When Edgerton residents donated and built the Bank of Knowledge, a library,
participants who gave nearly $200,000 to the effort to put a library in the community thought generations would be able to enjoy it.
However, a proposal before the Johnson County Library board could shutter the 11-year-old Edgerton Bank of Knowledge.
Board members will discuss possible ways to cut the countywide library system’s budget at a board meeting at 4 p.m. on Feb. 9 at the Central Johnson County Resource Library.
The Edgerton library celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2010. Prior to its construction in 2000, the literary mainstay and social epicenter of the community was but a dream for Edgerton citizens, who donated their time and efforts to see that their community had a library.
Local library services disbanded in Edgerton in the 1970s, though residents continued to pay county taxes for the service. Residents started a letter writing campaign in the mid-1980s with the hopes of resurrecting library services. In response, the county offered Edgerton two small rolling book carts that were placed in city hall, where residents could check out the books on the honor system.
Another outcry in the mid-1990s sparked a county proposal to offer Edgerton citizens a “virtual library,” where no books would reside. Instead, it would house a computer in which residents could request books and wait for them to be delivered.
Edgerton residents decided that wasn’t enough. It was an offer the Edgerton City Council rejected.
Former Edgerton council member Mike Schmidt sold the bank building to the community for $1 in 1997, and community officials set to work fundraising to secure the estimated $250,000 necessary to renovate the bank, which was originally built in 1906.
A community block development grant, a donation from the library board itself and more than $50,000 in local fundraising kicked off the project.
The elementary school and area civic groups organized fundraisers – everything from garage sales to raffles to bake sales – in order to raise money for the library.
By 1999, community members were pitching in personally to help with renovations. Local children and city officials worked together to remove debris from the old building. Inmates from Lansing Correctional Facility helped renovate the interior and exterior.
Former city clerk, Rita Moore, recalled the efforts of Edgerton’s “can-do” community when the library celebrated its 10 year anniversary in 2010.
“It was the community project for our city,” Moore said. “Everybody came together. You saw volunteers and contributors from everywhere. It was awesome. It was exactly what the community needed.”
Organizers hit another stumbling block as the project neared completion. The county commission sliced the library’s budget.
After a deluge of voices flooded county commission chambers, the commission opted to fully fund the Edgerton project in 2000, the year the Bank of Knowledge was set to open.
When the finishes touches were put on the Bank of Knowledge, including an arch dedicated to Ali Richards, a 10 year old volunteer who died from a brain anyeurism before the project was completed, community members had raised almost $200,000 towards the effort to bring a library to Edgerton.
When it opened in July 2000, then-Edgerton Mayor Frances Cross said the investment the community made would last for generations.
“We have benefited from the amazing generosity of people who have asked to remain anonymous and from the good heartedness of people who may not be considered wealthy by Johnson County standards, but who we consider to be rich in spirit.”
– Corbin H. Crable contributed to this story