The first Gardner Library opened in 1960 at 134 E. Main in rented space that formerly housed a grocery store. From 1953 to 1960 Gardner was served first for a short time by a small self-service collection, and then by bookmobile. By the mid-1960s its collection had grown to about 8,000 volumes and was circulating about 500 of those each week. In the early 1970s it was increasingly obvious that more space was needed for library service in Gardner.
The Johnson County Library in the spring of 1978 asked the Board of County Commissioners to issue $4 million in bonds to build a new Gardner Library, as well as a new library in the Blue Valley area and new Spring Hill and De Soto Libraries. The bonds were sold in 1980 and land was purchased. The new libraries opened in 1982, including Gardner Library at 116 E. Main. The new libraries were also a County Multi-Service Center, offering the services of several county social services and health agencies. But Gardner was growing.
The population for the city and surrounding township stood at 4,987 in 1980, and by 1990 had grown to 6,079. A larger library was definitely in the cards as the decade progressed. The area was growing faster than anticipated and in 2000 the population of that area reached 11,549. In 1999 the city proposed that the Johnson County Library trade its library on Main Street for at near-by site at Shawnee and Elm Streets. It was a win-win solution for everybody. The old library was adjacent to Gardner City Hall on land needed to expand the city hall. The library was kept downtown in a good location, and the library and city hall could share parking.
Ground was broken for the new library in the on September 26, 2000, and the new library opened on November 13, 2001. The new building was almost four times the size of the old building at 12,346 square feet and held 25,800 items, almost three times that of the former library. The new building was justified by burgeoning use. In 2002, its first full year of operation, 186,050 items were checked out. The 2010 Census showed that the city and township of Gardner together had reached a population of 22,028.
By the numbers (2012)
Items circulated: 250,116
Collection total items: 44,583
Number of programs: 62
Staff full-time equivalents: 9.74 shared with Edgerton
Square footage: 12,346