The Great Bend Public Library is easy to find at 1409 Williams St., but the same building houses another business, the Central Kansas Library Sytem.
In 1965, Kansas statutes established seven regional systems to help local libraries provide library services to all citizens of the state, we learn from a webpage by the Kansas Regional Library Systems, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015.
“Through the use of joint planning and financing of library services, the systems improve existing library service and utilize what federal funding becomes available. Originally the systems only served public libraries, but over time their roles have expanded to include school, academic and special libraries. Each system adapts its service to the needs of the libraries it serves ...”
Long relegated to the basement at 1409 Williams St., the CKLS wants to become better known and plans to erect a digital sign on Broadway Ave. CKLS represents a consortium of 38 area libraries. If a 2011 posting found on the Internet is still relevant: CKLS supports library services in 17 counties, covering 13,988 sq. miles with a total population of 187,750. Its mission is to help member libraries give their patrons what they want by extending library service to the unserved and improving library service where it already exists.
However, a story this week in the Great Bend Tribune said there are 16 counties. Did one county secede from our region?
The CKLS also has a webpage that says it is financially supported by mill levys of rural property in 16 counties, and it also serves Pawnee County, which does not pay a mill levy. Why not? These taxes allow rural people without public libraries to request books, video and audio materials that will be sent directly to the their homes and include a postage-paid return label.
If Googling with abandon is to be believed, the CKLS staff are the folks behind Talking Books, workshops for librarians and, apparently, cool stuff such as a mini 3D printer that can be checked out.
In short, we really don’t know anything about this organization. Maybe a big sign will help.