In 1927 the Homemakers Club established the Effingham Community Library. The club was organized in 1914 when World War I erupted in Europe. During the war, the women worked faithfully for the Red Cross. In 1918 when the war ended by the signing of the Armistice’s the club’s treasury held over $200.00. The women continued to meet and in 1920 the club became federated. By 1927 the Club had accumulated $500, and the ladies decided to give the City of Effingham a memorial gift.
After agreeing on a library the Effingham City Council gave their blessing to the project along with the understanding that the women would have to manage the library themselves since the city was unable to help financially. Then the ladies purchased for $450 the former Leonard Beauty Shoppe at the corner of Howard and Seventy Street. The women spent $50 on books and they also canvassed the town for used books to fill the 10 by 15 building. The library opened December 7, 1927. The library was open two afternoons a week for two hours a day. Library cards were 50 cents for club members and $1.00 for all others.
When the library opened its door, the roaring twenties were winding down, prohibition was still in effect and the dirty thirties and the depression were still in the future. In 1927 Effingham’s Main Street bustled with business activities. The thriving community was a reflection of a larger population both in the city and surrounding area. According to 1925 Kansas Census, the City’s population was approximately 625 as compared to the population 540 that the 1990 census shows. Since farms were much smaller then, the rural population was several times larger than today’s. In fact Benton Township’s population in the 1920s was much larger than Effingham’s. Atchison County 1930’s population was listed as 23,945 compared to 17,890 in 1988’s listing.
The pages of the 1927 November edition of the Effingham News Leaf give a glimpse of the community. In those days a dollar went a long way. The Elmer McClanahan Grocery Store sold three boxes of crackers for 40 cents, 10 bars of Pick Wick Soar for 39 cents and 4 boxes of macaroni for 29 cents”the grand total is $1.08, which is much less than what a box of crackers costs today. A chicken dinner cost 40 cents at the Elite Cafe. The Stutz Drug store advertised Pancea chicken feed that would feed a hen for 6 months for the price of one egg. Another grocery store owned by George Van Wagoner wanted to buy eggs and poultry.
Considering inflation, interest rates then seemed high compared with today’s rates. Farmers could get a loan for 5 per cent, or people could receive 5 per cents on a tax free bond. The same could be said about the price of a new car. A1928 Buick sedan cost from $1195 to $1995, but servicing them seen reasonable. The Linley Motor Company for $5.50 would do 18 separate adjustments to an automobile.
Some other business advertisements were Searles and Werle, who offered gas, tires and tubes. Snyder Coal and Grain Co, Hegarty Grain Company, Stutz and Shifflett mortuary, C. A. Benjamin, tinner and plumber, and C. A. Hawk, livestock and general auctioneer. Two doctors and a dentist also ran ads in the newspaper.
These items from the paper show various signs of the times. The two banks, The State Bank of Effingham and the Farmer and Merchants State Bank, were closed on November 11, for Armistice Day, which today is celebrated as Veterans Day. A copy of the Kansas City Star cost fifteen cents. The city spent $385.24 in October but still had a balance of $633.10. The paper did list one divorce.
But just as Effingham has continued to change so did the library and the Effingham Community Club. They both changed to accommodate themselves to the needs of the community where the lived and served. In 1927 the club became the Library Club and when the homemakers and library clubs were united and federated in 1945, the Effingham Chapter changed its name to the Effingham Community Club. In 1988 the club reorganized as an unfederated club. Today the club is still actively contributes to the library. Through all the change the library has remained the club’s primary project.
For many years the library remained in the small building, which is vacant today. In 1958, the library was moved to the front part of the City Building (the former State Bank Building on Main Street). In later years the library became a free library and was supported by state and local taxes. The library also receives support from many local organizations and donations from individuals. The days and hours were also extended. The library joined the Northeast Kansas Library System in 1965, and it is still a member of NEKLS.
The same community spirit that established the library enabled it to survive the bitter blow of having the building condemned in 1978. The library moved to temporary quarters in a small house at 404 Seabury Street while the Library Board and the Effingham City Council looked for ways to finance a new building. In the quest they had the support of the community. Working together the City Council and PRIDE brought up for a election a general obligation bond to pay for a new municipal building that would include the library. The bond issue was approved by the votes. In 1982 the library was moved back to Main Street in the new multi-purpose building, which also contains the City Office and Council Meeting Room.
The community had contributed whole heartedly to the new library facility. The support came not just from tax dollars but through generous donations by local organizations, businesses, former club members, and community friends. The Lions Club donated money, and the members helped the library move into their new facilities. The Farmers and Merchants State Bank donated money for furniture for the reading area. The Walter Page Memorial fund purchased reading tables and books shelves. Other local organizations contributing were the Lucky 7 Unit, American Legion Auxiliary and This & That Club. Support came from outside of the community, too. Dick Cameron, Atchison and Egan’s Furniture, St Joseph gave donations.
Over the years the library has been served by dedicated women. At first club members took turns as librarians, but they eventually decided to hire a permanent librarian. There are no records available indicating who the first librarians were, but it is known that Mrs. Franklin Hole and Mrs. H. Panzeram, and Mrs. W. H. Sells were among the first ones. Mrs. Sells served as head librarian for 30 years until her death in 1965. She was succeeded by her assistant, Lois Asher. The Children’s Reading Corner was a memorial gift in honor of Mrs. Asher. After Mrs. Asher’s death in 1971, her assistant, Ether Page was appointed librarian and served until her death. Then Katherine Lee was the librarian for a short timeÂ Her assistant, Mrs. Rosie Falk was appointed as library/director in 1989 until them library staff had always included a librarian and an assistant.
Since then the Library has only a director although Beth Barnett served as part time help for a short time. In 2007 Mrs. Falk retired after working 20 years in the Effingham Library. Elizabeth Lane served for one year and she was replaced by Amy Parton in June 2008. Ms. Parton/Stanton resigned at the end of 2017. Debbie Falk is the current Library director.
The Library is governed by the Library Board. The board meets the second Tuesday of the month. Meetings are open to the public.
The library continues to be and essential and vital asset to Effingham. One of the library’s main goals is to encourage children to read. Every summer they take part in the Summer Reading Program. The library is a full service library. The library collection has a large array of children and adults books including fiction and nonfiction, large print books, large collection of paperbacks and magazines both for adults and children and youth. It also has CDs, videos, and DVDs. four computers are available for patrons to use.
One of the biggest challenges the library was keeping up with the latest technology. 1997 the library purchased its first computer for the Library Director Rosie Falk’s use. In 1998 the Library went online, but it was not for public use. In 2001 the Effingham Lions Club purchased a computer and some computer programs for children to use. In 2002 the library received 5 computers for public use through a Bill Gate’s Grant. Computers are still in use today and the public computers are well used by the public including children, adults who are going to school and by other adults who want to check their email or do some research. The library will be taking one more step in embracing the latest technology when it automates this fall. That will make the Effingham Library’s whole collection available to the whole state.
Over the years, the library has served three and four generations of families. First they come as small children with their parents for books to be read to them. Next they come as school age children for books to read to themselves. As parents they come for books to read to their children as their parents read to them. Perhaps they will bring their grandchildren.
What a legacy those women bequeathed to Effingham in 1927. Their legacy was a life time of learning, adventure and entertainment. Those women knew that reading opens doors to a whole new world, and they also know that reading not only could change the world but could make the world a better place. As the world continues to change, so will Effingham and so will the library. As long as the Library Board and the Effingham Community Club along with the assistance of the community continue to see that the library is a source of pride for the community the library will flourish. It is their legacy to future generations.
Debbie Falk Updated October 2018