Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!
The city of Auburn has had a public library since the Auburn Public Library first opened its doors in 1907, and since that time, a number of librarians, directors, and other staff have kept things running (though operations officially moved from the APL to the Eckhart Public Library in 1911).
Today, for Throwback Thursday and Women’s History Month, I’d like to shine a spotlight on the city’s very first head librarian: Alicia Barnes.
Not much is currently known about Alicia Barnes’ personal life beyond the bare-bones facts. She was born on August 14, 1848, in Indiana. In 1869, around the age of 20, she married James A. Barnes, who was in the newspaper business—he published the Auburn Courier, actually. The two rented a house in Union Township, and they had one child together: a daughter, later known as Nellie Barnes Hartman.
After her husband died (sometime between 1900 and 1907), Alicia became involved with the project to develop a public library in Auburn. The up-and-coming Auburn Public Library needed a head librarian in order to open, and she was chosen for the job.
Alicia served as the Auburn Public Library’s head librarian from its grand opening on March 7, 1907, up through its closing almost four years later in 1911. When the library was renamed and moved into the new Eckhart Public Library building, she moved with it, becoming the Eckhart Public Library’s first head librarian as well, with Mrs. Ida Emanuel, her former substitute, serving as assistant librarian.
According to the January 14, 1911, issue of the Fort Wayne Sentinel, she was a graduate of “the public librarian’s course at Winona and is especially well qualified for the position [at the Eckhart Public Library], being highly cultured and familiar with books and the works of the best authors.”
Alicia was also involved in her community and was considered “a prominent literary club woman and a member of the leading clubs of that character in Auburn,” including Auburn’s Ladies Literary Club. At one point, she also served as the auditor of the Indiana Federation of Women’s Clubs.
She continued to serve as the Eckhart Public Library’s head librarian until she resigned on May 9, 1921 (effective October 1, 1921), eventually moving to California to live with her daughter. She had been the city’s leading librarian for 15 years.
Alicia Barnes died on March 6, 1926, in Los Angeles, California.
Want to see more local history? Click here to browse our online photo database, visit the official Genealogy Center Facebook page, or read some of our previous posts for Women’s History Month in DeKalb County.