#3 A Look Back to Celebrate National Library Week

April 19-25 is National Library Week, and here I am in this empty library building remembering the role the library has played in this community.  It is an interesting story of many relocations and transformations.

Kinsley was incorporated as a city in 1873.  As early as 1885, citizens sought to have a library.  In frontier towns libraries were usually funded and located in district schools and by clubs or organizations.  The later charged a modest fee to be a member and to check out books.  Kinsley had several libraries of this type which came and struggled to exist with fees and donated books and funds.

The foundation of what would become our public library came when the Christian Endeavor Society of the Congregational church placed its library in Misses Mert and Mort Schnatterly’s “Millinery Bazaar” in 1899. Their shop was located where the KSU Extension Office is today.  The ladies sold hats and checked out books. 

When the Schnatterlys retired in 1912, the library moved above the Edwards and Noble Store (present day Circle K Auto Parts) and Margaret Hills took over as librarian.  She is credited in keeping the library going with the support of many women’s organizations raising funds through teas, dramas, concerts, box socials, ice cream socials, fair booths and more.   

But a library needs sufficient, reliable support and so finally a vote for a public library was held on April 3, 1923.  With 303 yes votes to 286 no votes, the Kinsley Library was established.  It is amazing that only seventeen votes brought your library into existence.

The library was moved to the north room of the Kinsley High School gymnasium.  Jesse Fravel and Lillie Riley (pictured) would serve consecutively for the next 16 years.

Some people still remember that in the early morning hours of February 13, 1941, the Kinsley High School burned.  The gymnasium with its library was all that survived.  The 7000 books were literally carried to the upstairs of City Hall at 507 Marsh St (across from the Frame Law Office).  Elsie Jenkins serve as the librarian from 1941-1967 (pictured right).

In February, 1953 another election was held and the Kinsley Mercury headline tells the story.  “City Building and Library Bonds Carry by Margin of Eight Votes.”  For the second time, the library won by just a few votes. On March 22, 1954, city hall and the library moved to their new and present facility.  Sixty-six years ago, those few votes counted, and our community is still reaping the benefit today.   We must be grateful to the library board and the citizens for their forethought.

1954 Kinsley Library Board (L to R) Mrs. R. E. Schnoebelen, secretary; Miss Jessie Fravel; Miss Beulah Moletor, President; Mrs. Vern Rehmert, vice president; Mrs. Don Shaffer. (Standing) W. E. Woodard and Roy Hatfield.

Edna Brown was the library director from 1967 to 1972 (pictured left).

Then Beverly Craft took over and ushered in many changes.  She played an active role in establishing the Southwest Kansas Library System of which the Kinsley Library is a member.  She also supervised the introductions of computers into the library and the automation of the library catalog and check out.  When I took over in 1997 the library was in excellent shape. 

I would be remiss if I did not mention that recently retired librarian Rosetta Graff managed to survive three directors during her tenure.  She really was the face of the Kinsley Library for many years.

Over the years, may people have faithfully served on the library board and I have had the privilege of working for them.  Social distancing would not allow for a picture of the 2020 Library Board which is made up of:  Susan Mathes, chair; Don Stewart, vice chair;  Lynn Schaller, secretary; Bill Keenan, Treasurer; Mike Padgham, Tracy Ritchie, and Fran Jarvis. The current staff includes librarian Julia Butler and library clerk Yaneth Holguin.

So back to where I started, sitting here, alone in this building.  It doesn’t take much to realize that the building, the resources, and even the librarians are not what make up a library.  It is the support of the citizens.  It is you coming and checking out books and movies.  It is you accessing a job application, the 2020 census, or a knitting pattern on the internet.   It is your children being amazed with a story hour puppet.  It is people sharing ideas at a book discussion.  It is learning about women’s suffrage, Kansas Indians, or our local history.  It is students discovering how to find the answer and form an opinion.   It is producing a musical about the Fleagle Gang.  It is creating a painting or an experiment in summer reading.  It is simply just seeing and talking to all of you each day.  As was true in history, it is still the citizens of Kinsley who create and sustain this library.   I thank you for your support and involvement.  I look forward to seeing you all here soon.  And please tell the kids, this June we WILL have a summer reading program, maybe in a very creative fashion.