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