Michigan City Public Library
Sand dune
100 E. 4th Street, Michigan City, IN 46360, phone 219 - 873 - 3044 fax 219 - 873 - 3067

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Location & Hours

Michigan City Public Library
100 E. 4th St.
Michigan City, IN 46360
219-873-3042 (Circulation & Renewals)
219-873-3044 (Reference)

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Monday - Thursday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday - Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Closed on Sunday, Memorial Day - Labor Day)

Holiday Closings

Library Services & Departments

Library Services

Library Departments

Learning Center
Public Relations
Technical Services
Youth Services


The mission of the Michigan City Public Library is to provide a center for information, education, culture and recreation for all patrons throughout their life span, through its collections, programs and special services.


The building was designed by renowned architect Helmut Jahn & has won numerous architectural awards:

Illinois Council of the American Institute of Architects
1977 State Design Honor Award

Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects
1977 Distinguished Building Award

American Institute of Architects
1978 ALA Honor Award

American Institute of Steel Construction, Inc.
1979 Architectural Award of Excellence

Completed in June, 1977, the building was erected by Larson-Danielson Construction Co. of LaPorte, IN from a unique design concept by C.F. Murphy Associates, a Chicago architectural firm. It offers 35,000 square feet on one level with parking for 70 cars. The building provides space to house a book collection of 147,000 volumes, seats for 208 readers, and a meeting room with seats for 200 persons.

The exterior walls are translucent fiberglass allowing sunlight to enter during the day and creating a soft glow outside at night. Further, the windowless exterior walls direct attention to the interior courtyard with its honey locust trees, Virginia creeper and shrubbery. The courtyard is open to the elements and is enclosed by glass walls. Doors into the courtyard permit access by library visitors. The sawtoothed roof is divided into seven sections comprised of long clearstory windows designed for additional natural lighting.


As Tom Scarff was putting the final touches on his sculpture Centura, created for the Michigan City, Indiana, Public Library, he remarked, "It's one of my best works. All the pieces seemed to fall nicely into place." While the nationally-recognized sculptor was referring to bronze, stainless steel and neon, his words and his work spoke of grander elements -- of the library, of reading, of art and community involvement. Those pieces had started to fit together three generations and more than 100 years earlier.

In 1889, the will of George Ames contained a bequest of $5,000 to establish a library fund, provided that a library be built within ten years. It's likely that Walter William Vail was executor of the Ames estate because Vail was a financial expert who co-founded the first bank in Michigan City. But perhaps it was destiny. Vail brought the provision before the public, and became a charter member of the Library Association, formed to establish and maintain a public library in Michigan City. On October 9, 1897, he saw the library open. It cost $36,000, contained more than 3,000 volumes and levied a 2-cent-a-day fine, for overdue books.

The next piece of the story's mosaic was more like a chip. . . off the old block. William Walter Vail was Walter William's son. He followed in his father's steps as president of the bank, and member of the Library Association, which was the library's governing board. Although never a flamboyant figure, Will was a civic leader deeply Involved in the community, such as the time he led a rebuff of an attempted takeover of the city's waterworks by utilities mogul Samuel Insul. Will became the library patriarch. He served the Library Association as member, president or especially treasurer, for a remarkable 55 years.

John Vail, the youngest son of Will and Lenore, had developed a loyalty to the library at an early age. His preference for Batman and Big Little Books matured into a lifelong passion for reading and community service. As the library's 100th anniversary approached, John had a vision. He imagined a sculpture in the library's open-air courtyard -- a woman, holding a book high in the air, symbolizing the power of reading to pull humankind to higher realms by raising knowledge, awareness and spirit. It would be given in memory of his father by the John and Edward Vail families. Vail thought a sculpture perfect for the occasion. Art, he believes, is always on the leading edge of our growth, It has its place in public view, and what better place than the library, which is much more than just books?

In advertising the commission, the name repeatedly recommended, from within the library and in the community, was S. Thomas Scarff. Chicago-based Scarff has established himself as an important artist at the forefront of contemporary sculpture. His large-scale works grace many prominent public collections, such as General Motors, Marshall Field's, the Museum of Science and Industry, United Airlines and Dayton Hudson Properties. Scarff was another perfect fit -- a library lover, who for 25 years, has found inspiration at his beachfront home in Michigan City.

Scarff shares John Vail's perspective, saying, "I think having art in the library is very natural, because that's where we look for beauty and treasure. Some people are intimidated by a museum, but they'll go to a library, and take, their kids. When I was young, I didn't have any museums to learn about art, so the library was the only place I could go. It's a good door to open."

Their view echoes with familiarity at the Michigan City Public library. A "gallery of art" was in the original library plans advanced by Walter William Vail and the Library Association, but it wasn't until the 1930's that pieces were purchased. The man responsible, shopping responsibly for discounts at art galleries in Chicago, was Will Vail. In 1977, when a new building six blocks away replaced the 1897 structure, the library itself became art. It was designed by Helmut Jahn, won architectural awards and acclaim, and was not without its controversy. With a charming twist, the original building is now the city's Community Center for the Arts.

Centura, too, challenges complacency. Scarff translated John Vail's concept into a 15-foot abstract female figure, with a "wave of freedom" flowing from her head, holding a realistic book in her upraised arm, The pages of the book are polished stainless steel, so viewers will always see a reflection of the sky in them. But the figure wears a yoke on her shoulders, attached to the ground with a cable, creating a dynamic tension between the feeling of release and the weight of worldliness. A frieze at the base, depicting scenes of reading and Michigan City, complete the sculpture.

What does it mean when all the pieces still fit together after 100 years? That with vision, initiative and cooperation, a community and its library will continue to flourish together, energized by each other. In his comments presented during the rededication ceremony, Library Director Charles De Young said, "I have learned that regardless of size, location or budget, libraries that link their service to the needs of their community flourish." Reciprocally, the Vails' dedication of Centura "honors not one man or a single institution, but all those who have volunteered their time, energy and talents to the betterment of this richly-blessed community." In between are the rewards of the union, now honored and enriched by a spectacular sculpture. The goal is to ensure that this work of art, and by implication all it represents, will be admired for another 100 years.

Alinsky Award

Paul J. Alinski Excellence Award

Library Board

Meetings are held on the fourth Wednesday of each month, except for the November and December meeting, which will be the third Wednesday. The meetings are held at 2:30 P.M. in the library meeting room.

Board Members

Sam S. Melnick, President
Term Expires: December 31, 2020
Appinted by: County Commissioners

Don Montgomery, Vice President
Term Expires: December 31, 2018
Appointed by: County Council

Judy Lange, Secretary
Term Expires: December 31, 2020
Appointed by: County Council

Sam Ferguson, Member
Term Expires: December 31, 2017
Appointed By: School Board

John Pugh, Member
Term Expires: December 31, 2017
Appointed by: County Commissioners

Kenneth Rottman, Member
Term Expires: December 31, 2018
Appointed By: School Board

Doug Wickstrom, Member
Term Expires: December 31, 2019
Appointed by: School Board

Meeting Minutes - Meeting minutes are published following board approval.

2016 Board of Trustee Meetings

Library Policies

General Policies
Computer Use Policy
Cell Phone Policy
Child Safety Policy
Meeting Room Policy

Technology Plan

Click here to download the library's 2017-2019 Technology Plan

Library Job Openings & Volunteer Opportunities

There are no job openings at this time.

Click here to download/print our application for employment (PDF)


Volunteer Opportunities

Friends of the Library

The Friends of the Michigan City Public Library is a volunteer organization that assists the library through donations of materials and equipment. The Friends raise funds through their on-going book sale (located at the front entrance) and other events. For a very small membership fee, you can become a Friend. It's a great way to say, "I care about the library." Stop by the Circulation Desk or call 219-873-3040 for information.

The Friends of the Library need items for their ongoing book sale. You can drop off your paperbacks, hardbacks and magazines at the Circulation Department.

The Learning Center

The Learning Center has been flooded with calls for reading and math help for MCAS students. The new superintendent for MCAS has prioritized both reading and math with the goal of improving achievement as well as test scores. Consider joining as a volunteer tutor so that, as a community, we can pull together and better prepare our children. Call Jessica Hoffmaster at 219-873-3043 for more information about becoming a volunteer tutor and be someone who helps make a difference today.

Endowment Fund

The Endowment Fund of the Michigan City Public Library is a sustaining fund designed to enhance programs and services. It is supported by gifts from generous individuals, businesses, and organizations. Interest from the fund has sponsored Writing Out Loud authors. You can help your library by making a contribution.

Other funds allow you to make a bequest to the library or target a contribution to a particular collection or program. Call the Library Director at 219-873-3050 for information.


Michigan City in Bloom - 1st Place, Non-Profit/Government Category

Fashion photo shoot at the library