Photo courtesy of Johnson County Museum

The Carnegie Building

1912 - The book committee purchased the first books, ranging in price from 53 to 83 cents per volume. Free newspapers were received from the Register (the Olathe paper), the Kansas City Star, Kansas City Journal, Topeka Capital and Wichita Beacon.

1914 - The Carnegie building was designed by architect Professor J.D. Walters of Manhattan, Kansas. A construction bid, in the amount of $7,869 from Weast and Ekengren was accepted by the board. Over the next eight months, committees of citizens worked to provide books, decoration, furniture, electric lights and other necessities for the new library.

Dedication day for the Carnegie Library in Olathe was Thursday, February 5, 1914. That afternoon, eight women's clubs hosted a function for the women of the town. Nearly 1,000 attendees enjoyed "tea and wayfers" at "one of the most enjoyable social functions of the month." In the evening, approximately 1,500 crowded into the building to enjoy the Congregational Male Chorus and heard an address from former Kansas Governor John P. St. John. The board presented to the City of Olathe the new building and 4,500 books.

Opening Day Program

Olathe's First Librarian

Out of 20 applicants, Lena Bell was chosen to be the new city librarian. Miss Bell was an Olathe native, daughter of Dr. James Bell. She graduated from Olathe High School. With the short-term help of a professional librarian from Kansas City, Kansas,she established the library in two rooms of City Hall, and then moved with it to the new Carnegie building.

Miss Bell's library career was especially characterized by her work with children and with the women's clubs' program committees. During World War I, she worked with the Red Cross, gathering reading matter for the camps and helping withLiberty Bond drives. She presided over the library until her death in 1922. A library board resolution concerning her stated:

"May the remembrance of her be a genuine help to all of the children of the city to whom she has given so much of her time and talent. We loved her because she loved our children. We honored her because she honored and cherished our library."

Her personal collection of more than 100 books was willed to the library.