Joshua Robinson
KU Statehouse Wire Service
Throughout the Capitol, there are numerous organizations that play a part in the daily function of the building and in helping legislators do their jobs. One of those is the Kansas State Library, located on the third floor of the Capitol.
Founded in 1855 as the Kansas Territorial Library, the state library was established in 1863 when the legislature appropriated $2,000 to create it. Since then, the library has been helping Kansans read, learn and do business.
The state library services three main audiences: state agencies, librarians throughout Kansas, and residents across the state. The services the library provides include Internet access, as well as access to numerous electronic databases. The library also carries Playaways audio books and eBooks, and provides these products and services through money from state and federal funds.
“A lot of money we get is from the state dollars, and we also we received federal money,” state librarian Jo Budler said. “Every year there is federal money that comes from the (U.S.) Institute of Library and Museum Services, and they give us money as a state. Every year we receive it, and we do things that will benefit the state.”
The state library offers a variety of different services to Kansans, including the Talking Book Service for people who are blind, dyslexic or suffering from arthritis. Library patrons can be certified to use a “Talking Book Machine,” which has large buttons for people with arthritis or buttons with writing in Braille.
Through a Knight Foundation grant, the Kansas State Library has loaned out Wi-Fi hot spots to libraries in Kansas. These hot spots provide Internet access in urban and rural communities so residents can apply for jobs, use social media and do homework.
“The things that we do makes it possible for any resident of the state to access state services (and that) is the most important thing this library does for the state,” Budler said.
The library also serves the state by providing resources for legislative research. The library contains information about historical events, plus Kansas policies and bills that were passed or not passed in the legislature.
The library’s reference desk staff is there to help legislators shift through these documents and to assist them in finding what they need.
“Even though a lot of the information is on the Internet, most legislators do not have an hour or two to read through and find it,” said reference director Cindy Roupe. “Our reference desk librarians have a great deal of experience in helping people with the knowledge of bills.”
Budler said the library is an invaluable resource for lawmakers.
“If were to ask the legislators what is the most important thing to them about the state library, they would say the reference department,” Budler said.
The library is a resource for state history, but the library also has an interesting history of its own. The library had the Capitol’s first electric lights, its website says, and in 1889, the state library began a traveling book service for rural Kansans. In 1964, the state library began a system of grants to help rural libraries across the state.
The state library is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. year round. It is closed on major holidays.
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Edited by Maddy Mikinski
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