History of the St. Joseph County Public Library

The St. Joe County Public Library is home to a beautifully renovated Main Library, new Community Learning Center, digital media studio, Local and Family History department and nine branch locations in St. Joseph County. Library visitors can now browse countless books and media in print and digital formats and request home delivery. This beloved Library system was once a Reading Room on Michigan street and previously known as the South Bend Public Library. Learn about the exciting history of the St. Joe County Public Library.


The Reading Room
A public reading room, full of donated books, opened on Michigan Street, thanks to the South Bend Library and Reading Room Association.


The Resolution
The South Bend Board of Education passed a resolution providing for the establishment of a public library.


Evelyn Humphreys
Humphreys was appointed as the South Bend Public Library’s first Head Librarian and served until 1903.


The Library Opens
The South Bend Public Library opened to the public on the fourth floor of the Oliver Opera House.


The Borrower’s Card
With this Library card, patrons could borrow books for one week, and renew once for the same period.


The Castle
The Board of Education purchased land in downtown South Bend, where a beautiful new building, referred to as “South Bend’s Pride” was built on 304 S. Main Street.


Virginia M. Tutt
Tutt served as the Library’s second Head Librarian until 1927.


The River Park Branch
The Library’s first branch initially opened at River Park School. The Library eventually purchased a ten-year lease on a new building in the River Park area to accommodate the branch’s growing collection.


Ethel Baker
Baker, who initially joined the Library in 1908, was appointed as third Head Librarian in 1927, and served until 1952.

Photo: South Bend Tribune via Michiana Memory


The Tutt Branch
The Tutt Branch, built to serve the city’s south side, was named after the Library’s former Head Librarian. The branch was initially housed in a room on Miami Street but eventually moved to a nearby area with enough space for children’s and adult’s rooms.


The LaSalle Branch
The Library’s latest branch was named after 17th century French explorer, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, on the anniversary of his arrival to South Bend.


The Western Branch
True to its name, the Western Branch was built to serve South Bend’s west side residents.


Roger B. Francis
Francis is appointed as Library Director and served until 1977.


The Bookmobile
The Library’s first Bookmobile served residents who were not served by a branch.


The Demolition
The Main Library building known as The Castle was demolished to allow for the construction of a new building.


The Betty Ruth Spiro Memorial Library
The new Main Library building was named after Betty Spiro and her daughter Ruth, the former of which had donated funds for the construction of a library.


Donald Napoli
Napoli was appointed as Library Director, and served the longest term, from age 36 to 73.


The Francis Branch
Originally named the Clay Branch, the Library’s newest branch is later renamed after former Director, Roger B. Francis.

1982 – 1983

The Online Catalog
The Library purchased its first computer system from CLSI (Computer Library Systems Incorporated) in 1982 and became one of Indiana’s first public libraries to have an online catalog in 1983 (Wayback Machine).


The New Branch Libraries
Four new branch buildings are opened in November. Tutt and River Park are opened first, followed by Western and LaSalle.


The North Liberty Branch
The Library’s newest branch first opened at 105 W. Center Street and served North Liberty Township.


The Lakeville Branch
This new branch first opened in December at Lakeville High School.

1990 – 1992

The St. Joseph County Public Library
South Bend Public Library is officially renamed the St. Joseph County Public Library in 1990 and the new Main Library was dedicated in 1992 in its original location on 304 S. Main Street.


The Worldwide Web
The St. Joseph County Public Library is the first library in the nation and the second worldwide to go live on the Worldwide Web (Wayback Machine).


The Centre Branch
This new branch served Centre Township.


The German Branch
The Library’s newest branch was built to serve German Township.


Debra Futa
Futa is appointed to Executive Director and served in that role until 2022. Futa’s longstanding history at the Library began in 1979, where she worked as assistant manager to River Park and Francis, Systems Coordinator of Automated Services, Financial Services Administrator, and Assistant Director.

2021 – 2022

The Grand Reopening
The newly renovated Main Library held its grand reopening on November 14, 2021, and the new Community Learning Center opened January 10, 2022.


The Library goes Fine-Free
The Library rang in the new year by going fine-free in January. Patrons are no longer charged a late fee when they return a book past its due date.


Stephanie Murphy
Murphy is appointed as the Library’s newest Executive Director in July. Murphy brought with her years of service to public libraries in Indiana.

Learn more from the following sources: The Library at the Bend in the River by Mary Waterson, the Michiana Memory Digital Collection, the South Bend Tribune, and Wayback Machine. A full list of in-text references is available upon request from the Library’s Local and Family History department.

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