The first record of library service to Portage is from 1961 when the new Portage High School Library was opened to the public every evening for all residents of Portage Township. From 1965 to 1970 the Porter County Bookmobile stopped at the Portage Mall and the Ogden Dunes tennis courts every two weeks.
In January 1970 plans for a community library, to be located in the former headquarters of the Portage National Bank in the Portage Mall, were approved by the Porter County Contractual Library Board. The Library opened on September 26, 1970, with a collection of approximately 2,000 volumes. Mrs. Genevieve Schaffer was the first Head Librarian and Mrs. Jo Ann Lewis joined her as Children’s Librarian in March 1971.
The Library in the mall had just four rows of books for both Fiction and Non-fiction and one small section for Reference books. The staff area for lunches and breaks was behind a curtain in an alcove at the back of the Children’s Room. The staff and public shared one restroom which served for the Library and the four other businesses in the building. The only copier was a small desk model. Staff made all copies for the patrons. As the library was next door to a bar the customers would come over to the library to share their “cheer” and used the outdoor drop box as a garbage can. The library staff would find half-filled bottles and beer cans which had spilled their contents on the library books. The need for a new building was clearly evident.
On January 12, 1979, ground was broken for the new Portage Public Library on Lois Street. The new building opened to the public on April 16, 1980, with Patrice Pulles as Head Librarian. Dedication took place on May 15, 1980. The total area of the building was 12.000 square feet. Ten years later this building was bursting at its seams. The number of persons registered for cards had increased from 7,447 in 1980 to 16,660 in 1990. The book collection had grown from 29,334 in 1985 to 41,603 in 1990. An audiovisual collection had been added which totaled 24,615 items.
Staff had increased to 10 full-time and 4 part-time employees with Nancy Clark as Head Librarian. Plans were made for an expansion of the Lois Street building which when completed almost tripled the size of the building to 33,560 square feet on two floors with entrances on both Lois and Irving Streets. Ground was broken on September 24, 1994. The first phase of the new library opened to the public on December 11, 1995, and the completed building opened on May 28, 1996. Dedication took place on July 13, 1996. The Library Board was pleased to receive a Community Improvement Award from the The Greater Portage Chamber of Commerce “For Constructing an Architecturally Unusual Building Contributing to the Pride of Portage.”