The Canton Township Carnegie Library is celebrating its 90th anniversary Oct. 1 with the theme, “Reading Together for 90 Years.”
An open house is planned for 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and organizers are inviting everyone to share in this event. Activities include story time for children, book signings by authors Todd Vogts and Jill Ewert, graduates of Canton-Galva High School, tours, refreshments and prize drawings.
“We will have two kinds of drawings for adults and children and will be giving away classic T-shirts,” said Doris Evans, librarian. “We will also have magnets with hours on them.”
A sign in front of the building boasts that the facility was the last Carnegie library built in Kansas in 1921. The library continues to serve the community in that capacity, unlike many of the Carnegie structures that have either been razed or are now being used for other purposes, according to Joan Christensen, library board president.
Evans said the Canton Literary Study Club was instrumental in getting the library started and keeping it open.
The club was organized in April 1909 by 12 women who initially opened a public library at Canton City Hall. For about eight years, the library was managed by volunteers and in 1916 a paid librarian was hired.
In a historic pamphlet about the library, Evans mentioned a woman named Mrs. P.M. Grattan, who saw a Carnegie library in Illinois while on a trip in 1915. This gave the club the idea of applying for a grant to construct one of their own.
The Carnegie Corp. agreed to a grant for Canton, but only if the library was a township project. In June 1916, a referendum on the issue of supporting the library by a township tax passed by seven votes. Carnegie Corp. then gave $6,000 toward the project.
“The literary club gave $250 and others gave $1,000 to secure a site on Main Street across from the Opera House,” Christensen said.
Project goes on hold
Not long after plans for the library building were completed and sent to the Carnegie Corp. for approval, the U.S. entered World War I.
Even though the war ended in 1918, it wouldn’t be until 1920 that the Carnegie Corp. asked city officials if they were still interested in building a library.
Plans for the building were modified, she said, because building materials were more expensive. The library became smaller and less elaborate.
On Oct. 1, 1921, the rectangular, one-story building with a raised basement opened. The exterior is red brick with minimal detailing.
A small porch exists above the front entrance, which is located at one end of the building rather than in the middle— a departure from the majority of Carnegie buildings, Evans said.
In the early 1900s and into the 1950s, Christensen said staff kept track of books in a journal.
“I can remember in high school,” Evans said, “when Mayme Kalb would take out a big journal and write your name, the book you took, when to bring it back and then you took it home.”
Today, the procedure involves a card catalog. Evans said she goes through each card to pull out the ones that are overdue.
“When someone has an overdue book,” she said, “I sort through the cards, but I don’t like it because I want so bad for people to read books that I don’t want to discourage them.”
The library today
The library is open three days a week: from 1 p.m.to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Along with participating in the Interlibrary Loan from the South Central Library System, other services include a selection of more than 6,000 books, magazines, DVDs and audio books, local historic documents, public-access computer, rotating book collection from the SCLS and a children’s summer reading program.
“One project we are working on is putting the books into an electronic system, but it’s very expensive,” Evans said.
When it comes to which books to buy for the library, word of mouth, she said.
“Someone in another town walked in one day and said they were reading a book called, ‘The Help,’” Evans said, “and now most of the ladies in this town have read it—and way before the movie was made.”
Not only does the library serve Canton residents, but others as well.
“We had a man come in the other day from Wisconsin to look at our library,” Christensen said. “We are also part of the scenic tour that goes up through Maxwell (Wildlife Preserve).”
For more information about the library or open house, call Evans at 620-628-4349.