Today’s Friends of the Library is a kind of a present-day incarnation of an original group of volunteers who, nearly 100 years ago, were able to establish Kanab’s first free public library. To fully understand the role that Kanab’s early citizens played in the library’s history, it is important to know and understand the tremendous contributions of a dedicated and determined organization called the Ladies Literary League.
In 1914, the Ladies Literary League approached the Kanab town council with a request that a public library be formally established. The council agreed that the idea was worth pursuing and so to raise funds for the project, they called for a special election to allow the citizens to vote on increasing taxes to support such an endeavor.
The issue was controversial, sparking many debates, and to make matters worse, there was a huge storm on election day that dumped two feet of snow on the town, but the Ladies Literary League would not give up without a fight. Two members, Rose H. Hamblin and Bessie W. Jensen, canvassed the town to urge supporters to get out and vote, and by the time they were finished, the measure was passed by one vote! However, because the voting turn out had been so sparse, the town council did not feel that they could raise taxes based on the outcome. This was only the first of many stumbling blocks that the Ladies Literary League faced and overcame. They decided that if they could not get funding from the city, they would just have to inspire individuals to donate.
A Library Board was appointed by the town council and the Ladies Literary League purchased supplies with the monies they had raised. They also had obtained 375 books by holding donation drives and they even located a place to house the library – a room in the Jepson Building (no longer existing today). One generous and enthusiastic supporter, William T. Dodson, donated cash and gave public talks about the benefits that the library would offer Kanab. The library’s official opening was on September 12, 1915, and a large crowd turned out for the occasion.
The Kanab library was able to operate without tax funding for two years. When taxes were finally allocated, the amount fell far short of what was really needed, but it was a start. Rose H. Hamblin and the Ladies Literary League continued to gather donations and to give freely of their time and resources in order to manage and grow the library. Rose both supervised the library and spent many long hours cataloging its contents without ever being paid, a service she performed for nine years! She was also associated with organizations such as the Federation of Women’s Clubs in Salt Lake City, the LDS College, and the Cedar City Library, all of which donated books to Kanab. The continued success and growth of the library also inspired enthusiasm among locals that manifested in increased donations and fund-raising drives.
By 1920, when the Library Board requested additional tax money from the city, the town council unanimously voted for the increase. Still, the amount was not nearly enough. The librarian was paid only a small stipend for “desk work” but all cataloging and similar duties were still dependant on her volunteer efforts, which she generously performed. In addition, many citizens helped by serving on the Board over the years, but the most staunch supporters were still, as ever, the Ladies Literary League.
A few unsuccessful attempts to finance an actual library building were undertaken between 1936-1940. There were a number of false starts and disappointing obstacles that had to be overcome during this process, but finally with some financial backing provided by the Kane County schools plus workers provided by the WPA*, in 1940 the library had its first real home.
A more detailed account of this fascinating chapter in Kanab’s history can be found in the History of Kane County, Adonis Findlay Robinson, 979.2 Rob*WPA -Work Projects Administration – a program designed to employ many unemployed people as a way to stimulate the recovery the economy in the 1930’s Add your name to the long list of volunteers who have helped to make our library a vital program in the Kanab community - Join the Friends of the Library!