From its construction in 1906 as a tribute to the daughter of Stafford's leading citizens, Mr. and Mrs. J.D. Larabee, the Nora E. Larabee Memorial Library has remained unique. The library is unique as a focal point in a 1907 feud between the town banker and the Stafford Courier editor; unique in its architectural features of stained and leaded glass windows, twenty foot ceilings and gargoyle rainspouts; and unique in its current use of microcomputers to serve library patrons.
When Nora Larabee, only daughter of Stafford's leading citizens, died of tuberculosis in 1904, her parents wanted a fitting tribute to her. As a memorial to their daughter, the Larabees erected a distinctive red brick building at a cost of $5,000.00. The most striking feature of the library is Nora Larabee's beautiful stained glass portrait which dominates one of the library's west windows.
However unique its architectural features, the building became a public library only after a controversy which turned the town upside down. Public sentiment about the library was so strong that the entire Stafford City council and mayor resigned before the deed for the building was finally accepted.
The condition of the deed that caused the furor read as follows: "Owing to certain unwarranted attacks made by the Stafford Courier it is made a condition of this deed that the present editor of said newspaper, nor any of his family shall at any time be a member of the said board of directors."
Finally, in May of 1907, a petition from Stafford citizens requested the library council to either accept the conditions of the deed to the library or resign. The new city council voted to accept the building from the Larabee family along with the stipulation that the editor of the Stafford Courier and his descendants be barred from membership on the library board in perpetuity.
Although the library has expanded three times over the past 90 years, the casual observer is unlikely to discern any change in the building's exterior structure. The dark red brick used in the original building was matched in the 1963 and 1974 additions.
Another unique feature of the Larabee Memorial Library is that each time the building has expanded, one of the original windows has been incorporated into the expanded structure. For example, the stained glass window with Nora Larabee's portrait, which figures prominently in a west window, was originally in the building's east side.
Despite the library's tragic and tumultuous start, the building remains a central landmark in Stafford's architecture and community life more than 90 years later. From a beginning yearly circulation of approximately 1,500 items, the library has grown to an approximate circulation of 40,000 plus items in 1996. The book collection has increased from 200 items to approximately 25,000 items.
Mrs. Edith Peacock was hired as the first librarian. Other librarians were: Margaret Akers, 1916-1917; Mildred Akers, 1917-1919; Ruth Hillabold, 1919-1929; Effie Powelson, 1929-1937; Brunetta Jimison, 1937-1964; Bell Block, 1964-1973; Dixie King Osborn, 1971-1979; Susan Bogart, 1979-1985; and Dixie King Osborn, 1985-Present. Margaret Ann Fee served as children's librarian from 1944-1972.
The library was a very special gift to the Stafford community and certainly remains a very special place in the community.
The Glen and Jane Helmer Computer Learning Center
Stafford Chamber of Commerce
130 S. Main / P. O. Box 24 / Stafford, KS 67578
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