Establishing a Library for the City of Riley has long been a determined effort, thought about by local citizens since the 1960s. Finally, in August 1982 a model for the Riley City Library was drawn up with the assistance of Margaret Gates of the Manhattan Public Library.
The facility would be one small room that formerly had been the Mayor’s office on the south side of the “old City Hall” building at 222 South Broadway, the corner of Cedar and Broadway Streets. Volunteer labor and donations provided bookshelves for the Library’s collection. According to a Manhattan Mercury article of November 5, 1982, the Library had “900 books on loan from the North Central Kansas Library [sic] System and 100 books . . . donated by Riley area citizens.” Riley City Library was accepted into the NCKLS on October 1, 1982 as a “System Outlet.” The rotating book services the new Library obtained from NCKLS supplemented its meager catalog, along with private donations and fund-raising.
The first President of the Library Board was Betty Allenson, elected on October 9, 1982. Board members included Barbara Hunt (Vice President), Donna Inskeep (Secretary), Helen King (Treasurer), Martha Powell, Sharon Fritz, and Melvin Dunning.
In the new 1982 facility Chris Holden was the Librarian as well as North Central Kansas Libraries System Representative; the Alternate Representative was Betty Allenson. Board Secretary Donna Inskeep wrote Manhattan Librarian Margaret Gates that the Riley City Library Board would meet the second Saturday night of each month at 7:30 in the City Hall. The new Board quickly set to work adopting bylaws and general operating procedures.
By April 1984, with the continued interest in the Library, Mayor Lloyd Johnson issued a Proclamation declaring April 8‒14 National Library Week in Riley. But in October of that year, as the number of City-owned books continued to grow, the Library Board saw the need for a larger facility, writing to the Mayor and the City Council on October 22:
The Riley City Library Board of trustees, being aware of the Railroad Tax Settlement and Revenue Sharing situation, would like to be considered and included in any forthcoming available funds.
We desperately need more room for the Library if we are to continue growing in service to our community!
Phil Pfeifley, Riley City Clerk at that time, was asked to look into options and ways for the City to find a larger home for the Library.
In November of 1984, the Friends of the Library was formed,
To establish a fund for future use to extend and enlarge services of the Riley City Library. If the Riley City Library is discontinued then the money is to revert to NCKL [sic] to buy books.
With $25 donated to start a fund, Friends membership fees were set:
Friend $10 Benefactor $50
Patron $25 Sponsor $100 plus
By 1991, using the Railroad Tax Settlement and Revenue Sharing for funding, the City purchased and refurbished a small vacant building at 206 South Broadway that had been the Cream Station from 1900 through perhaps the late 1930s. Cream, chickens, and eggs had been bought from local farmers and sold there to the area population. Already rich in local history and traditional in design, the building served the community well for many years as the City Library.
Still, the Library lacked the funding that had become increasingly necessary in order to serve a society moving into the 21st century, a growth that required access to additional materials and computers. The problem finally was resolved on April 3, 2007 when residents of Riley voted to approve the establishment and maintenance of a City Library that would be supported by a property tax levy, thereby allowing the Library to become state-sanctioned and providing the essential funds for books, personnel, and equipment. As an added resource, the contracted rotating book service continued through the affiliation with NCKLS.
With additional services and activities, more books and computers, and increasing numbers of the community being involved, the Riley City Library quickly again outgrew its space at 206 South Broadway. In 2010, with the help of the newly implemented Riley Development Association (RDA), a Kansas Community Development Block Grant was brought to the attention of the City Council. The Kansas Small Towns Environmental Program (KAN STEP) was a means for communities to address their water, sewer, and public building needs. Communities were required to show an understanding of their issues and a public willingness to take action to resolve them. The City of Riley applied for and received a $299,932 grant under KAN STEP, paving the way for the new building at 115 South Broadway which would house both the Library and the Community Food Basket that serves northern Riley County. Materials for the building would be purchased through the grant, and matching funds would be provided by volunteer labor. A derelict building at the location was donated, then torn down. In the summer of 2011 ground was broken for the new facility. The building was completed in the fall of 2013.
The Riley City Library moved into its new home in October 2013. Without doubt, the Library is a showcase for the town and a testament to community planning and dedicated, hard-working citizen volunteers. In addition to the usual book-lending services, the Library has become a center for exhibits and programs by local artists, authors, and civic leaders as well as a resource for facilitating community computer usage and organized reading programs for youth and adults.
Being part of the North Central Kansas Libraries System through the years has continued to provide assistance in the form of the rotating books, as well as through grants and training. In 2012, funding from the City of Riley and NCKLS enabled the Library to computerize its card catalog with NCKLS VERSOTM integrated library system (ILS) software, including barcoding of books and media.
In 2013, the Riley Friends of the Library was brought back to active civic life to support the mission of the new City Library with fund-raising and direct gifts for special purposes such as children’s events and crafts.
In 2017, at this writing, the Riley City Library continues to thrive and do well with the support of the community, City Council, Friends of the Library, and Administrative Director Pat Peterson. The seven-member Board of Trustees includes:
President—M. Charlotte Shawver
Secretary—Carol A. Williams
Karen Wooledge Brown
Laura Gayle Coon
The Library Board, staff, and volunteers have worked diligently to respond to the ever-changing needs of the patrons they serve. By the end of 2016 the Library had a FACEBOOK social media page and a website. It had 491 registered card holders and had served the public 1,512 hours that year, with 3,828 visits to the facility. It owned 3,329 books and had six internet-connected public-use computers that had been utilized 6,732 times. The Library staff and volunteers had offered the community 95 different events for individuals from preschool age to adults, all confirming the Riley City Library Mission statement:
The Riley City Library is dedicated to serving its community with ideas, programs, and resources that further the knowledge and enlightenment of its citizens.