St. Marys City Commission postpones decision on library lease

Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 8:17 AM CST
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ST. MARYS, Kan. (WIBW) - Dozens of people turned out at the St. Marys City Commission meeting Tuesday night to fight for their library.

They’ll be waiting at least a few more weeks to learn its fate. Commissioners voted to defer a decision on the lease, which expires Dec. 31, until their next meeting. The discussion also includes moving to a city-run library.

A crowd of about 100 people packed Tuesday’s commission meeting, where the body was set to consider renewing the lease for the Pottawatomie-Wabaunsee Regional Library headquarters in St. Marys. What’s usually a formality drew debate recently, however, when a parent lodged a complaint over a book in their catalog.

The book in question is “Melissa,” written by Alex Gino and previously published as “George.” The book expresses transgender views. Library staff say the book is no longer on the library’s shelves.

Judith Cramer, who works for the library system, said the library respects the complaint, but as a public library it is their duty to include all material.

“We are conservative and respectful of the community and the fact that we know that that is where they are coming from, but we are a public library and public libraries are a reflection of the world we live in so we have to have something for everybody and that doesn’t mean everybody has to have it,” Cramer said.

Cramer invited people who support the library to turn out to Tuesday’s meeting to voice their views. Several did, saying parents have options to keep their children from accessing materials they do not feel are appropriate, but closing the library is not the answer. The parent who lodged the complaint also spoke, saying they did not want the library to close.

Two people expressed support for a city-run library, saying it was an issue of morality.

Commissioners did briefly discuss options, including a temporary lease extension with oversight of the books offered, and establishing a library oversight board.

Not only would the decision impact St. Marys, but staff also said it would affect the library system’s locations in Westmoreland, Olsburg, Harveyville, Alta Vista, Alma, Onaga and Eskridge. According to staff, without the library, residents in St. Marys and the surrounding area would lose access to:

  • Free reading programs
  • Free summer lunches
  • Free wi-fi and use of tech such as Chromebooks and hotspots that may be checked out
  • Free reading materials
  • Free audiobooks
  • Inter-library loans
  • Online reading materials

The next City Commission meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at City Hall, 200 S. 7th St.

A petition has also been started to show city leaders there is a need in the community for the facility to stay. To sign the petition, click HERE.