Timeline and Trivia of Parsons Public Library
1871 – A literary and library association was organized with an initial donation of 22 books, but the organization lasted little more than a year.
1877 – A second library association, the Parsons Memorial and Historical Library, was formed under the leadership of Mrs. Augustus Wilson and funded under the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. In efforts to raise money for the erection of a library, Mrs. Wilson traveled extensively throughout the country and visited corporations and merchants, including Jay Gould, whose Katy Railroad played an important role in the development of Parsons. She solicited not only pledges of money, but also books, works of art, and statuary from various donors.
1883 – A three-story building, located on the southeast corner of Forest and Nineteenth, was finished to house the library, and opening ceremonies included an address by Kansas Governor Glick. Unfortunately, financial support did not materialize as expected. The mortgage was foreclosed, and the property, books, and artwork were sold.
1904 – A third library association was formed for the purpose of starting a private subscription library. The following year, the library was opened, and patrons were charged one dollar a year for the privilege of using the library. The rest of the funding depended on donations. The library was open in the afternoon from two to five and was staffed by volunteers. At first, the library was housed in free quarters in a building that stood on the site of the Municipal Building, but was moved to rental rooms in the White building on Main Street, and finally to rooms over the Foley Printing Office on Central Avenue.
1907 – The voters of Parsons approved the question of establishing a free city library. Andrew Carnegie was contacted, and agreed to give $22,500 for the construction of a new building if the city provided the site and pledged annual support. A site at the corner of Broadway and Seventeenth Streets was purchased for $6,500, the funds being raised by subscriptions. The following year, E.F. Parker, a Kansas City architect, was hired, and the city council approved a resolution to levy the first library tax in Parsons. The contents of the existing private library were presented to the city. William Kee of Parsons was hired as general contractor.
1909 – The dream of having a free public library in Parsons was finally realized, and the new Carnegie Library building was officially opened in ceremonies on May 18. The building, one story with a basement, was built of Carthage stone backed with concrete, with a clay tile roof, dome, and copper gutters. The style was primarily derived from Beaux-Arts Classicism, and has a rather elaborate entrance that employs a Serliana motif with Ionic columns. The name “Carnegie Library” is carved above the entrance. At opening, the library had 3,655 volumes.
1927 – At year end, the total library collection numbered 18,683 volumes.
1943 – Recognizing the growing role of children in society, the librarian invited children who had reached the age of eight to register for a library card, and 111 children showed up to register.
1949 – As the first wave of the boomer generation began to hit, the need arose to expand the children’s “corner” into a larger area, and fundraising was undertaken to remodel the basement. In 1949, the Junior Library, or Children’s Room, was finished, and an open house was held in November. The walls were dusty pink, the tabletops were blue formica, and there was a fireplace in the corner to help counteract the dampness of the basement. Story Hour was held once a week on Saturday mornings.
1954 – The library started a phonograph record collection and purchased a 45 rpm record player for the Children’s Room. Records were also loaned out to patrons for a period of 5 days.
1957 – Crowded conditions in the library and a need for expansion were noted. The south entrance to the Children’s Room was remodeled so that children could have their own entrance. Plans were made for acquiring electric charging machines for checking out books. With this system, each borrower’s card had a metal plate bearing the patron’s registration number. The card was inserted into the machine, which then stamped the registration number and date due on each book card.
1958 – The Children’s Room was officially named the “Hidden Treasure Room”.
1959 – Total number of books at the end of the year was 30,845.
1960 – The summer reading program was called “Rocket to Adventure”. Pictures of the earth and moon were mounted on a large bulletin board. When a child read 10 books, he was given a picture of a “rocketship” to pin on the bulletin board. Each additional 10 books moved him nearer the moon. It took 100 books to land a rocket on the moon. 175 children participated in the program with 12 children reaching the moon.
1965 – The library obtained a new “3M Dry Copier” to enable patrons to copy pages from books and magazines.
1969 – Total number of books at the end of the year was 43,603. The library also owned 1,021 phonograph records.
1975 – As the Carnegie building became more crowded, citizens of Parsons realized the need for a new building, and in October 1975, voters approved a $260,000 bond for a new 18,000 square foot building. The Parsons Urban Renewal Agency gave an additional $295,500 for the project.
1977 – The new home of Parsons Public Library, located at 311 S. 17th, was opened on April 3. The interior decor included a wood paneled ceiling, and shades of green and orange dominated the color scheme in carpeting and furniture.
1992 – The library converted to a computerized circulation and catalog system.
1997 – Computers were installed to offer public Internet access in February. In March, the new computers were used 167 times. The library also begain a webpage.
2009 – The library celebrated 100 years of service to the community. A new logo was adopted, and special programs and exhibits were presented throughout the year.