The Colby Public Library had its auspicious beginning in 1911 when a group calling themselves the Civic League of Women, rented a small room in the front of Dr. Beaver’s residence. Thereafter, they gathered books from relatives, friends, and their own homes. They then proceeded to sell everyone who would listen a library card for $1.00. On January 1st, 1926, the library was closed to to a shortage of money and space. This however, did not sit well with some of our more forward looking citizens. They met with the City Council and on March 14, 1926 (just 2 months later) the Colby Public Library was organized. It was then located in the Connelly building and moved to City Hall in 1936.
Space became an issue for the library, so in 1960 discussions began about a permanent build. In 1961, the President of the Library Board of Trustees appointed three board members and a librarian to work with the Historical Society to develop plans for a new library on its own property. The library and historical society wanted to construct a building to house both public entities. Albert Frahm and John Pratt worked tirelessly contacting everyone in Thomas County to help with this project. Many of the original pioneering families donated to help rais around $120,000 for the original structure at 375 W. 4th Street. An initial gift of $5,000 was received by Mrs. Bertha Louis. At the February 8, 1961 meeting, W.D. Ferguson, one of the organizing committee members (1926) of the Colby Public Library, promised to donate one-third of the finances for a building that cost $100,000. Land was purchased from the Henry Thiel Estate for $12,500. Beatrice Davis, head librarian suggested the name be changed from Colby Public Library to Pioneer Memorial Library in honor of the large share of finances donated by descendants of the pioneer families. The building was dedicated Sunday, January 26th, 1964 at 2:30 pm.
In 1999, a large capital improvement campaign was waged and spearheaded by JoAnne Sunderman, the Library Director; the results being a beautifully integrated addition to the original building. In 2006, a basement renovation project was begun by Jeff Friesen, Library Director, and finished in 2007 by library staff. The basement was opened for youth and public programs for the library and other community organizations in 2008.
In 2009, the library received a large endowment from the Maxine Neville Revocable Trust. The Library Board of Trustees placed these funds in secured deposits and has determined that the library pan and use the interest from these funds to increase services and programming to the community.
In 2010, the library renewed the inside and outside of the library. This plan will take a few years to complete, but with extra funds from the Neville Trust we will be able to complete this work in a timely manner. In March 2010, the library staff in cooperation with those who are part of the Library Board of Trustees and Friends of the Pioneer Memorial Library wrote their first Murder Mystery in honor of the 125th Anniversary of Thomas County.
In 2011, the library introduced a new library catalog system for patrons. This allows patrons to manage their accounts from home. The Library also designed and distributed new library cards to patrons. We also received a $6,000 grant from the Pete Henry Foundation. These funds helped us purchase 4 new AWE – children’s literacy computers. These computers have over 90 different types of learning software that children from ages 0 to 12 years old can use. They were seen to be very popular. The library also began to plan for refurbishing the main area of the library in the next year.
In 2012, the library finished a refurbishing project where carpet was replaced with carpet tiles and porcelain tiles as well as the addition of window blinds. We painted, added new comfy chairs and café tables, installed new electrical outlets in the seating area so that patrons can enjoy using their laptops, tablets and such without running them out of battery. This renewal was done with funds from the Maxine Neville Trust. We also had the privilege of adding modern art and our library motto to the libraries environment, a new circulation desk and much more through a gift of the Jean Hutton Memorial.
In 2013, the library had a busy year. The library has worked hard to imbibe the essences of making our library into a family friendly center and become one of the Family Place LibrariesTIM in the nation. We established the Play With A Purpose program which is part of Family Place LibrariesTIM. We held our first “Story Walk” for the community. The Colby Rotary organization put in a new picnic area at the south entrance. They added a copper pergola, cement picnic table on a cement slab for family, children, and other uses. This also helped add a new pump cover for the fountain. The project turned out beautiful. We organized the first Book Festival, and nutrition group. Book clubs are growing, as well as attendance for Booked for Lunch. Adult Summer Reading activities were also added for patrons.
In 2014, the library was officially made a Family Place LibrariesTIM when the program overseers made their first visit to Northwest Kansas on September 4, 2014. The library added digital eBook and audio book checkout platform services to the library. We began technology classes teaching Microsoft, Excel, Publisher, Email, Facebook, and other social media. We also added notary services for patrons. We also improved our services by making it possible for patrons to pay their fines, lost or damaged items, or other services by credit card. We also added 3D Printing for patrons. We began a poetry group as well.
In 2015, the library worked on its first logo. We believed this would help us express our motto in a unique way that would specifically identify the library in this logo. We decided on something simple and bright with the ability to be used in many ways. The stacked squares present a feeling of rising up from the words, so that life or energy is coming forth from the words. Squares also look a little bit like books or other various formats. Stacked squares also look like library shelves (or stacks as librarians call them). Our motto and logo allows us to think of such things as words, themes and ideas that can be presented through books, print items, audio formats, but also music, art, and many learning opportunities and fun experiences. Because there are a great number of stacked squares it helps us to constantly look for ways that we can engage the community with life-long learning opportunities, creative endeavors, and just enjoyable experiences. This is our focus. A concentrated focus on new programming and services are coming out of this work and dedication.
In 2016, the library strategized on ways to improve its technology backbone in the library. We applied and were approved for an eRate grant through the USAC – Federal Organizaton. We replaced slower switches, doubled our switches to 48 for the library, added and upgraded USB ports, upgraded faster and stronger signaled wireless internet service, plus rearranged the servers, cart and such in the basement. The other major work was finding new ways to engage youth in the library or through the library’s programs brought to schools. This included 2 Painting classes (1 was Inter-generational), Just Add Color (an inter-generational program), bringing an author to speak to the High School on the Polish Holocaust (WWII). Bringing the Kansas Poet Laureate to the library and high school students, a new Minecraft software to students in the Youth Activity Center (middle school age) that was used daily, but also included creative competitions for building specific type builds that included structure, design and a pleasing look. The need to educate the public on Islam was possible and we had a standing room only crowd. It was a successful year of dynamic and new programming.
In 2017, the library classes and programs have quadrupled since 2008 and the meeting room & basement we use are at capacity. Thus, we realized that the have outgrown their space and began examining the possibility of expansion. We hired an architect, Don Marrs to help direct us. The Board organized an expansion committee drawing from the community, Friends Board, PML Trustees and City Council. An expansion survey was also given to the public to fill out. We hope by expanding we will have greater flexibility and space to serve an increasing number of children, adults, families, and organizations in the future. In addition to that emphasis: The library added new English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. The demand was so high we ended up with four classes in the spring. In conjunction with the K-State Extension, we started a monthly class called Adventures in Wellness. The Youth Activity Center revved up its services and offerings by adding special activity days such as Youth Mario Kart Day, Just Dance Party, and the Minecraft Challenge. The library also stepped up our community outreach. Besides our outreaches to Colby Schools: Heartland Christian, Sacred Heart, and Colby Community College, and also attending many Chamber events and speaking at different organizations; we decied to have a large booth at the Better Home and Living show in March, and the CMCI Health Expo in October. We also advertised on KXXX the local radio station over the holidays. These activities were well received and a success for the library. The library worked with many non-profit and not-for-profit organizations to bring classes, seminars, and information to the public.
In 2018, The library is working funding for the expansion of the library facilities.
The Pioneer Memorial Library continues to thrive because of the grass-root pioneer spirit that exists within its citizens. They value and use their library. It is a tribute to the heritage of many through the years who have a vision to make their community a place where learning is desired and recreational reading and enjoyment can be shared.