The heart of our cities, towns and counties: Libraries!
Vermillion Public Library is where the community comes together
“This is the hub of the town,” says Audrey Broxterman.
She wasn’t talking about some pie-in-the-sky theoretical concept of how the small rural town of Vermillion rotates around the axis of the library, nor was she referring to the precise geographical placement of what was the former Twidwell Hotel. The hotel-turned-library is located at the extreme southern end of the town, fronting the railroad tracks and an abandoned grain elevator complex. Past that—all open country, an abrupt and sudden demarcation that people used to metropolitan areas find disturbing or novel, depending on their personality.
No, Audrey, the town’s librarian, was telling the truth: the Vermillion Public Library is the hub. For within its foursquare walls are the city offices, council chambers, community meeting room, library and historical society. With the exception of the cafe/bar across the street or the park out back, pretty much anything public that happens in town happens at the library.
Grant County Library is more than books
Where can a family of all ages go to read, have coffee, research the world wide web, do crafts, sit by the fireplace, and more? Grant County Library. This multi-level, handicap accessible, community focused library is located on 215 E. Grant Avenue in Ulysses.
Serving a population of fewer than 8,000, this small southwestern town library offers more than a collection of books. And if you look back in history, Grant County has always had a big heart for its books. Thanks to a donation, in 1914, when the population was just 1,087, Grant County established its first library in the County Superintendent’s office. In 1930, the library was moved to the basement of the courthouse. Then, in 1956, a 7,000-square-foot structure was built next to the courthouse to house the library and museum.
Hamilton County Library started as a book club
It started as a book club. In 1931, several ladies in the rural southwestern town of Syracuse formed the Junior Book Club. The daughters of the Women’s Literacy Club became the charter officers, created by-laws, recruited members, and began raising funds. In February of 1932, a George Washington tea was held, with books for admission. 175 books were donated. In March, each member gave a benefit luncheon and raised $64.00.
Scott County Library was the state's first county public library
Scott City, a small rural southwestern Kansas town, holds a very distinctive place in history – the first county in Kansas to open a free library. In 1921, the Scott County Civic club was organized with the sole purpose of starting a public library for the 3,000 or so residents. The library’s first home was two rooms above a lumberyard. In 1924, the library moved into a room in the Scott County Courthouse. And in August that same year, the county voted to fund the library, making Scott County the first county in Kansas to open a free library. In July of 1925, 861 books were made available to the public.
Blue Rapids Public Library — a potential not realized
To get to the Blue Rapids Public Library off Highway 77, the main road linking this small northeastern Kansas town with Marysville to the north and Manhattan to the south, one must first circumnavigate the round town square almost in its entirety. The circular square is unique to the state, based on a wheel hub in the New England style. Randolph had a similar configuration before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers relocated the town to higher ground for the creation of Tuttle Creek Reservoir; the old square is now buried under floodwater and silt. Bad for Randolph, good for Blue Rapids.
In the town’s heyday, travelers passing through on Highway 9 entered and exited the square on what is now 6th Street. The square itself was impressive, fronted with two-story limestone buildings and a dizzying array of businesses, a central fountain, a Gatling gun and bandshell in the small central park, with the library anchoring the east-northeast corner. Even then the library was fairly old, and heavily used by locals. It opened on Oct. 20, 1875, with much fanfare, a brass band leading the ladies of the town to the doorstep, much more pomp and circumstance than the number of volumes on the shelves would dictate, but vision was everything, and the future bright. More books would follow.