Short ride today, only 25 miles from Burns, Kansas, to Newton, Kansas. After some fortifying donuts at Druber’s Donut Shop, we visited with James, Heather, and Karl at the Newton Bike Shop. We had heard a lot about the bike shop through friends and the film, Inspired to Ride. The shop was everything we expected and more: great stories about the Trans Am Bike Race, mementos from past racers, and bike stuff we needed to purchase. The Trans Am Bike Race began on June 2 and the front riders should pass through Newton on Sunday or Monday. John and I will hopefully pass some of them as we head west.
We’ve been looking forward to our visit to Newton. Not long after American Libraries Direct posted about our cross-country bicycle tour, we connected with Marianne Eichelberger (Library Director) and made plans to visit the Newton Public Library. Today we spent time with Marianne and Dan Eells (Adult Supervisor), plus spoke briefly with some of the other staff, including Betsy Davis (Collection Development and Technical Services Supervisor). Out-of-town visitors do visit the library, some even on bicycles! Since Newton is directly on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, many bicycle tourist come to the library to use the computers, wifi, and to find a place to relax. And in early July, MITSpokes is stopping at the Library to work with local youth. MITSpokes is a group of eight MIT students that share their love of Science-Technology-Engineering-Math while stopping at selected sites during their cross-country bike trip. Very cool!
Exciting things are happening at the Newton Public Library this summer, with a busy program schedule including the Adult and Children’s Summer Reading Programs (Libraries Rock!!); Veteran’s Memoir Writing Workshop; weekly Tech Time; and two adult book clubs. This weekend the Flower and Garden Tour is happening, with proceeds benefitting the Second Century Library Foundation. The library also provides door-to-door book delivery service for the elderly and helps many people with online job applications. One happy story: recently a patron brought pizza for the library staff, announcing they had received a job and thanking the library for their help!
Newton has a historic Carnegie building on Main Street that now houses the Harvey County Historical Museum and Archives. The Library moved to its current location in 1973 and has over the years suffered from water leaks and space constraints. The Library has been advocating for an improved library space since 2006, with plans for a new building presented in 2010. During the past few years, Newton has funded other community needs, such as a remodel for the police station and city swimming pool. But the library continues to advocate for the new building and appreciates others voicing their support at community meetings and other venues, such as social media or blogs--like librariansonbikes.com! We strongly add our voices in support for a new public library building in Newton. We’ve seen improved library spaces bring new energy to communities and make the library a vital meeting and learning space. Trust us, it will be a source of pride and success for Newton.
Thanks to all of the staff that met with us, particularly Marianne and Dan. Lunch was delicious and the conversation most enjoyable and informative!
It was a two-day journey from Lawrence to Council Grove, through the beautiful Flint Hills via Pomona Lake. After riding for eight days, we were looking forward to a day of rest at my sister’s trailer (also known as The Love Shack and The Mansion) on the City Lake, outside of Council Grove. Our last stop before our well-earned day of rest was at the Council Grove Public Library. We had visited Council Grove several times before but we learned much more about its history during our library visit. The town’s name comes from a grove where the treaty was signed allowing the right-of-way for passage along the Santa Fe Trail. It was a major stop along the Trail and the last place one could acquire lumber. The town itself has 2,000 people with another 3,000 in the surrounding County.
We entered the library as actual out-of-town visitors needing to use a library. We wanted to download a book chapter we are revising and were completely out of water on this hot, sunny day. Immediately when we arrived, we found the sign-up sheet for using the computers and wifi. After signing up I was handed the wifi password with no ID required. John went to fill the water bottles at the water fountain and the library staff began a conversation about writing a grant to get a water bottle filling station for their patrons. The library also sold bottles of cold water with the library’s logo at a profit of 50 cents per bottle (cool marketing Shannon!!). The library receives a lot of vacationers from the nearby lakes and provides them with an on-going book sale, free magazines, and allows them to get a library card regardless of their home town as long as they can provide a piece of mail with their address and a government-issued ID.
And what a great library staff! Fortunately for John and I, we arrived as staff shifts overlapped and got to talk with Shannon Reid-Wheat (Library Director), Michelle Waymire (Children/Youth Services), Jess Prudence, Katy Herde, and Abbie Schroeder (Circulation Desk Clerks). Such enthusiasm for their jobs, the community, and the library. We learned a lot about Council Grove, both from the library staff and their Local Information space which provides pamphlets from the Council Grove Chamber of Commerce and local businesses. The library serves as a second visitor’s information center for Council Grove, particularly since it has longer hours. As you drive down Main Street, out-of-town visitors are guided to the library by a sign posted near the old Carnegie library building (now The Historical Society). Council Grove moved the library out of the Carnegie building to its current site in 2002 in order to take advantage of a larger building and to be ADA compliant.
Library programming includes providing activities at the community’s summer free-lunch program for youth under 18 years old; ‘Talk about Literature in Kansas’ adult programming made available with the Kansas Humanities Council; Summer Reading Program; book talks; and a robotics program for youth during the school year. Shannon, the Library Director, also told me about the DVD collection, saying it was a great resource to broaden the community’s interest in the Library. They stock a large and current collection of feature films, documentaries, and television series and check out 500-600 DVDs a month. And you only need to be at least eight years old to come to the library unattended. That shows a lot of trust and care from both the community and the library.
Many thanks to all of the library staff we met during our visit. You all are a joy. We really enjoyed ourselves and will return to the library the next time we hang out at City Lake. <3
This was a special library visit since Lawrence, Kansas, is my hometown. Of all the visits that we will make this summer, our visit to Lawrence Public Library will probably be the most meaningful to me. In many ways, this library is why I became a librarian and why we are visiting libraries as part of our cross-country adventure.
As a youth, both of my parents worked, so my five siblings and I bicycled to our three summer hangouts: the Lawrence Public Library, the public swim complex, and our Dad’s gas station at 10th and New Hampshire (Cramer’s 66, now Sunfire Ceramics). All were centrally located in downtown Lawrence, all provided essential services. Dad gave us cash, candy, and comic books from the Town Crier; the public pool is where we found our friends and relief from the heat; and the library provided books, air-conditioning, and the resources and atmosphere that allowed us to pursue our independent intellectual interests. One of my favorite childhood summer memories is sprawling on the bed and floors of my parents’ bedroom (the only air-conditioned room in the house) with four or five of my siblings, spending the afternoons reading. During these summers, bicycles meant freedom and libraries meant discovery.
I’m very proud to be from Lawrence, Kansas, with its free-state mentality and universities. Lawrence was founded by anti-slavery settlers that were successful in Kansas being introduced as a free-state. The Kansas-Missouri Border War was a bloody era in Lawrence, with the Sack of Lawrence in 1856 and Quantrill’s Massacre in 1863. In 1866 Lawrence became the home of the University of Kansas, followed by the establishment of the United States Indian Industrial Training School (now the Haskell Indian Nations University) in 1884.
These traditions of social justice and learning are strikingly evident at the Lawrence Public Library. At the Welcome Desk, you can pick up stickers with the Lawrence Public Library logo with your choice of the original red background, rainbow stripes background (LGBT) or with light blue, pink, and white stripes background (Transgender). The Book Squad Challenge this month is to read a book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist. Programming includes the Social Justice Book Club; DocDiscussions (a film documentary discussion group); Local Authors and Artists Outside (an artist or author talk, followed by a hike), and You are Local History (a local history project to digitize family letters, photos, and other items for addition to the Digital Douglas County History Project). They also provide a free lunch for children age 1-18 years old, Monday-Friday, through the Summer Food Program.
As advocates for libraries promoting wellness and exercise, John and I were open-jaw amazed at all of the related fitness programming at Lawrence Public Library. These include Fitness Fridays (fitness classes offered on Fridays, 7 am, on the library lawn); Bookworms + Waterbugs (stories at the swim complex next door); Name That Tune (a musical fitness adventure); Just Cook @ Your Library (learn to cook healthy meals); Story Walk, and more. During our visit, the library was hosting Jennifer Pharr Davis to speak about her book, The Pursuit of Endurance. Jennifer has hiked more than 14,000 miles of trails on six continents, and is an adventurer, mother, inspiration, and resident of Asheville, NC. We’ll definitely be reading her book and hope to bring her to Appalachian State University to speak next year.
And I have to mention the library building. Remodeled in 2014, the Lawrence Public Library won the AIA/ALA Library Building Award, recognizing excellence in library architectural design. It is a striking addition to downtown, with the corners of the building in glass and a large outdoor plaza. Inside the main entrance, one finds a large open entry-way with coffee-shop and welcome desk, an auditorium, and expanded meeting spaces. Downstairs is a sound recording studio, a local history section, and computer lab that anyone can use--you just need to pick up a login from the desk. Perfect for the out-of-town bicycle tourist returning home.
A wonderful visit to my favorite library. John and I would like to thank the five library staff members that took time to speak with us: Barb Michener, Ilka Iwanczuk, Martha Gronniger, Ruth Hite, and Jake, the librarian/bicycle commuter. It was great talking with you all and we will be back soon.