History of the Kirwin City Library

compiled by the Kirwin Library Board of Trustees with the help of Helen Sharp in the centennial publication Saga of Old Fort Kirwin

When some of the ladies of the community saw a need for some culture in the new settlement, they got together and maintained a reading room.  A few old books at the Library show the stamp of the reading room and have the date of 1879 stamped inside the cover.

This was the foundation of the library that was to follow.  On August 20, 1912, a group of women met at the Landes Hall to establish a library.  This organization was known as "The Woman's Library Association".  Officers were elected and the City Council offered to pay fifteen dollars on the rent of the Landes building.  The girl's class offered to pay five dollars to the Association.  This made the rent of the building assured.

Committees were named.  Furnishings were donated and books were gathered together.  A meeting was scheduled to hold a reception to bring the people in touch with the movement.  The library was open every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday afternoons.  Interest was shown in this new meeting place.  The Band boys were allowed to use the room one evening per week for practice.  A Sunday School class used it one night a week free of charge.  The general election was held there.  Since the library room seemed to be a very popular place for holding meetings, the officers discussed the use of the place and decided that it should not be used for money making purposes, such as dances, card parties, and so on.

Expenses were not large in those days, and the Librarian received a dollar a week.  A boy was hired for twenty-five cents to clean the room.  Cobs and coal were bought to keep the place warm and of course the boy that did the cleaning had to carry in the fuel and carry out the ashes.

After a time the officers saw the need of charging for meetings held at the Library.  A charge of one dollar was made for an afternoon or evening meeting, with an extra charge of twenty five cents for lights and the same amount for fuel, unless the people who wanted to use the room wanted to bring their own fuel.  Teas and suppers were held to bring in money to buy books and maintain the Library.

As early as 1915, books from the Traveling Book Trunks were received for use at the Library for a period of six months.  This gave the public more of a variety to choose from.

During the war years, the library seemed to weaken.  It was during this time the Landes Building was given up and the books were moved to the large community room in the new City building.  The hours were shortened for the lack of help and lack of coal.  After a few years, by permission of the City Council, the books were moved down to the Council room.  It seemed a better location as it was on the ground floor and easier to clean and heat.

In 1918 only six members paid their dues and the library seemed to be at its lowest ebb.  There was no money to pay a librarian so the president kindly consented to keep the room open.  During the four months she collected fines and dues totaling four dollars and twenty three cents.  A Baby Bond was purchased for the association for four dollars and sixteen cents.  This left seven cents.  Uncle Sam needed the money and in those days, people were patriotic.  In the view of pressing need of Red Cross work, a decision was made to close the room until fall.  The Association's work went on and in July 1921, they made the request of the City Council that one half mill be levied for the use by the library the following year.  This levy eventually took place and there was some help in keeping up the expenses.  The library took on new life and it seemed best that it be moved to the southeast room upstairs.  After a few years it was necessary to have more room so partitions were taken out and the stairs moved and the whole east side of the upper story of the City building was used for library purposes.

In 1926, the matter of binding the "Independent" dating from 1891 to 1899 and the Kansan dating from 1902 to 1942, for the library was started.  This project was completed in 1965.  Clubs in the area were greatly responsible for financing this project.  In these volumes, we have a wealth of local history.  

Late in 1926 the Kansas Traveling Library Book trunks were again ordered, so as to supplement the home owned books.  This practice was continued up to the time that the Central Kansas Library System (CKLS) started furnishing books from the Bookmobile.

The ever-growing demand on the needs of the library was financed by the proceeds from ice cream suppers, pie suppers, bingo parties, penny fairs, and carnivals.

The Depression came but the library stood its ground.  There was no money to buy new books but those that were on hand were read and re-read.  Many hours were spent by women in mending and repairing the books.

Early in the life of the library, the women saw the need of magazines being placed in the library, and a subscription list was made up.  Some of the early subscriptions were the National Geographic, which we have most of the back issues from 1913 to the present time, The Harper's Monthly Magazine, The Forru, The American Magazine, and the Century Magazine. 

In April 1946 the people of Kirwin voted to have the Community Library become the Kirwin City Library.  One and one half mill could be levied to finance it.  This levy did not fully finance the needs so various ways were sponsored by the Library Board and the services were carried on through the years.  

In the spring of 1965, the improvement of library services in the state was underway and the grants and systems were topics of meetings held.  On April 8, 1965, a special meeting was called for the Board of the library and they voted to join the Central Kansas Library System.  We have found it very helpful and our services are many.  The Bookmobile comes every month and leaves new books each time in the rotating book service , and many books are loaned through inter-library loan from the various large libraries in Kansas.

So it is with thanks to those early pioneers that we have been able to carry on the need of culture down through the years.