Florence aims to renovate its city library

Joe Box holds his daughter, Kaylie Jo, as she delights in the Christmas tree Sunday during the Florence Public Library?s event featuring Santa Claus. Jo and wife Sharon have four other daughters. The library, in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, also provided tours on recent renovations and invited everyone to a soup supper fundraiser and enjoy entertainment by Benny Holtsclaw. It?s an exciting time for Florence with the addition of its new grocery store, bakery, cafe, historic Harvey House, the Opera House and now the city library.

The renovation of the library on Main Street continues to be a work in progress, said Mary Jane Grimmett, librarian.

?If we don?t continue to do things for our town, there?s not going to be anything here…the town will die,? she said.

Grimmett said people need to take care of their Marion County towns.

Without a lot of money available to refurbish the library, she said, the library board is counting on private donations, grants and volunteers to do the work.

Bev Baldwin, president of the Florence Library board, said they received a grant from the North Central Kansas Library System, a technology grant, had raffles and bake sales.

?People have donated some money, but all the labor (for painting and leveling the floors) we have just had to do,? Baldwin said.

The biggest challenge, Baldwin said, was that the floor needed to be leveled.

?When the floods went through here (in 1951) there was a lot of rot under the building,? she said.

Along the north wall, there was about a 2-inch gap between cord and flood, Baldwin said.

Baldwin said that so many areas of the building needed to be painted and redone, and a new floor was put in storage room.

?Two wonderful guys volunteered to go in there and jack (the floors) up,? she said, with parts of the basement only a small crawl space.

?It was rotten,? she said, ?and it?s a big building,? she said.

The board was grateful, too, because these men didn?t charge anything for all that work, she said.

Volunteers also painted the 14- to 15-foot high ceilings in the main library area and the meeting room, but help is needed in the kitchen area, storage area and hallway, Baldwin added.

?The hallway is really bad right now,? she said, ?and visitors can see the flood of 1951.?

Tours

As a way to let everyone know how much work is going on at the library, the Florence Chamber of Commerce and library partnered Saturday for tours, the soup supper fundraising event, music by Benny Holtsclaw and a visit from Santa, Grimmett said.

Almost 60 children talked with Santa Claus about what they want for Christmas, she said, and the fundraising event was successful, too.

Trayce Warner, city council member, said Benny Holtsclaw is always good.

The library board and community are looking at preserving the buildings in Florence.

Once all the renovations are completed, Baldwin said, the community will have a library in downtown Florence they will want to visit and revisit.

Needing help

Library board members are also asking the public for historical items.

?We are hoping we will be able to collect enough items that we can change the displays regularly, which in turn will keep visitors coming back to see what is new,? Grimmett said.

The board is also proud of the services it can offer to younger people and adults.

Grimmett said the library has free Wi-Fi, which allows library patrons to come into the library and use the computers available or their own.

?It was also interesting to learn we had 128 Wi-Fi users outside the building during the day and night,? she said.

For adults, Grimmett said, there is a book club which meets the first Wednesday of the month.

?It?s an opportunity for our adult patrons to get together and socialize,? she said.

With all the changes materializing in Florence, many people are grateful.

?We have had a lot of volunteer labor,? Baldwin said, ?and there is still the need for funds in order to purchase materials for each of these projects.?

Library hours are Monday through Friday from 3-5:30 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to noon and closed on Sundays.

Anyone who can contribute to the library, can call Grimmett or send checks payable to the Florence Public Library, 324 Main St., Florence, KS 66851.

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