History of the Waterville Public Library
A public library for Waterville had been the goal of the Shakespeare Club since April, 1906, when a committee was appointed to for a public library. On that first committee were Mrs. Wm. Talbot, Mrs. J.F. Burtis, Mrs. George Stevenson, Miss Olive Thompson and possibly others. In October, 1906, a traveling library was sent for and the books were kept in the Eli Peterson store, located somewhere in the vicinity of the present Telegraph office. Each member of the Shakespeare Club gave $.10 to defray the expenses of transportation of the books to and from Topeka. The club then began to accumulate a fund for a library. Lecture course numbers, home talent benefits, book socials, and even Shakespearean plays. The las Shakespearean play was in 1936. These, with several donations of money and books, increased the fund until it was decided to open a public library.
On March 11, 1914, the first public library was opened in Waterville. The city council very generously gave the use of the Southeast room in the basement of the City Hall, rent and lights free, for the purpose. Miss Nell McCullough was hired as librarian and served until 1935 when Miss Ella Moden became the librarian.
In 1941 the Club purchase the present building, the former Farmer’s State Bank Building, from Gene Hall. After remodeling, the library was officially opened June 19, 1942. The building was later turned over to the city and they assumed the responsibility for the upkeep of the building, the insurance of the building, and paid for the utilities and the salary of the librarian. The Shakespeare Club was responsible for the library equipment and the books. This arrangement is still in effect.
In 1966, the state of Kansas was divided into seven library districts to facilitate the dispersal of federal funds allocated to the state for public libraries. The Waterville Public Library now belongs to the North Central Libraries, with the core library being in Manhattan. At one time, the bookmobile came to Waterville every month to exchange approximately 200 books for those they left the preceding month. Now the bookmobile comes every 3 months. This gives our reading public access to many more books than is possible to provide with our own funds.
In 1968, the building was remodeled again to provide more room for shelves and books. The floors were carpeted and an air conditioner was installed. With the help of librarians from Manhattan, the books were weeded, and duplication’s and worn-out books were discarded to make room for new books.
In 1967, Mrs. Henry Williams became librarian and served until 1969, when ill-health forced her to resign. Mrs. Frank Johnson was hired to fill the position. When ill-health forced Mrs. Johnson to retire in 1976, Erma Blaser filled in as librarian. I (Jeannette Bergquist) was hired in June 1877 as librarian.
In 1978, Lyman Adams, a prominent citizen of Waterville, donated a most generous gift of 3,000 books to the library. To accommodate this influx of books, the city purchased the adjoining Dean grocery store building in 1979, to be used as an addition to the library. The Kansas State students came and drew up plans as an educational venture in their architectural design class. One plan was chosen to use as a guide. The city contracted the Green Thumbers to do the job, along with others contracted to do parts of the job. An open house is planned for fall 1980, when the new addition is completed, (Spring 1981)
The Shakespeare’s support has been very helpful through the years. The cooperation of the city council and support gained through city funds has also contributed greatly to the fine library Waterville has today. Throughout the years, memorial gifts, benefits, donations from individuals and groups has helped to sustain our ever-growing library.
Librarians of the Waterville Public Library
Miss Nell McCullough 1914-1935
Miss Ella Moden 1935-1967
Mrs. Henry Williams 1967-1969
Mrs. Frank Johnson 1969-1976
Mrs. Erma Blaser interim for a few months in 1976
Mrs. Jeannette Bergquist 1977-1984
Mrs. Jerri Roudybush 1985-1991
Mrs. Phyllis Fitzgerald 1991-
Mrs. Tera Kindle 2013-2015
Mrs. Cassie Jones 2016-2016
Mrs. Ruth Ann Pralle 2016-2017
Mr. Lee Jones 2018-Present