Jamestown City Library

A Brief History of the Library

The Jamestown City Library

The history of the Jamestown city Library began in September 1898, when a group of women net to form an organization to study literature and to provide a library for the community. Their first step was to secure a room to display a traveling library. Mr. Frank Lane provided the room, and by May 1899, the library was open two days a week. The members of the sponsoring club, the Current Literature and History Club, each took turns acting as librarian. Among those early members were Mesdames Brotchie, Strain, Lane, Ansdell, Kelly, Hartwell, and the Misses Alice and Lizzie Fitzgerald.

The next step for these persevering women was to raise money and secure a building for a permanent library. In November 1899, Mr. James Pomeroy donated $100 toward the erection of a building. In order to own property, the club was incorporated in 1900, a lot was purchased for $80, and the present site of the library became a part of Jamestown.

The dedication and hard work of the club members and the support of the community provided additional funds for the building project. The total cost of the building was $1098.75, and was largely raised by community projects sponsored by the club. (Old records show a carpenter working four hours was paid $.60, plastering work for $34.)

On January 25, 1901, the books were moved into the new library. February 22, 1901, the Pomeroy Library was formally dedicated with A. B. Carney giving the dedicatory address. It took three years and four months to pay off the remaining $400 of debt, money borrowed from B.D. French. The dream of the club members was a reality, and they set about providing money for more books and equipment.

Disaster struck in the form of a terrible fire on November 28, 1911, which burned out of control and destroyed much of the main street of Jamestown. The library building was destroyed, and only 65 books were saved. Immediately the club called a special meeting, accepted the offer of the lounge of the Methodist Church basement as temporary quarters for the library, and planned to reopen when another 25 books were acquired. This meeting reflected the determination of the ladies to make plans to rebuild. Consequently, on January 29, 1912, the club sponsored a “rally meeting of citizens of Jamestown” which was described as interesting and enthusiastic.

There was $1000 of insurance on the former building and contents. This was not sufficient to rebuild but the trustees of the Christian Church donated $900. With this additional money, the club members planned for a new library building immediately. At first, they planned for a structure of brick but later decided they must “plan within their means.” In the meantime, to raise money, they planned forty-six separate money raising projects including box suppers, debates, food sales, plays, and a musical. Outright contributions from individuals ranged from $.05 to $5. Mr. D. Barton made an additional pledge of $900.

Minutes of the club show that bills were allowed on November 20, 1912, for the foundation for a frame building on the same site. During the spring and midsummer of 1913, the building was erected and painted. Tables, chairs, and window shades were installed, the floors oiled, and a piano box purchased for $.50 to be used as a kindling box. Earlier, the Current Literature Club had received a donation of $33 from the Farmers’ Union of Prairie Gem for additional books for the library. In the late summer, the new Pomeroy Library was open, and today remains the home of the Jamestown City Library. Changes were made and new equipment was added to modernize the facility and in 1918, the library became a free library. After the fire, the ladies asked for a yearly fee of a $1 for library use. This began when the reopened in the Methodist Church and the money was used to purchase more books. To recognize Mr. Barton, who pledged $900 towards the new building, the ladies waived the yearly fee. I October 1925, the club voted to relinquish their claim to the library and transfer it to the City of Jamestown. This was done and the Pomeroy Library became the Jamestown City Library.

Until October 1900, members of the club took turns serving as librarian. In 1904, Miss Ora Good (Mrs. Fred Ansdell) volunteered to serve as librarian; she completed her 50th year in 1954 and continued serving until 1957 when she retired.

Many changes have been made to the building over the years the ceilings were lowered, new lighting installed, and a more modern heating system replaced the coal stoves. New carpeting, shelves, fresh paint, and curtains have made the library a pleasant place to browse and select books. More recently, a new concrete porch replaced the old. A book drop box has made it more convenient to turn books outside regular library ours.

A board of seven members who are appointed by the city council for a four-year term manages the library. The city mayor is an honorary member of the board.

In 1968, the Central Kansas Library System located at Great Bend extended its services to the Jamestown City Library. Among these services are rotating books, and inter-library loan service, talking books for the handicapped, and bi-focal kits. Other services are available through the Wichita Library. The library board sponsors nine programs a year at the library for the public.