Friends of the Frankfort Community Public Library: A partnership started from community need continuing for community collaboration 

Day in and day out, Indiana Humanities’ grantees and partners are bringing the humanities to life for Hoosiers across the state. From small towns like Jasper to big cities like…

Day in and day out, Indiana Humanities’ grantees and partners are bringing the humanities to life for Hoosiers across the state. From small towns like Jasper to big cities like Fort Wayne, our grantees are creating thoughtful programs, bridging divides and inspiring Hoosiers to think, read and talk. As part of our ongoing efforts to uplift the work of our partners, we’re highlighting past and present grantees and sharing their stories of impact.  

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In this grantee spotlight, we’re shining the spotlight on a successful, engaging grantee who continues to dream bigger, using grants from Indiana Humanities to expand access to the humanities in her community.  

The Friends of the Frankfort Public Library’s administrative manager, Mindy Emswiller, first connected with Indiana Humanities after one of her directors mentioned applying for a CARES Grant. In 2020, the National Endowment for the Humanities provided funding to Indiana Humanities as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act economic stabilization plan appropriated by the U.S. Congress. Emswiller’s organization was one of 80 to receive this funding. 

After connecting with Indiana Humanities initially, Emswiller started to think more broadly about programming ideas for the Frankfort Community Public Library — but with that came an even larger need for funding. Applying for an Indiana Humanities Action Grant was the natural next step.  

Programming in 2021 was a challenge on many fronts. On the heels of quarantine, Emswiller was sensitive to the idea that not everyone would feel comfortable exploring an indoor exhibit or attending an in-person author visit, but she wanted people in the community to have access to educational opportunities. Through talks with George Hanlin, Indiana Humanities’ director of grants, Emswiller was able to flesh out ideas for accessible programming and to submit her first Action Grant request. Emswiller’s Action Grant proposal was accepted — but she said the help that Indiana Humanities provided wasn’t purely financial. 

Emswiller wanted to bring programming surrounding World War I to the library. Through Indiana Humanities’ ever-growing list of connections, she was able to get the Indiana Historical Society to send its traveling exhibition The Great War to Frankfort. The library also displayed WWI artifacts from the Indiana War Memorial and the Clinton County Museum. To engage people who didn’t feel comfortable indoors, the library hosted author Patrick O’Donnell for a virtual discussion of his WWI book The Unknowns.  

“Working with Indiana Humanities, and George in particular, is amazing,” Emswiller said. “When I give him my ideas, he just helps enhance it so much.” 

Since 2021, Emswiller has continued to collaborate with Indiana Humanities on two other Action Grant–funded projects: one that explored national and state parks, and another that celebrated the heritage and tradition of baseball in the United States.  

In 2024, Hanlin suggested Emswiller explore a new venture and apply for a Historic Preservation Education Grant. With the grant, the Frankfort Community Public Library hosted a series of events celebrating Indiana’s historic barns. 

Beyond being grateful for Hanlin’s connections and support, Emswiller said without the help of him and others at Indiana Humanities, her community wouldn’t have the same access to the humanities — which Emswiller said has benefitted Frankfort significantly. 

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s meaningful for me. And bringing these historical exhibits and programs to the community, and then, of course, surrounding counties, too, it’s amazing,” Emswiller said. “Seeing everyone come out and see everything we’ve done, to watch it come to fruition, I’m so grateful for the grants and how it’s all come together.” 

While Emswiller said she hasn’t nailed down the specifics of her next program, she fully intends on continuing the library’s relationship with Indiana Humanities. 

“Indiana Humanities has enhanced our programs by offering their input, their contacts. I’ve learned a lot through these grants and programs. I appreciate them holding our hand through the process and always making themselves available,” Emswiller said. “You can tell they love the work they do. It really shows. They’re a wonderful asset to the state and to this library.”