Johnston Public Library is housed in a historic building originally constructed in 1872 for use as the Cherokee County Courthouse. Although it never convened as a courthouse, the basement jail was used until a courthouse was constructed in Columbus. Later, the building was used as a city hall, junior college, and an interim church. Touring theater companies also held performances on the second floor.
In 1905 Peter Nils Johnston made a bequest of $5,000 to the city for the establishment of a city library. In 1907, the library opened its doors. The first collection of books was donated by local people.
Today, the library's mission is to serve the people of Baxter Springs. Books, magazines, and newspapers for all ages-for pleasure reading or reference and information-are offered through the library's own collection and interlibrary loan. The collection also includes videos for children and adults, read-along books with tapes for children, activity kits for children, and audio-books for adults. A Teachers' Resource Collection provides curriculum and other materials for all teachers: public school, home school, Headstart and preschool. The library has three public access computers.
The library is a member of the Southeast Kansas Regional Library System and is governed by a seven member board of trustees. It operates on income from a mill levy and grants from the regional library and the state library.
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