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Scott County Library main reading room with fireplace
Scott County Library reading room with fireplace
Photo by Michele Boy

The heart of a city:

Scott County Library was the state's first county public library

By Michele Boy

Scott County Library outside 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. 

In 1963, construction began on the Scott County Library’s own 4,325 sq ft. building.  Over the years, the library outgrew its space.  So in 2004, the Library board began a Fundraising campaign for $300,000.00.  With help from grants and the Scott Community Foundation, they raised over one million dollars to begin the expansion.  And in 2009, they held a grand opening for their new 7,300 square foot Scott County Library. 

Today, the Scott County Library carries over 44,000 materials, serves approximately 1,350 persons a month, and checks out 300,000 materials annually.  In addition, they offer eight computers, wireless internet, a 50 person capacity conference room, a media room, and a cozy, fireplace reading area.

Scott County Library book shelves

The children’s section has a nook with a reading loft.  Programs for children include an annual young author’s contest, Lap-sit for birth to age three, Storytime for preschoolers, and an annual summer reading program.  Children can Dial-A-Story by calling a local phone number.  And each week the five minute story changes.
Library Director Julie O’Brien said, “While we have many programs for children, we are developing more programs for all ages to come to the library.”

O’Brien is passionate about the necessity for small town libraries.  “Years ago, we had a County Commissioner who said we don’t need local libraries anymore.  Soon, they will all be regional.  But the library is a lot more than a place to come get books.  It has become a community information source. You can come to make contact with anything and everyone.  We have even become an access point for state services because the offices are no longer out here.  Internet access tax forms ... if we don’t have the info we can put you in contact with someone who does.”

Twice a month, volunteers deliver library materials to homebound patrons.  “We deliver to the nursing home, the assisted living center, as well as those homebound due to illness,” said Children’s Librarian Stephanie Fisher.

Despite a population that is hovering between 4,000 and 5,000, the Scott County Library continues to grow in popularity with both the local county residents as well as visitors from outside the area.  Many library members are from out of county and even out of state. 

“We have one gentleman who drives in from New York to see his family.  After his visit, he checks out audio books for the ride and simply mails them back when he returns home,” said O’Brien.

 

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Last Updated April 21, 2010
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