History of the Hutchinson Public Library
The Hutchinson Women’s Club started a movement in 1895 that resulted in the eventual establishment of a public library. The Hutchinson Public Library, like many libraries across the nation, was the result of women’s concern for literacy. The Club’s twelve members held a series of benefit suppers at the opera house located at First and Main to raise money to buy books.
The women were assisted by local newspaper editor W. Y. Morgan, who offered a room for the books on the second floor of The Hutchinson News building located east of the alley on Sherman between Main and Walnut. Morgan also canvassed the town for library subscriptions. The subscription rate was $1 a year for adults and 35 cents for juveniles. The first library rules provided that no more than two cards at $1 each should be issued to one family; that books on shelves should not be handled by borrowers; and that borrowers should select books from the catalogue and present a written list of no more than three titles to the librarian. A borrower was allowed the privilege of checking out two books during the two afternoons a week the library was open.
Originally, because library cards were not free, the library was known as a "subscription association". The Women’s Club was not satisfied with the operation of the subscription association as a private enterprise. In 1899 they wanted to make the library a free public institution. The first campaign for a half-mill levy was defeated. The mill levy was passed by voters on the second ballot on May 8, 1900.
The first library board met on January 9, 1901. The Women’s Club presented the city its library of approximately 500 volumes as a nucleus for a free public library and donated $25 for magazine subscriptions. The gift was accepted by Mayor J.P. Harsha, who appointed the following well-known residents of Hutchinson to serve as a Library Board of Trustees: Mrs. A. L. Forsha (President), Mrs. J. A. Fontron (Vice-President), Mrs. W. Y. Morgan (Secretary), Miss Damie Bigger (Treasurer), Mrs. G. W. Winans, Mrs. J. W. Hodges, Mrs. Fred Carpenter, Mrs. G. H. Miner, Mrs. W. L. Woodnut, Mrs. F. V. Barton, Mrs. Fred Cooter, and Miss Bessie Penney.
The library opened to the public on January 12, 1901. Ethel Colville served as the first librarian, with a salary of $20 per month. Later that year, the library was moved to larger quarters in two rooms over the police and fire stations in the City Hall on West Sherman Street. While the Board regretted the attendant noise of the location, it was the best and cheapest site available. The library board granted the room committee permission to paper the rooms, provided the cost did not exceed $10.
Sanitation of the books was a matter of considerable concern. One rule adopted by the Board, after a minor outbreak of smallpox, stated "all books loaned to families where there are infectious diseases shall be refused by the librarian and the same collected for." The board was informed there were two books of questionable sanitary condition and these were ordered fumigated. Two months later the same books were ordered burned.
In January 1902 Pearl Leighty succeeded Colville as librarian. Her salary was $25 a month. Her assistant until April was Kate Brooks, then Lucy Leidigh took on the position. During that year, Helen Gould, daughter of industrialist and financier Jay Gould, visited Hutchinson. She donated 100 volumes of children’s books to the library.
By 1902 the library was fast outgrowing its quarters. A committee was appointed at the request of Mayor Frank L. Martin to write Andrew Carnegie for financial assistance. A favorable reply came from Carnegie, who offered $15,000 towards the new library building. C. W. Squires of Emporia was chosen as the architect in June. In September, the board accepted a bid of $13,650 by Reikowsky and Bartel of Newton, and the contract was signed the next month. The remainder of the $15,000 Carnegie grant was used to purchase steel book cases, electric lights, and other equipment.
The town was divided—along the respective lines of the Santa Fe Railroad—as to the appropriate location for the new library. The dispute subsided when realtor L. A. Bunker donated two lots at the corner of Fifth and Main for a library site. Bunker also donated $500 cash. Charles Oswald headed a drive that raised money to purchase a third lot at the same site. The first attempt to raise the $1500 to match Carnegie’s grant of $15,000 failed, but was passed by voters on the second ballot.
Construction on the new building began in 1902. It was necessary to vote an additional tax levy for the support of the library. When the city accepted the money from Carnegie, it promised to maintain the building and to support the services offered by the library. Failure to support the library and its services would cause the property to revert to the Carnegie Corporation. Carnegie monitored local support of the library through the American Library Association. ALA sent report forms which the librarian filled out, detailing statistics of maintenance and service. The report was returned to the ALA headquarters in Chicago, where it was kept on file for the Carnegie representatives to review.
The first board meeting in the new library building was held July 1, 1903. The head librarian was Pearl Leighty. The assistant librarians were Lucy Leidigh and Helen Miner. On October 7, 1903, the library board considered the first request to hold a meeting in the library meeting room. The request, made by the Hutchinson Women’s Club, was granted.
On January 19, 1904 the new building for the Hutchinson Public Library was completed, just three years after the organization of the board of trustees. Statistics for 1904 recorded an average of 14 volumes circulated daily. In April of 1904, Leighty resigned as head librarian. Helen Miner was hired at a salary of $25 per month. The substitute librarian was Elsie Gray.
From the early history of the library, the board took an active interest in the continued advancement of the library staff. The head librarian continued to see an increase in salary. Miner was paid $35 a month in 1907, and as a result of taking college courses at the library school in Emporia, her salary was raised to $50 a month in 1911. Further progress was made in employee benefits in 1912. The head librarian received one month paid vacation, while the assistant-librarian received two weeks’ paid vacation, provided the staff members had served for at least one year. By 1915 the salary for head librarian had been increased to $90 a month.
Over these same years, the Board displayed considerable acumen regarding patron demands. At the October 1905 meeting, the board discussed keeping the library open on Sundays from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Board members volunteered to work on a rotating schedule to share the responsibility of the extra hours. The board held a discussion regarding starting a circulating picture collection in May 1907. Open stacks were begun on a trial basis in September 1908. In May 1912 the board established a children’s hour once a week. Board members rotated the responsibility for leading the story hour.
Miner resigned her position in late 1913. Winnie Williams was hired as librarian in 1914. She resigned later that year, and was replaced by Amy Cowley, who took over the duties with a salary of $90 per month. She retained the position until the end of 1915, when she left to work in a larger institution in the east. Ida Day then appeared before the board to apply for the position of librarian. She was hired, with a salary of $75 per month and two weeks paid vacation.
In December, the board considered the formation of a branch library on the east side of Hutchinson. The matter was deferred until February 1918. It was not until July, 1919, however, that the board authorized the librarian to arrange for an extension library at Irwin Memorial Presbyterian Church.
By 1916 the library had outgrown its housing. Early in the year, Mayor L. E. Fontron went to New York to consult Andrew Carnegie regarding a gift of money with which to construct an addition to the library. A second $15,000 Carnegie grant was received and the building was enlarged. In 1917 the library board met in a special session to consider the matter of raising libraries for soldiers and sailors. The Women’s Club was asked to assist in the project which involved collecting books to send to the servicemen at Camp Funston. The library also drew up the first rules and regulations for the use of the assembly room by groups, organizations, and clubs. The room was to be closed on Sunday. Educational and civic groups used the room free of charge, other groups were charged $2.50 for an afternoon and $5.00 for use of the room for an evening. An additional charge of $2.50 was assessed for the use of the kitchen.
Beginning August 1, 1919, the librarian’s salary was raised to $100 per month, and the assistant’s salary to $65 per month. One month later, the board approved the employment of Myrtle Weatherholt as children’s librarian, beginning November 1st, with a salary of $80 per month, to be raised to $90 in January.
1920 was the first year the library was closed all day in observance of holidays. The library closed for Christmas, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. Sunday hours were to be observed on New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, and Armistice Day--if that day became a holiday, which it did in 1921. The board also voted to petition the city to raise the mill levy from three-tenths to four-tenths of a mill.
In April 1922 a branch library was established at the Grandview School. The hours were Wednesday evenings from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
In May of 1922 word was received that L. A. Bunker left the library a bequest of $10,000 in stocks upon his death. The interest from the investments was to be applied toward the purchase of books. In August, the board authorized a bronze tablet be purchased with the inscription of Bunker’s endowment. At that time, it was also voted that all employees in service for more than one year be allowed a vacation of three weeks.
A reference librarian was employed for the first time in August 1924. Florence Irvin was hired at a salary of $100 a month to fill the position. In October 1924 the matter of establishing a branch library at Lincoln School was discussed. It was to be financed by decreasing the pay of the janitor and dropping the assistant at the Grandview Branch, which would receive help from the main library. The board also discussed establishing a branch at South Hutchinson School, but this matter was dropped at the next meeting after the mayor said that the board had no legal right to extend such service outside the city.
In 1925 librarian Ida Day asked for a year’s leave of absence in order to attend school at the University of Kansas. Her request was granted, and Myrtle Weatherholt was directed to repalce Day. Marie Rowland was then hired to assist in the children’s department. In August, 1926, the resignation of Ida Day, Myrtle Weatherholt, and Florence Irwin were reported to the board. May Chapman was offered the position of librarian at a salary of $125 a month. She accepted in September. Marie Rowland was then offered the position of children’s librarian at a salary of $75 a month.
In 1927 the board considered its first censorship issue. Board member Jay Bigger asked the board to review Nation and New Republic. Bigger stated that if questionable articles were discovered, the book committee should consider withdrawing the subscriptions to the magazines. The suggestion was defeated.
In December 1927 the board considered the following House Rules:
(1) Employees were required to work eight hours a day or 48 hours a week.
(2) All full-time employees who served one year received two weeks paid vacation.
(3) Apprentices were required to work not less than 24 hours a week for six months. If service was satisfactory, they could be hired.
(4) The children’s room was opened from 2-6 p.m. during the school term, and Saturdays from 9-12 noon and 2-6 p.m.
(5) Holiday schedule—all day closings were observed Christmas Day, July 4th, and Thanksgiving Day. A Sunday schedule was observed on New Year’s Day and Decoration Day.
(6) One delegate was sent to the state library meeting, with expenses paid.
May Chapman resigned as librarian in June, 1928. However, she was retained as a member of the staff. Two months later, the board hired Mae P. Barlass as librarian, with the salary of $150 per month. One year later, in August, 1929, Barlass resigned. Her position was filled by Lucy Nichols.
The library board discontinued service to rural patrons in 1929. It also entertained the recommendation that each patron be required to have a card with the individual’s name and number. The card would be presented when checking out books. A 5 cent charge would be incurred if the card was not used and a 10 cent charge would be paid if the card was lost. Board meeting minutes included that fact that Hutchinson had a population of 27,808 and that 53 cents per person was being spent for library service.
The first mention of a cataloging position occurred in 1931. The cataloger was H. Elizabeth Kellan. The Circulation Department also had its own staff member—Jessie McCord. Lucy Nichols was Head Librarian, Florence Shearer was Reference Librarian, and Eiladean Thomas was the Children’s Librarian.
The Great Depression left its impact on the Hutchinson Public Library. Staff salaries were reduced at the beginning of 1933--those receiving $1,200 or more per year saw a reduction of 10%. Those employees making less than $1,200 were reduced by 5%. New library hours were approved in August. Staff reported to work at 9:30 a.m., with the library being open from 11:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. In August 1933 the Board was informed that there would be no income from tax money by July of 1934. The library staff was advised that they might not receive their salaries in September unless some tax money could be collected. This was after the non-degreed staff had already served a period of six months’ apprenticeship without pay.
By December, the Head Librarian reported that under the new federal relief programs, two new workers would be hired at 30 cents per hour, for thirty hours a week. The government workers were Margaret Chestro and Vivian Felt. They enabled the library to be open three evenings a week. In early 1934, the Civil Works Administration workers’ services were discontinued due to continued economic hardships. Their salaries had already previously been reduced to $1.80 per hour in an attempt to retain their services. The board reported a deficit at the end of the year of $847.64.
The problem of lost books was discussed at the January 7, 1935 meeting of the library board. The board moved to ask for a deposit from patrons who did not have a permanent local address. The deposit was the price of the book. New people applying for cards were required to have their cards signed by a property owner who agreed to be responsible for the borrower.
In October 1935 the board received a letter from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. The letter announced the approaching 100th anniversary of Andrew Carnegie’s birthday. It asked all Carnegie libraries to observe the birthday celebration. Since Hutchinson Public Library had twice benefited from the Foundation, it was decided to celebrate the anniversary in a suitable manner. In honor of the occasion, a dinner was held for the library staff at the Bisonte Hotel on November 24. An Open House was scheduled at the library from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on November 25. Approximately three hundred guests registered. There was a special essay contest in the high school on the topic, "The Carnegie Library: What It Means to Me". Three books were awarded to the winners.
According to publicity printed for the occasion, the library had a total of 37,361 books, 24,000 pamphlets and clippings, and 4,000 mounted pictures for circulation. More than one million books had been borrowed from the library since 1930. The expense per book circulated was 6 cents. Staff included H. Lucy Nichols, Librarian; Terressa Robertson, Reference Department; Jessie McCord, Circulation Department; Eiladean Thomas, Children’s Department; Elizabeth Kellam, Cataloging Department; Vivian Felt, assistant; and John Jarrott, part-time assistant. Staff also included seven junior college workers paid by the government.
In 1938 the library maintained three branch libraries in schools in the outlying districts of the city. These were located in Grandview, Lincoln and Avenue A grade schools. The children’s librarian went to each branch for a half day each week.
The library had two firsts in 1938. On November 8 the board first discussed the formation of a Friends of the Library group. On December 6, a Works Progress Administration representative named Mr. McCollom, who was blind, asked that a small braille collection be placed in the library, to be serviced by a blind employee under W.P.A. sponsorship. The suggestion was rejected.
In January 1939 Mrs. Don Smith moved that the board reconsider the acceptance of the braille library. She suggested that the board investigate what other libraries in similar communities were doing. The suggestion was again dismissed, citing lack of space.
Librarian Lucy Nichols reported in June 1940 on plans for the state library meeting to be held in Hutchinson from October 23rd to the 25th. The Library Board hosted a tea for the librarians during their visit to Hutchinson. World War II had an impact on the library. In 1942 Mrs. Charles Hall, board president, helped the board organize the Victory Book Campaign. The campaign was an effort to secure books for soldiers and sailors. New rules for circulating books outside the city limits were devised in October to accommodate personnel from the recently established naval airbase. The Metro Club was placed in charge of the Victory Book Campaign. People placed the books they wished to donate on their porches, or they tied streamers to their doorknobs to let canvassers know they had books. More than five hundred books were collected. The Hutchinson Public Library followed the national trend of decreasing library circulation during the war years.
The idea of preparing plans for a new library to be built in the post-war period was discussed at some length in May 1943. Nichols was instructed to secure a book of plans for library buildings and to write to the American Library Association (ALA) for ideas.
In 1944 the board made the motion that the Hutchinson Public Library become standardized in the matter of hours the staff worked. It was recommended that the number of hours be set at forty-four hours per week. Librarian Lucy Nichols resigned in September 1944, due to ill health. In November, the board asked former children’s librarian Myrtle Weatherholt to return from Indiana to serve as head librarian, with a salary of $2,000 per year.
In November 1941 the library was forced to close for three days due to the flooding of the town. The staff was marooned in their respective homes.
By the mid-1940’s the population of Hutchinson was 34,000. The library board recognized the need for a larger building and discussed plans for a new building in October 1945. One year later, the board directed a proposal to be submitted to the voters that the city be authorized to issue bonds to construct a new building. The Friends of the Library reported progress in presenting needs for the new building to several local organizations. In December 1947, the board discussed available sites for the new building. The site on the corner of 9th and Main, owned by the Great American Life Insurance Company, was agreed on and purchased for $15,000.
The site was chosen for four reasons. First, it was close to the center of population for the town; second, it was more accessible to students; third, it was on the highest ground available in the downtown area., an important consideration based on the recent flood; and fourth, it provided more land.
A letter from Dale Chesbro, chairman of the Hutchinson Labor Temple Building Association, was read offering $35,000 to purchase the building. Earlier that year, the board was made aware of the gift of Jack Harris’ excellent collection of Kansas books, which were to be given when the new library was finished. The gift was accepted at the July, 1950, board meeting.
A bond issue totaling $321,000 was passed in 1948. Open House in the new Hutchinson Public Library was March 21, 1951. The new library provided more space for the reference department, a music room, a special room for the collection of books and magazines related to Kansas, a quiet reading room where smoking was permitted, and facilities for microfilm readers. An electric book lift shuttled books from the stackroom in the basement to the main floor and on to the second floor. The new library opening was covered in the December 15, 1952, Library Journal. 1951 marked the 50th anniversary of the library in Hutchinson.
Children’s librarians had changed over the years. Mamie Might held the position from July, 1946, to June, 1949, at which time Junivee Unruh took over. She resigned at the end of 1951 and was replaced by Marcelee Gralapp in 1952.
In 1953 the board considered the suggestion that the library be opened on Sudays from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. for reading and reference work, scheduled to begin November 16. The staff were given compensatory hours from their regular work schedules.
In 1952 the library board also debated the purchase of a bookmobile from the Gerstenslager Company in Ohio. The vote of the board was tied 4 to 4. Board president, Mrs. Henry Pegues, voted in favor of the bookmobile, thereby breaking the tie. The cost of the bookmobile was not to exceed $7,500.
The vote brought a storm of controversy. Mrs. Albion Benson presented a petition signed by 750 voters who asked the board to reverse its original purchase decision. Benson stated that a majority of the populace supported the petition against the purchase of the bookmobile. She said, "Only three persons contacted by me refused to sign the petition. All three were widows who wouldn’t sign because they had no husband to discuss it with." The petition was presented too late. The bookmobile had already been purchased.
The bookmobile arrived in February, 1953. The vehicle had a custom-built Gerstenberg body on an international harvester truck chassis. The body was painted bright red with a cream panel. The interior measured twelve feet on the inside, with a capacity for between 2,500 and 3,000 books. Robert Black was hired as the bookmobile driver. The new bookmobile served its first patrons in June of 1953. During its first ten days of service, 575 patrons checked out 1,002 volumes. The cost of operation was $60.81 for the month. Actual expenditure for gasoline was $1.58. That September, librarian Ida Holzapfel and children’s librarian Marcelee Gralapp met with the Superintendent of Schools and the principals of the elementary schools to discuss a schedule for the bookmobile to travel to those schools farthest from the library.
Ida Holzapfel resigned as librarian at the end of 1953. The board hired Claude Settlemire, who assumed the librarian’s duties in June, 1954. At that time the library reported 20,229 total borrowers. Statistics showed 21, 697 items circulated. The library had a total of 54,985 books in its collection.
At the September 1955 board meeting, Settlemire requested that the children’s department remain open two nights each week. His request was approved. Then, in January 1956, he asked that a definite sick leave policy be established. Settlemire resigned that August, and the board hired Robert Thomas in September.
Thomas was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin library school. At the time of his appointment, he was president of the North Dakota Library Association, and was the chair of the public library section of the Mid-Plains Library Association.
In 1957 a vacation policy was established for the staff. Professional librarians received four weeks with pay, professional staff received three weeks with pay, non-professional staff received two weeks with pay. Part-time help did not receive a paid vacation.
The library installed the Gaylord Charging System on January 19, 1959. By February 1,700 resident borrowers and 300 non-resident borrowers had been registered. By August, the number of adult borrowers increased to 5,617.
In August of 1959 Reno County Treasurer F. H. Bobb gave official notice that the Hutchinson Public Library was deliquent in its taxes. Bobb stated that he would bid the library in for the county at a tax sale scheduled for September 1. The library owed the county $49.04, plus interest and advertising costs. This was the first payment on a special improvement tax, and had been due on November 1, 1958.
Librarian Bob Thomas stated he received a delinquent tax notice about eight months previously. The first two copies were blank, and the library assumed the third copy of the notice was also blank. That copy, however, contained the information that the library owed tax money for a storm drain improvement. The Board voted to pay the tax, and the library was saved from the auction block.
1960 brought major changes to the Hutchinson Public Library. Carlos Cuitino, a librarian trained in Chile, was appointed director of the library. Junivee Black started as Children’s Librarian on July 1, a position that had been open since 1956. At a special board meeting in December, Denny Stephens, of Odessa, Texas, was interviewed for the position of assistant librarian. He was offered the position and accepted. When librarian Carlos Cuitino resigned in April, 1961, Stephens applied for and was hired as head librarian.
In November of 1961 Stephens decided to celebrate Children’s Book Week in a big way. The canopied entrance to the Children’s Department was covered to resemble shelves of books by Dr Seuss. Inside the library, a turtle—appropriately named Yertle—awaited library visitors. Yertle had to be taken to the junior college once a day to be fed. Thidwick the Big Hearted Moose told stories. Library employee Judy Cummings dressed as the Cat in the Hat and entertained children. Seventy-one school classes toured the library during the Fair, with additional children and adult visitors at other times. Circulation for the month increased 12 ½% over the previous November.
The book in demand for 1961 was Tropic of Cancer. HPL had difficulty obtaining a copy of the title because publishers would not fill the orders. Three books were removed from shelves due to complaints. One book dealt with juvenile delinquency in New York City. The second dealt with the torture of Algerians by the French. The third book was a mystery novel.
The library purchased its first microfilm reader in 1962. The first photocopier had been purchased in 1961. The library instituted a new educational policy for the staff. The Board voted to open the library at 10 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. The extra hour was used to provide library-science in-service training to the staff. The in-service programs were complete with lectures and exams. An additional benefit was instituted—the Hutchinson Public Library joined the Kansas State Retirement System.
Late in 1962 Denny Stephens started a fund to purchase a circulating children’s art collection. The art prints went on display during Children’s Book Week, with the pictures first available for check-out in December. The charge for the pictures was 25 cents for four weeks.
In early 1963 Stephens reported that Hutchinson Public Library became the first public library in Kansas to be appointed a Depository Library for the United States Government. The library had also been selected as a demonstration library for Kansas State Documents. The library was beginning to outgrow its facilities at this time, so plans were made to work with an architect to discuss the needs and feasibility of expansion.
In February, the library started its "orphan book" drive. An "orphan book" was defined as any unused, unwanted, unread, unhoused, or unshelved book. These books were donated to the library and were used to increase the library collection and offset the cost of new volumes. The goal of the program was 10,000 volumes. By July, the library had received over 14,000 books and periodicals.
That same year, the library instituted a disciplinary policy. The library had experienced discipline problems with high school-aged students in evening hours, particularly between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. on school nights. The plan, coordinated with the public schools, required teachers to send advance notice of reading assignments and materials necessary for assignments. The teachers also prepared a bibliography that cited all research materials. The third part of the program required students to turn in their student identification cards to the circulation desk when they arrived at the library. The cards were returned when the students left the library. In the event of misconduct the cards were given to high school officials for disciplinary purposes.
Stephens resigned in February 1964 and Ernestine Gilliland, who had formerly been head of the adult department and then assistant director, became the new head librarian in April. In September 1964 the library experienced an historic moment. In that month, its collection of books exceeded the 100,000 volume mark. A library that had more than 100,000 volumes was considered to be a complete library with an ample variety of materials. The library also set a new circulation record. It circulated 23,980 more items in 1964 than it had in 1963. The 1964 circulation figure was 296,742. Based on Hutchinson’s population at that time, the library circulated an average of 13 items per person, at a time when the national average was five.
The addition of original art by Kansas artists to the circulating art collection was discussed in June, 1965. Also throughout the year plans for expansion continued, including the seeking of a bond election in 1967.
1965 brought major changes to the public library. 1965 was the year that Kansas was divided into seven regional library systems. The library systems were established to provide trained personnel, save money through the use of mass purchasing, avoid personnel and equipment duplication, and provide consulting services. Hutchinson Public Library would be established as the headquarters of the South Central Kansas Library System (SCKLS) in 1967.
The library also entered into an agreement with the State Library to join the Kansas Information Circuit. The State Library established a network among Hutchinson and the other five largest public libraries—Topeka, Johnson County, Kansas City, Wichita, and Salina. These libraries were to act as reference and resource centers for the smaller libraries within their designated areas. HPL received $8,000 to be used for the purchase of materials to help meet the new information needs of the libraries.
By March 1966 it was determined by the Hutchinson public schools that the bookmobile’s services to schools were no longer needed, due to the hiring of a school library coordinator. In April, Gilliland requested that a gift of $10,000 from Ada Pegues be placed in an endowment, to be used in the children’s department for the purchase of children’s books. It was also in 1966 that the library finally housed the materials for the Talking Book service for the blind and physically handicapped. Prior to 1966, the materials had to come from the Wolfer Library in St. Louis, Missouri.
Denny Stephens was appointed State Librarian of Kansas in early 1967. That April, a resolution was signed by the board for the library to participate in the area system program. Then, in January 1968, the board decided to drop the $5.00 fee charged to out-of-city patrons, due to the creation of the South Central Kansas Library System. Expansion plans continued to be discussed and approved in 1967 and 1968.
On April 4, 1967, voters approved a $412,000 bond issue to finance a 20,000 square foot addition to the library. The vote was 5,882 to 2,835. Plans proceeded for the construction of a new library. The Board also dealt with the problem of attempted censorship. Some parents had objected to current fiction materials. The Board unanimously agreed that it was not the duty of the board to censor or pass judgment on books.
In 1968 the board accepted the bid of N.F. English Construction Company for the additions and alterations to the library. The library staff was informed that the library would be closed for remodeling in November and they would be required to take their vacations during that time. On May 14, 1969, the board was taken on an inspection of the new addition. There was an addition to the staff in the position of Community Services Librarian. Ernestine Gilliland was appointed State Librarian in July, and the head librarian’s position was offered to William Knott. Several changes occurred at the library during his tenure. A new program, Dial-A-Book, was initiated at the library. This service allowed rural patrons to obtain information and book titles by dialing the library on a toll-free number. At that time, the service was described as the only service of its kind available in Kansas, and possibly in the nation. Knott helped create the Kansas Reading Room and extended homebound service to shut-ins. The library was also designated as a map depository for the United States Geological Survey during this time.
That same year, rural patrons questioned the viability of the System services, which included Dial-A-Book, Interlibrary Loan, Mail-A-Book, and the Rotating Book Truck. At that time, only one other Mail-A-Book service operated in the United States. The service provided rural patrons with a catalog of pre-selected titles, mostly for pleasure reading, that would be sent to their homes postage-free. After thorough discussion on the matter, rural patrons recognized the importance of these services to the quality of their lives. The mill-levy monies were continued.
By November of 1971 the library again experienced problems with students. Attempted solutions included hiring extra staff, hiring a monitor, and even stationing uniformed police at the library. The situation seemed to stalemate. In desperation, the library board voted to close the library at 8 p.m., instead of 9 p.m. This move had its desired effect. With term paper deadlines rapidly approaching, the students recognized the importance of the study time provided by the library. HPL was able to close at its regular time by December.
Knott left the library's employment in early 1971. James Hathaway was appointed head librarian. He resigned in January 1972. Duane Johnson became library director in April. The board again considered the desirability of opening for Sundays. It was decided that Sunday hours would be offered for a period of one year, to commence December 3, and be subjected to periodic review. Staff received compensatory time-off for Sundays worked. Exclusion was granted to staff personnel who had religious convictions against working on Sunday.
Providing bookmobile service to certain areas of the city was also discussed. Johnson stated that was the most feasible approach to library extension. Cost of the vehicle was the main barrier. In February 1973, the City Council approved the library board's request for financial assistance in the purchase of a new bookmobile for extension service. Bookmobile service began in October.
The big event of 1973 was a raid on the library's government documents section by U.S. Customs Agents. The agents regained a copy of the Customs Enforcement Manual that had accidentally been mailed to the library. It was noted that the pamphlet had been checked out several times during the eighteen months it was in the collection.
The October 31, 1975, issue of the Hutchinson News included a story of library workers who reported seeing and hearing a ghost in the library. Supposedly, it was the ghost of Ida Day Holzapfel. Ida Day was described as totally dedicated to her job. Her dedication frequently made her difficult to work with, especially if fellow employees did not demonstrate the same dedication to the library that she did. Ida Day was considered a proper woman, who had tea with employees promptly at 3 p.m. every afternoon. She resigned in early 1954 and took a position as a reference librarian for Tulare County in Visalia, California. She never filled that position. She was killed in an auto accident on her first day of the job.
On one occasion library employees Angeline Welch and Rose Hale were working in the basement. Hale went upstairs and when she returned she heard Welch talking to someone. Welch denied she had said a word, but Hale heard footsteps leaving.
Hale said the next day she stopped below the stairs and saw a lady standing there. Hale did not know the woman's name, but when she later described the woman to another library employee, Hale was told she had just described Ida Day. Since that time, other employees claimed to have heard footsteps in the basement, and it became a shared joke that whenever anything was misplaced or missing, Ida Day took it.
The feeling that Ida Day returned to watch over the library, and sometimes rebelled when she thought it was not being run correctly, was reinforced by the local paper. In the News story published when Ida Day resigned to take the job in California, the article stated, "She plans to retain ownership of her home at 430 E. 12th and will eventually return to Hutchinson …"
In anticipation of expanding the children's department, the book processing center was moved into a newly remodeled laundry room that was located at what had been St. Elizabeth's Hospital in October 1976. For the next seven years, all of the cataloging and book preparation functions for public library and SCKLS were performed at this location and then transported back to the main library for distribution.
In 1976 the library began providing space for junior and senior level classes through McPherson College. In 1977, the library initiated a patient library service in cooperation with the Hutchinson Hospital Corporation. In 1978, re-establishing a Friends of the Library organization was discussed. Also in 1978, steps were begun to make improvements and to remodel the children's department, the mezzanine, and the basement. Actual work on these projects was not completed until 1980 and early 1981.
Once the remodeling was completed, help was needed to physically move the books to their new locations. The children's department was closed to the public for one day, but staff were required to show up and reshelve the books. The entire library closed one Friday evening, and staff formed a "book brigade", similar to the old fireman's brigade, to pass books from the adult department hand-by-hand up the stairs to the new location on the second floor.
In July 1979 the library began a tutoring program for adults. Adults who could not read or who desired to increase their reading skills were encouraged to participate in the literacy program at no charge.
In July 1981 Johnson organized several special events to draw the community into the library. One event was a Medieval Faire, scheduled to coincide with that year's Summer Library Program theme, "The Magic Castle". The lawn outside the Children's Department sported games, a maypole, other activities, and displays. To add to the authenticity of the environment, employees throughout the library dressed in medieval garb. This was the beginning of the Children's Summer Celebration, an event held in conjunction with the Summer Library Program.
Duane Johnson resigned in March 1982, to accept the position of State Librarian. Johnson was the third HPL director to become State Librarian. That June, the board hired Leroy M. Gattin as Director.
An organizational meeting for a Friends of the Library group was planned for August 30, 1983. Neva Jane Upp was elected President. The group conducted a book sale in October and raised over $3,300. There were 150 members at that time.
In 1983 the System board decided that for administrative and economical reasons, as well as staff cohesion, the library would be better served if the processing center was located in the main library. The construction of walls and the moving of cabinets for the art and printing department was begun in December in order to vacate the area that would become the processing center.
On Monday, February 20, 1984, the movers began loading equipment that had been packed for the move. By that Thursday, the move was completed. Staff began normal operations in the basement of the library.
In 1984 voters passed a bond issue of $1.7 million to expand the library. The expansion added 17,000 square feet. In 1985 Paula Collins was hired to sculpt a bas-relief of the Hutchinson skyline on bricks for decoration of the building. Major elements of the sculpture included a train, the courthouse, wheat elevators, the Kansas State Fair, oil gear, a buggy, livestock, the Cosmophere, an airplane, and a caricature of the blowing wind. The bond issue also included money for the purchase of an automated circulation system. A staff committee began working with the library automation consulting firm, R. Walton and Associates. After researching numerous systems, the library decided on the system produced by Dynix, Inc. The public access catalog was ready for use in October 1986. In March 1987, the library began to use the computer system's circulation processes. The system was programmed to do renewals, calculate fines, send overdue notices, and reserve materials.
The library remodeling was completed in 1986. At the time of the open house, the Hutchinson Public Library, as the designated SCKLS system headquarters, served 91 libraries, housed the Rotating Book Truck Service, the Talking Book Service, Mail-A-Book Services, Interlibrary Loan Services, and a Processing Center.
In 1987, the nation celebrated the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution. In recognition of the event, HPL sponsored speakers for a Bicentennial Forum. The speakers included Kansas Supreme Court Justice Harold Herd; Alan Schecter, Professor of Political Science at Wellesley; and Dr. Henry Steele Commager, Professor of History at Amherst.
In 1985, the board had voted to name the children's room the Junivee Unruh Black Children's Center, in honor of her many years of dedicated and exceptional service. Black had received the national Allie Beth Martin Award because of her demonstrated range and depth of knowledge about library materials. The dedication took place on September 21, 1988, when a plaque was erected outside the children's entrance and a reception was held to honor Black. She retired the following July.
The library has continued to implement new programs in response to patron demand. In late 1989, the board accepted Gattin's recommendation for the development of a video lending service. The library began loaning videos in February 1990. Also, in late 1989, the library's adult literacy program was revised and improved, to help in the national fight to eradicate illiteracy by the year 2000.
New programs have also been developed to keep the children of the community interested in the library. The Children's Department has hosted sleepovers during National Library Week. During the sleepovers, children were encouraged to bring family members to the library after hours for a time of fun and learning. The families were allowed to sleep at the library and were served a continental breakfast before they were sent home. These responses provide evidence of the dedication by the library to meet the information needs of the people of Hutchinson and the surrounding area. It was this sense of dedication that served as the foundation of the library. This same dedication continues to this day.
On August 6, 1996, residents of the city of Hutchinson approved a $950,000 bond issue to finance the expansion of the Hutchinson Public Library Children's Department.
The project began in June 1997, and will include a 6,000 square ft. addition to the Children's area, renovation of the heating and air conditioning system, and a second main entrance to the library from the parking lot. The additional space will provide a new room for story hour and other activities, additional shelving space, and an expanded children's technology center.
Max and Elizabeth Ontjes' generous gift of $250,000 will be used to buy equipment for the Learning Center.
The new Children's Department will open on April 28. The dedication will be on May 17 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. It will be an Open House for the public. Refreshments will be provided. The featured speaker will be Roger Verdon, former managing editor of The Hutchinson News.