The Johnson County Library has long benefited from the commitment of dedicated volunteers, but never more so than when there wasn’t a Johnson County Library. By 1951 the northeast section of the county was swelling with post-World War II population growth, and those new residents desired the amenities that would ensure a well-rounded education for their children – in particular, a convenient library system.
So a group of young women took it upon themselves to lobby for the appropriate governmental framework that would enable the creation of a tax-supported library. Their petition efforts were presented to voters at bus stops, door stops, and stops throughout the entire county. Though their efforts were enormously successful – the election for the library tax levy passed by a four-to-one margin – county officials refused to authorize the collection and distribution of funds.
In 1952 the ladies re-grouped and decided to address the issue at the state level and, in the meantime, operate a series of volunteer libraries throughout the county. The volunteer libraries were set up in grocery stores, drug stores, barbershops, even personal basements. People checked out their own books and returned them – not a single book was lost – and the volunteers drove to the various locales to replenish the shelves with newer materials.
This lasted until 1955, when a funding stream was put into place after a state statute was passed the previous year. The first County Librarian was hired, a permanent building was secured, and the volunteers took on a new role as Friends of the Johnson County Library.
This exhibit was developed to honor Sally May, who was among the original cadre of volunteers that led the effort to establish the Johnson County Library and was the first President of the Friends. She passed away in 2009. The library buildings and resources you currently enjoy are the result of her dedication and the dedication of her phenomenal colleagues: Nancy Ashton, Dorothy Ballard, Jane Omer, Kay Robeson, and Joan Roney, among many others. Their work will endure for generations.
-- Exhibit essay by Stuart Hinds
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The Friends of the Library Historical Photographic Exhibit is on permanent display at the Central Resource Library.