Addressed to Mrs. Dane Bales (1st District Director of the Woman’s Kansas Day Club in 1967) this letter was written in response to a request for information on “The Role of Women in Establishing Libraries is Kansas.”
Two fires, a cooperative community, and dedicated club women combined to bring the Ransom Community Library into being and make it permanent.
The library originated in 1937, sponsored by the Ransom PTA, with Mrs. L.A. Dubbs as Library Chairman. It was housed in the printing office of the Ransom Record. Fire destroyed the newspaper building and the 800 books in the library, including two trunks of books on loan from the Kansas Traveling Library Commission in July, 1937.
Within two months the library had reopened with 70 books donated by friends, in shelved space in the office of the Rock Island Lumber Company. A WPA employee acted as librarian.
When the Ransom Monday Evening Club organized and federated in 1939, Mrs. Lynn Stover, president, and Mrs. Louis Horchem, library chairman, accepted responsibility for the library as a club project. Club women ( with the help of their husbands) cleaned, built shelves, and put up a stove in the rear apartment of the oldest building in town. D.A. Eshleman had erected the Dry Goods Store with living quarters in the rear in 1887. The 1939 owner, George Osborne, operated a harness shop and rented the rear apartment to the club for one dollar per month.
Club members cataloged the books by the Dewey Decimal System and were assessed 38 cents each to pay the premium on a $200 insurance policy for their library. Although housing was less than ideal, the library thrived. Friends at home and at a distance donated books. The high school board and the grade school board took turns in paying the $2.50 necessary for borrowing traveling libraries and teachers helped select the books. Rural schools checked five books at one time to be kept for their use for one month. One grateful rural school district included a $10 gift to the library in their budget.
Club members served as librarians, keeping the library open one afternoon and one evening each week. Club minutes in January, 1940 reported, “Our library is in a healthy condition financially. Receipts amounting to $13.78 have been taken in since the project started last fall.”
In the fall of 1941, the library was moved into a “more suitable” building with the rent of $5 per month paid from the city treasury. But the suitable building was constructed of cement. Its damp walls caused the books to mildew.
There was rejoicing in 1944 when the City of Ransom purchased an abandoned filling station, set aside one room for the use of the library, and invited the club women to assist in decorating it. The City Council, in expansive mood, suggested that the club use coal from the city bin to heat the library room. In return, the club invited the council to hold their business meetings in the library storeroom. Books on the shelves totaled more than 1000; the insurance was increased to $500. With adequate housing, club members worried because so few books were borrowed,. They arranged to loan books to the local hospital, and devised various plans to stimulate reading. On April 4, 1950, the blow fell- the City building and all its contents burned to the ground. Cost of the traveling library books to be replaced was $90.
The city made immediate plans to erect a new building on the site with a room for the library. Books were donated once more. The Ness City Library offered their duplicates. The insurance was collected.
The new library held an open house on November 27, 1950 and the books were insured for $1,000. In the spring of 1951, club women bought trees and shrubs, landscaped the library lawn and purchased window awnings. The library was included in the city budget and a tax levied for its support.
Through the years the library sponsors cooperated with community projects, collected Victory books for soldiers in service, bought a War Bond, and eagerly welcomed book borrowers from neighboring towns and rural areas. Mrs. C.L. Harkness, 1967 Library Chairman, conducts a summer reading program for children in an effort to encourage the reading of books and meet a persistent problem.
Holdings have grown to more than 2500 books, the library is now heated by gas and cooled by electricity. Library funds have been used only for books and maintenance. Club members still catalog and check out the books, keeping the library open at hours most convenient to the reading borrowers. — Agnes Dubbs Hays, August 1967