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Subject files on Kansas topics

Call Number: RH MS 977


This collection includes files on Lawrence, Kansas, and general Kansas subjects. It was compiled and maintained at the Lawrence Public Library Osma (Local History) Room.


  • Creation: approximately 1960-2000


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

History of the Lawrence Public Library

The first circulating library in Lawrence was established in 1865. The owner, J.S. Boughton, lent books for 10 cents a week or 15 cents for two weeks. The library was immensely popular, and Boughton soon convinced the town to form an association dedicated to library work, the Lawrence Library Association, just one year after he opened his original library. Boughton remained active with the association until they found a suitable replacement as head librarian, Helen M. Griswold. The association raised money by selling annual subscriptions to library services and hosting lectures featuring esteemed thinkers and authors of the time, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson. In 1871 the library association turned control of the library over to the city, and it became the Lawrence City Library.

By 1892 the library had over 8,000 volumes in circulation, overflowing its now three rooms in the Lawrence National Bank. In need of more space, Peter Emery set himself the task of securing the library a Carnegie Grant, which was officially offered in 1902. The grant was offered on the condition that the library would be free to the public and the city would set aside 10% of the original grant amount in its yearly budget to continue to fund the library. Thanks to this new development the institution was now a free public library.

The Carnegie Library opened its doors on December 26, 1904. In its early years the library received many gifts from Lawrence citizens, including a grandfather clock gifted by Sara T.D. Robinson, which still stands in the library today. Among the library’s supporters was the famous Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes, who frequented the Lawrence Public Library in his youth.

Under the faithful eye of head librarian Nellie Griswold Beatty (daughter of Helen Griswold, the original head librarian), the library flourished. However, it would have to wait two decades before it received another grant to expand and update its collection, relying until then on the public’s generosity. The library became a haven for Lawrencians during the Great Depression, providing a constant and stable environment for people to find reprieve. Thanks to the implementation of New Deal policies it became part of the Douglas County Relief program, and received much-needed updates to its collection, including the refurbishment of decaying books. In 1936 the Lawrence government signed for bonds to expand the library space as well, continuing to prove its importance to the community.

From the 1940s to the 1960s the library improved and expanded its programs and collections. By the late 1960s it was once again out of space, and in 1969 the library began a wildly successful publicity campaign to garner support for a city bond issuance of $1,575,000. The campaign was so successful, in fact, that the Lawrence Public Library was one of 10 libraries nationwide to receive a John Cotton Dana publicity award in 1969.

In 1972, a brand new, updated library located at 7th and Vermont opened to the public. The new building focused on updating and creating communal spaces that had become decrepit and cramped in the overcrowded Carnegie building, reasserting the library’s focus on community. The library also began rolling out new services, such as typewriters for patron use, which would later become computers. The Friends of the Lawrence Public Library organization, a group dedicated to raising money for the library through book sales and other events, was also founded during this time. The Friends organization donated the library’s first computer, an Apple II, in 1983.

In 1995 the library received funding to begin digitization, creating a digital catalog and providing new digital resources such as CDs, DVDs, cassettes, and computers. By 2006 the library yet again needed more space, and it embarked on another campaign to remind the community why libraries were important, especially in a new digital age of information. In 2010 Lawrencians showed up in support of their library once more and voted for a remodeling, which was completed in 2014.

[Information retrieved from]


22.75 Linear Feet (24 boxes)

Language of Materials


Physical Location

RH MS 977

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Lawrence Public Library, 2001.

Guide to the Lawrence Public Library Collection
Subject files on Kansas topics
Finding aid prepared by rh 2007. Finding aid encoded by rh, 2007. Finding aid revised by kls, 2023.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Lawrence Public Library Collection , Kansas Collection, RH MS 977, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States