hidden in the attic for several years. Certain versions of the story state that the man was driven out from his hiding place after he accidentally set a small fire.

James Smith Knight and his first wife Isabelle with their six oldest children: Fred, Regina, Charles, Inez, Nadene and Garnet, in 1903. Pallas Houser Collection, Genealogy Division.

Knight married Myrtle Settles after the death of his wife Isabelle in 1915, and they lived in the Rock House until James’ death in 1943. More information about Knight and his family can be found in the Pallas Houser Collection in the Genealogy Division.

This post was written by Laura Williams, genealogy librarian at the Indiana State Library.

Save Woodruff Place

On Sept. 18, 1953, residents of Woodruff Place were invited to attend a town hall meeting via a flyer proclaiming that “time is of the essence.” The flyer – a copy of which can be found in the Small Broadsides Collection at the Indiana State Library – provides a glimpse into the hard-fought battle that ultimately resulted in the annexation of Woodruff Place into the city of Indianapolis.

Now a near-east side neighborhood, the town was established in the 1870s by James O. Woodruff, best known for creating the city’s water system, and it remained an independent town within city limits after it was incorporated in 1876. Councilman J. Wesley Brown introduced the annexation ordinance multiple times in 1953 before it was passed in September, but it was formally enacted only after nine years of protests and legal battles. The final blow to resistant Woodruff Place residents came in February 1962 after the Supreme Court decided not to review the case, the next logical step after the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the annexation the previous year. At the time of annexation, it comprised around 1,700 residents.

The reason for annexation cited by the city was the need for Woodruff Place residents to pay their share of taxes, though the incorporated town did already pay the city fees for trash, sewage, education, police, fire and the General Hospital. Residents cited concerns over losing zoning power – which was eventually addressed – amid increased industrialization of the surrounding area and control over the features that typified the area, such as the iconic fountains. The debate was often heated, with one resident in the Sept. 4, 1960 issue of the Indianapolis Star comparing the city’s views on their right to annex Woodruff Place to “what the Russians think about the people of Hungary.” The press could also be critical of Woodruff Place in turn. In an Indianapolis Star op-ed supporting annexation in Oct. 22, 1953, for instance, the author likened the city to a Roman town, referring to both as “tombs of entanglement.”

One of the fountains in Woodruff Place. From the Indiana State Library’s Oversize General Photograph Collection.

In 1954, amid a drastic increase in service fees levied after annexation was initially challenged by residents, the town agreed only to pay for fire and for a period the city was only served by county sheriff’s office. Later, after it was determined that the Indianapolis treasury could not be used to fight the legal battle, Woodruff Place residents raised the money via donations from both resident homeowners and renters. This fund was referred to as a “War Fund” in the press.

With many residents now only ever knowing Woodruff Place as a charming neighborhood, it is now perhaps best know for its flea market, which has taken place the first week of June as a neighborhood fundraiser since 1975.

This post was written by Victoria Duncan, Rare Books and Manuscripts supervisor.

Indiana resource sharing update – May 2024

A lot of positive things have been happening in resource sharing these past few months, so we wanted to provide an update on how books are currently moving around the state.

InfoExpress courier service
We are pleased to report that the InfoExpress Courier Service, currently operated by Indianapolis’s NOW Courier, has almost completely recovered, and over 90% of expected stops are being made weekly. The Indiana State Library truly appreciates everyone’s patience and willingness to help with the recovery process, whether it was reporting missed stops, or visiting the Indianapolis warehouse to collect items.

The renewal period is open for participation for the 2024-2025 service year, with registrations being due June 1. Claims for lost materials are still being collected for any materials that were lost last summer during the courier transition. Indiana State Library staff encourage any libraries with extra shipping bags to return those to the State Library at their convenience, as supplies are running low. Finally, please let the InfoExpress coordinator know if your library will be closed for any portion of the summer.

Discovery to Delivery Conference
Plans are underway for this year’s Discovery to Delivery Conference, tentatively scheduled for Friday, Oct. 11, 2024. Two big changes this year will include a change of venue – Ivy Tech Community College – Bloomington – and a new virtual attendance option for many sessions. State Library staff are happy to be working with members of ALI and their Resource Sharing Committee on plans for the conference. A save the date announcement will be shared widely soon, as well as a call for proposals for conference sessions for anyone interested in presenting.

The current SRCS contract with Auto-Graphics, Inc. expires Sept. 30, and the Indiana Department of Administration is currently completing the request for proposals – also known as an  RFP –  process for the continuation of the service which is required to be bid out periodically. A committee of State Library staff and volunteers from public and academic libraries statewide have reviewed the proposals, have participated in product demonstrations and have submitted recommendations to IDOA. The results of this RFP are still forthcoming, and the State Library will notify libraries about any upcoming changes to the service or its providers as soon as they are known.

Evergreen Indiana continues to grow, most recently welcoming the Morrisson-Reeves, Jasonville and Owensville Public Libraries, for a total of 132 of Indiana’s 236 public libraries sharing a catalog and transiting materials between each other.

The consortium also welcomes Courtney Brown, previously the Indiana State Library’s Southeast regional coordinator, as the new Evergreen Indiana Consortium director. We truly thank Ruth Davis for all her years of service and dedication to the consortium and Resource Sharing Committee, and wish her well in Virginia!

This blog post was written by Jen Clifton, Library Development Office.

10 years of the Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award

On Oct. 1, 2014, the Indiana Center for the Book announced their new Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award in the Indiana State Library’s weekly newsletter, the Wednesday Word. Later in 2015, the first book to win the award was announced. In the first year of the award, over 1,200 Indiana children ages 0-5 voted on one of eight books nominated by Indiana librarians and selected by the Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Committee as being worthy of consideration for this award. The first year, the book “Don’t Push the Button!,” written and illustrated by Bill Cotter, took home top honors and won the award. Each year since, a different book has won the award, based on votes from Indiana children, ages 0-5.

Some things about the award have changed. Starting in the second year, only five books appeared on the ballot, as it was determined that young children could more easily choose from a group of five books versus a group of eight. During the pandemic, remote voting was added. Also, starting in 2018, the Firefly Committee began creating program guides to go along with the award, providing parents, caregivers, teachers and librarians with dozens and dozens of developmentally appropriate activities to support each title appearing on the ballot. The program guide is what sets the Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award apart from other state book awards.

This year’s program guide includes songs, book lists, rhymes, magnet boards, full-body activities, fine-motor activities and much more to support the program and encourage parents and caregivers to not just read the books, but to immerse their children in activities about the books.

Since the award’s inception, over 27,000 votes have been cast for the Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award. This year, the committee is hoping for another crop of votes from young children, ages 0-5 to usher in the next 10 years of the award. Of course, it is assumed that children ages 0-5 will need assistance in casting their ballots. Some libraries provide voting programs where children each get a bean bag that they put directly on the cover of their favorite book. Other libraries provide ballot boxes that parents can use to log their child’s vote. No matter what book wins, everyone wins when they participate in the Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award. Why? Because it’s just the cutest book award in the land.

Voting for this year’s award is now open. Votes can be submitted online through the remote voting form or can be submitted through any local library in Indiana that is participating in the award.

The 2024 nominees are as follows:

  • “Bear Has a Belly” by Jane Whittingham.
  • “Firefighter Flo!” by Andrea Zimmerman.
  • “Let’s Go Puddling!” by Emma Perry.
  • “I Was Born a Baby” by Meg Fleming.
  • “One, Two, Grandpa Loves You” by Shelly Becker.

For more information about the Indiana Early Literacy Firefly Award, reach out to Suzanne Walker, director of the Indiana Center for the Book.

This blog post was submitted by Indiana Young Readers Center librarian Suzanne Walker.