(Nov. 13, 1850-Feb. 8, 1935). Born in Boston, Massachusetts, and educated in the public schools, Charles Evans was assistant at the Boston Athenaeum Library from 1866 until his appointment in November 1872, at the age of 22, as first librarian of the newly established Indianapolis Public Library. He was responsible for the early development of both the professional staff and the collection, and Indianapolis soon boasted one of the preeminent libraries in the country.

Under Evans’ leadership, most patrons found the collection and services satisfactory, and the local press consistently praised his work. Influential members of the board of school commissioners (then the library’s governing board), however, had personality conflicts with Evans. The public also voiced some dissatisfaction with his inflexible enforcement of the library’s rules. Evans, therefore, was dismissed in August 1878.

Several years passed, with an almost complete turnover in membership on the school board, and Evans was reappointed librarian in March 1889. Much of Evans’ work in the early years had not been continued by his successors, and development of the library collection had seriously lagged. Almost as soon as Evans had succeeded in revitalizing both the collection and the library’s reputation, the school board divided over the proposed design for a new library building. That, along with recurring personality clashes with the politically minded board, led to Evans’ second dismissal in 1892.

Despite his Indianapolis experience, Evans had a distinguished career. He is primarily known as the compiler of the famous American Bibliography, a chronological listing of items printed in the United States from 1639 through 1799.

Revised February 2021

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