Archive for Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Woman rebuilds library in small Kansas town

February 9, 2011


— City Clerk Linda Sharits remembers when the town library was a whole room with floor to ceiling shelves of books in the community center.

However, by the time Sharits, the former Linda Pfortmiller, returned in 2000, it had dwindled to one shelf in a room in the city hall.

She thought the town could do better.

Her first thought was to use the garage at city hall for the library.

A number of boxes of books already were stored there, but the renovation estimate was more than $20,000.

So she quickly scratched that idea.

After a water pipe broke in the city garage over the holidays in 2009 and flooded the room, volunteers moved as many of the boxes of books as they could salvage to the former Natoma Medical Center.

"They were able to save most of the books," Sharits said.

That gave Sharits the idea to house the library there.

The Medical Center, built with funds invested by a large group of area residents in 1960, as a non-profit organization, is still functioning. It's managed by a board of directors with Orville Pruter as president and Betty Pruter and Sharits as co-secretary-treasurer.

It hasn't been used as a medical clinic for three or four years, said Betty Pruter, who also is a library volunteer.

Sharits and her brother Larry Pfortmiller decided to rent the building for $100 a month plus utilities. The City of Natoma pays the water bill, Sharits said.

Pfortmiller uses a portion of the building for a studio and display space for his business, Prairie Panorams.

Sharits had plans for the library in part of the building. Boxes of books still fill the former examining rooms, but the books ready for library patrons to check out are shelved in the former waiting room. As the books are placed on the shelves and the examining rooms cleared out, Sharits hopes to allow local artists to display their work in them.

Fundraising has been slow, but donations have helped get the project off the ground.

When the local printing office closed, owner Della Richmond gave the office shelving to the library. Local carpenter Andy Commeau built two shelving units, and the school donated the paperback book rack.

When they heard about Sharits' plan for a library, the Luray Library called and offered books they no longer had room for, followed by the Plainville Library. Individuals also have donated books.

"We started getting some really good books," Sharits said.

"The Paradise Dell FCE Club of Russell County has helped get it (the library) ready," Betty Pruter said.

Volunteers continue to raise funds to pay expenses by recycling aluminum cans. People leave the cans in front of the garage door at the city office, and when there are enough to make the trip worthwhile, they take them to be recycled.

Sharits plans to open the library this week. Hours will be Wednesday afternoons and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

A dozen people have volunteered to work at the library helping those who want to check out books.

"Everybody helps around here," Sharits said.

There's even a children's area with activities once a month, beginning this month. In the summer, there will be a program every Saturday, Sharits said.

The library is a member of the Central Kansas Library System, so there could be as many as 1,000 books from it in rotation in the library. It also will be able to fill special orders for books through them, she said.

"Older people come and get books by the bagful," Sharits said.


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