Neodesha’s first public library was located in a two-room, frame building erected originally for The Neodesha Register in 1896 at 113 North Eighth Street. Rent was $85.00 and there were 50 books. A library association was founded in February 1912, by a group of Neodesha women. Library service had been unsuccessfully attempted as far back as 1873.
The City permitted the Library Association to move to a room upstairs at City Hall, 102 ½ South Fourth Street, in October 1912. The Association could not afford a paid librarian so women volunteers acted in that capacity, each serving one-week at a time. In order to furnish the room and provide reading materials, donations were accepted. “Book showers” were given as well as “teas” to help pay expenses.
In May 1914, the City took title to the library and become its owner and operator so that it could levy a tax to support it. The City Commissioners appointed by the Mayor and eight women selected from the Library Association formed the Board of Directors. Among those chosen was Mrs. W.A. (Ida) Rankin, who served on the Board in various capacities until her resignation on December 5, 1955. She had served as a member of the Board under City ownership for 41 years.
Mrs. Rankin died June 11, 1962, leaving the bulk of her estate to be used for the building and support of a modern library in Neodesha with the condition that the funds be matched in part by the City.
The present library building and furnishings were financed from three sources – Mrs. Rankin’s Estate, the City of Neodesha, and the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Ground was first broken on the $160,000.00 project on August 27, 1965, and the building was dedicated on August 14, 1966, as the W.A. Rankin Memorial Library.
The operation of the library is financed through the .005 mill tax of the City, the interest from the Rankin Estate, and the amount allotted to the library from the Southeast Kansas Library System, which is the share of the funds they receive through the taxation of the people living outside the regular city taxing district. Funds are also received from State aid and Federal CORE Library.
In 2000, an addition was made to the library to add restrooms and a modern meeting facility.
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