By PAULENE POPARAD
The Town of Porter, where Westchester Public Library began, has taken a stand
to save it.
Voting unanimously Tuesday, the Town Council adopted a resolution at the
request of Library Board members Rick Hokanson and Vern Odom.
The resolution supports “the continued independence of the Westchester Public
Library operated by and for the benefit of the citizens of Westchester
Township and opposing any attempt to diminish its role as a valued
institution as would surely result from any consolidation and a loss of local
A state study commission is charged with considering what local units of
government, including schools and libraries, might be successfully
consolidated to reduce overhead and administrative expenses.
The likely consolidation would be WPL and the Porter County Library System,
although neither Library Board is receptive to the idea nor sees any savings
or substantial advantages resulting.
If consolidation occurred, “We don’t believe we could continue the services
we provide now or be answerable to the community like we are now,” Hokanson
told the Town Council. “It just wouldn’t work. We are very passionate about
this library. We don’t want to lose any of it.”
Although council president Bill Sexton noted that the resolution specifically
does not address keeping Hageman Library in Porter open, Hokanson said, “I
have roots in Porter. I think it’s important.”
He said his mother, Anne, was a part-time librarian for the Porter library,
first organized in 1914.
Odom said in 1972 officials in Porter and Westchester Township agreed to form
a single town/township library district as WPL. Thomas Wagner of Porter
insisted that a new library be built in Porter replacing a library addition
to the town hall; Hageman opened in 1975. Chesterton previously was served as
a contract branch of the Gary Public Library.
Odom emphasized that the 1972 merger was mutually agreed by the parties.
“It wasn’t directed by the state. It’s something the people wanted to do.”
Facing a forced merger now, “We have a very serious situation in front of
us,” said Odom.
The Westchester Public Library Board is taking an active role in lobbying the
study commission not to mandate library consolidation.
Sexton urged adoption of the resolution. “I personally believe this is
something we need to do.” Consolidation would not be beneficial to anybody,
Councilwoman Jennifer Granat said if under a merger Hageman would be closed,
“It would be a major, major loss. Devastating is not strong enough (to
describe) how this community would be affected without our library.”
In addition to its many services, she said it’s a safe haven for children and
a way for those without computers to use them.
Sexton said he was surprised how many children walk to Hageman Library after
school. Odom said 87 children who attended Yost School in Porter were among
the total 720 children participating in this summer’s WPL youth reading
Council members Sandi Snyder and Lorri Wickberg did not comment on the
resolution; member Paul Childress was absent.
Porter resident Bill Cantrell is a member of the Westchester Township
Advisory Board, which he said passed a motion in support of continued
existence of the current library system; saving WPL is a non-partisan issue,
Hokanson invited Porter residents to attend the Library Board’s Oct. 18
public forum at 7 p.m. at the Porter town hall to hear an update on
Tomorrow a public forum will take place at 7 p.m. at WPL’s Library Service
Center, 100 W. Indiana Ave. in Chesterton for the same purpose.
The monthly Library Board meeting will follow at approximately 8 p.m. at
Thomas Library one block west of the LSC.