Book it: Volunteers move, spruce up library

By Teresa Bachman

LEON – What can a handful of senior citizens with a small budget in a tiny town do? They can mobilize a whole community and revitalize a local resource. 

Leon sits in southeast Butler County just off US 400. As with most small towns, it struggles to make a positive impact in the lives of its 700 residents. Recognizing the importance of a local library for education and entertainment, an English teacher, Helen Marshall, along with members of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs started the first Leon Public Library in 1940. For years, it moved from one location to another, finally settling in the city offices on Main Street. 

   When a new elementary school was built west of town, the old school was torn down with the exception of the gymnasium, locker rooms, lunch and band rooms.  For a while, part was used for the Bluestem school district’s central office, but it was later moved to where the schools are located. It became a storage space and slowly deteriorated. The gymnasium, built in the 1930’s by the federal Works Progress Administration, is attached.

Barbara Templin,  a Bluestem school bus driver and library board chairman, asked if the library could use the old school since it had outgrown its current home.  

The school board quickly voted to lease the building to the library for twenty years. That’s when the seniors went into action, inspiring others to join them in relocating the library.

  The building was painted inside and out by Kerry Unrein Painting & Sign Co. of Augusta, which threw in a little signage work. 

New carpet and tile were installed. John Templin, a retired music teacher, refitted bookshelves from the old library to fit their new home in his former band room. 

More than 25 volunteers, including Bluestem students, boxed up 7,000 books, and hauled them to the newly remodeled building at 711 N. West St. 

The Leon Public Library is now spacious and inviting. The gym is still intact and ready for a game of hoops.

 Many area seniors make use of the library. Doc Watkins, for instance, likes to set up a camera and motion sensor in the woods to capture images of wildlife. He brings his camera to the library and prints off the photographs on one of two computers available for patrons to use. 

  The Leon Public Library boasts a children’s room with stuffed animals and books, a Christian book room, biography and autobiography, history, fiction and non-fiction areas. The size of the Western novel section – 1.343 titles – speaks to their popularity. 

The library participates in the inter-library loan system and also takes advantage of the South Central Kansas Library lending program. 

New books are selected and sent to Leon from Hutchinson and El Dorado, then rotated back as new books arrive. 

A Little Free Library patterned on a doll house stands in front of the Leon Senior Center, operating as a “take one, leave one” exchange.

Seven volunteers make up the library board: Templin, Leona Knight, 

Tiffany Wolf, Melissa Donham, Lisa Donham, Christy Turner, and Effie Winn. They take turns volunteering during the library’s open hours, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday.

The Leon Public Library has been able to maintain its presence in downtown Leon, helping residents keep learning long after they’ve left school.

   Contact Teresa Bachman at
 teresa@teresabachman.com

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