The Village of Brazil, Indiana was founded in 1866. Soon thereafter, the rich coal and iron ore mines began to operate and those industries attracted many people who were uneducated, coarse, and sometimes brutal. They were men who needed to be brawny, while not necessarily brainy.
During these early years of the little town’s growth, in a period when there were very few libraries even in large cities, Brazil had a little band of cultured women who dared to try to start a library. In 1878, Mrs. Mary B. Schultz collected sixteen books and Mrs. Mary B. Richardson fourteen. Strawberry Festivals and ice cream socials were held to raise money for books.
In 1879 an entertainment, that raised $107.00, was held in Turner’s Hall for the purpose of purchasing more books and a plan of circulation was devised. Mr. L. O. Schultz, who was city treasurer, made room in his office for the books and acted as librarian. In the following years the little hoard of volumes were shifted to various places, but the indomitable women who formed the Ladies’ Literary Society kept up the struggle to offer some reading material to those who could and would read.
A Library Board had been established as early as 1879. This first board consisted of R. H. Irwin, A. O. Baldwin, C. W. Crawford, William Spiers, Mrs. E. H. Hussey, Mrs. W. H. Zimmerman, and Miss Mattie Mercer.
In 1901, Mrs. Crawford made a trip to New York to seek the gift of a library from Mr. Andrew Carnegie, but Mr. Carnegie was abroad and nothing could be done until his return. It was not until February 8, 1902 that a letter was received from the secretary of Mr. Carnegie that enclosed a questionnaire. The information was forwarded and the grant was soon received. The funds were deposited in the First National Bank of Brazil.
On April 14, 1902, a committee of six citizens were appointed to help the library board select a site for the new building. The present location was purchased from Mrs. Carter for $2,400.00. On January 7, 1904, the board met in a special session and appointed Miss Agnes McCrea as its first librarian.
The beautiful building of Indiana limestone was formally dedicated on October 18, 1904. It is said to be the only library in the United States marked with the carved letters stating that it was donated by Andrew Carnegie.
In 1989 the library acquired 60% of the Maurer Wood Building to operate as a handicapped accessible annex of the main library building. This was made possible through the generosity of Dr. Robert Maurer and the Clay Civic Memorial Foundation.
In 2005 a renovation project was begun and completed in 2007. The project doubled the size of the library, adding a large meeting room that can be divided into two smaller rooms, a warming kitchen, and two restrooms. Another small meeting room and 3 offices were added as well to the ground level. The upper level now has a computer lab, a large new fiction room, and another small room for laptops. A ground level entrance into the building and an elevator for easy access to the upper level was added as well.