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Community Library

Carnegie Library Exterior

In the Carnegie building, the library fulfilled its destiny as a major Lawrence institution.  But its place at the center of city life was not always an easy one.

When outbreaks of contagious diseases swept through the city, the library was particularly vulnerable.  As a place where hundreds of people gathered a day and thousands of volumes constantly handled by the public resided...

The library could be the perfect place to spread infection

Books for Soldiers Overseas, 1919

Nevertheless the library—to belabor a phrase—soldiered on and worked hard to do its part for the war effort and for the people of Lawrence.

Throughout the war, many came to the library to search its many magazines and newspapers for news of Europe. The library also organized efforts for hundreds of donated books to be sent overseas for recovering soldiers and provided a place for soldiers stationed in Lawrence to spend leisure time.

And so, the library's place in the community grew, as did its collection.  

By 1916, things were feeling tight,

and the library requested a $15,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie to build an expansion to the Carnegie building. This grant was refused for unknown reasons. In response, Nellie G. Beatty wrote in her 1917 Annual Report,

In spite of the fact that books wear out, we add many more than we withdraw and the increasing congestion seriously interferes with the efficiency of the legitimate work of the library. May I suggest that the Board begin at once plans for securing funds from some other quarter for the needed library extension.

And yet, though the library continued to grow, it had to wait almost 20 years for an expansion.