EARLY LIBRARY HISTORY:
The first library was suggested by Miss Mamie Miller in 1876 and the first meeting of the proposed Library Society was held at the John Maloy home. Each person attending donated a book for the little library, which was established in the home of W. A. McCollum, first minister of the Congregational Church. In 1881 the library came into the possession of the A.O.U.W. lodge until it was destroyed by fire in 1886. Later, Messrs. Mary Rebecca Miller, wife of James Monroe Miller, the future Congressman, issued a call for a meeting in 1897, and a stock company was formed for a library. Over a dinner, Mrs. Miller informed Andrew Carnegie about the history of Council Grove and its unique place in Kansas history as a point along the Santa Fe Trail. She told Carnegie of the fire that destroyed half the town, including the library, and Carnegie inquired if the town had started another library. Mrs. Miller explained that the library had started again, but was currently lacking a building. The Congressman’s nephew, William A. Miller, later explained in a letter to A. H. Strieby, “He [Carnegie] immediately turned in his chair and beckoned to his secretary who sat at another table. He told the secretary to write out an order for a library building for Council Grove.” Carnegie Corporation papers state that $10,000 was offered for a library building on March 27, 1903.
The Council Grove Guard featured a front page article on April 3, 1914, the author of which is unknown, titled “The Library Proposition.”
It was at the city election of April 7, 1914 that the Library Proposition passed 466 to 230, with a tie vote in the First Ward. On the April 30, 1914, the first Library Board was organized to carry out this mandate. It was composed of Mayor James Sharp, Mrs. A. J. Pullins, Mrs. A. J. Kenwell, Mrs. M.E. Harris, Mrs. J. M. Miller, Mr. W. L. Young, Mr. C. M. Loy, Mr. M. F. Amrine and Supt. E. W. Wells.
In August of 1916, it was announced construction on the new library would begin immediately. Contractor Joe Axe was given the general contract, and S. L. Hinton was hired for the plumbing and heating work. The planning committee included Mayor W. F. Shamleffer, Mrs. J. M. Miller, Mrs. A. J. Kenwell, Mrs. A. J. Pullins, Mrs. C. H. White, Mrs. A. R. Kinkle, J. J. Rhodes, and Supt. E. W. Wells
THE CARNEGIE LIBRARY:
The excavation began September 4, 1916 and the cornerstone was laid on December 8, 1916 at 3:00 pm. Several historical documents were to be placed in the stone for future use, should the building be razed. These included the history of the Council Grove Townsite Company. History of the library organizations of the city, history of the Santa Fe Trail, copies of the Council Grove Daily Guard and The Council Grove Republican for 7 & 8 December 1916, a list of the postmasters since the establishment of the town’s post office, and other papers of interest.
The Board hired Kate Behring on a six-month contract at $35.00 per month starting April 15, 1916 as a librarian to catalog books and ready the library for opening. $35.00 a month in 1916 would be the same as $809.14 in 2018. Based on a 40 hour work week, that would be equal to $6.74 an hour before taxes are taken out. (CPI Inflation Calculator officialdata.org.)
Finally, on the evening of September 6, 1918, at 8:00 pm there was an informal opening of the new library in the Carnegie building. The Council Grove Public Library remained there for 84 years, until the expanded collection and new ADA regulations forced the staff to find a larger location. “Carnegie Library Opens: The informal opening of the new Carnegie Library was held Friday night. A large number of people attended the new building and inspected the latest advancement of Council Grove.” (The Weekly Guard – September 13, 1918)
In November of 1984, a group of ladies met and decided to draw up a set of By-Laws for a Friends of the Library group. Within their first year, they gathered sixty-one members by providing multiple membership options. Memberships were available at the book sale, the library, and from any members. Membership dues were: Life – $50; Contributing Member – $6 to $48; Family – $5; and Individual – $3. Today, in 2018, the Friends Memberships are the following: Individual/Family – $10.00; Contributing Member – $20.00; and Life – $100.00. They currently have one book sale a year, sponsor the Summer Reading Program, and host the TALK Programs every fall.
The Council Grove Carnegie Library was listed in the National and State Registers of Historic Places on June 25, 1987. The only modification at the time of the application was “the steel and glass paned canopy which projected above the door was replace in 1978 with a three-sided plastic shelter” (United State Department of the Interior National Register for Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form). The nomination for Council Grove’s Carnegie to be added to the National Register for Historic Places was written and filed by Martha Gray Hagedorn, Architectural Historian for the Kansas Historical Society.
OUR CURRENT LOCATION:
On January 22, 2002, Gail Daugherty, the President of the Board of Trustees, attended a City Council meeting to address some of the concerns regarding the Carnegie building. In the meeting she stated that the Board had received several complaints about the Library not being handicap accessible and that injuries had occurred while people were climbing the stairs into the Library and climbing the stairs between floors. Since the city of Council Grove owned the building, Daugherty requested that Council members come to meet with the board and staff and tour the building to see the concerning areas first-hand.
A month later on February 5, 2002, Gail Daugherty appeared before the City Council again and stated that the former Russell Stover Customer Service Center was available, met ADA requirements, was set up with central heating and air-conditioning, had a basement, and a large parking area for patrons. Jan White announced that she had spoken with the owner of the building and the original asking price of $250,000 would be lowered to $125,000 for the city to purchase the building as a library. The city voted to purchase the building, and the Library moved west to its current location on Main Street.
The Council Grove Public Library was closed from Thursday, January 14, 2015 — Monday, February 2, 2015 for renovations. During these renovations, the Library staff painted the walls, installed new carpet, new linoleum in the bathrooms, several pieces of new furniture, wall art from Alexander Artworks, enlarged the Children’s and YA areas for young readers, purchased a new countertop for the circulation desk, new chairs for the computer tables, and changed the layout. The Library had a formal ribbon-cutting on February 16, 2015 at 5:30 pm which was attended by several people including the staff and the Library Board of Trustees. A year later, in September of 2016, the Story Time and Meeting Room was repainted to make it brighter and more appealing to the Story Time families. A few months later, the Library selected our logo by having a contest among the Council Grove High School art students. They submitted five designs, which our patrons voted on, and Elizabeth Mayer’s design was selected to represent the Library.
While our library has not returned to the Carnegie building for almost twenty years, we will never forget its place in our history. Our simple, yet beautiful Carnegie promoted over forty years of Summer Reading Programs, numerous Story Time sessions, housed thousands of books, and encouraged hundreds of patrons to read. We do not know how long our library will call this building home, but the Council Grove Public Library will continue to provide our community with a haven that advocates reading