Edgerton is unique among Johnson County Library’s 14 branches in that the Library system doesn’t own the building. Instead, the building is leased from the city. Edgerton had lacked library service since the early 1980s. In 1999, the city acquired the vacant bank building at 319 E. Nelson St., and Johnson County Library agreed to a partnership. Many Edgerton citizens turned out to help gut the building and turn it into a wonderful Library space, which opened July 29, 2000. It was a community labor of love.
John Keogh, Library branch manager for Gardner, Spring Hill and Edgerton, spends most of his time at Gardner but always enjoys his visits to the Edgerton branch. “The thing I love about Edgerton is this is a community that still feels like a small town. And they take a lot of pride in that,” he says. “I really love this building. I love the space. I love the architecture. It’s a calming space to be.”
While Gardner and much of southern Johnson County are booming suburbia, Edgerton hasn’t lost the essence of a traditional farm town. It has a huge intermodal facility but retains its old fashioned downtown, with simple brick buildings housing City Hall, a museum, post office and beauty parlor. The Edgerton Library, housed in a former bank building dating from 1906, is a downtown anchor and a big part of that charm and character. It invites visitors in with its beautiful etched glass windows and gold-lettered signage proclaiming “Bank of Knowledge.”
“It’s just a sweet community Library where we know everybody. We know our patrons and they know us,” says Library Clerk Lynn Davis, who has lived south of town since 1992. She started out as a page at Edgerton and Gardner in April 2001.
For 2019, the Library was open 25 hours per week and served about 400 to 750 visitors per month, or an average of 25 to 35 patrons per day. They check out books and videos, use the computers, and enjoy the comfortable atmosphere. Teens especially like the gaming station.
“That building is such a part and parcel of the identity of our city,” says Edgerton Communications Manager Kara Banks.
Gardner and southern Johnson County continue to grow but Edgerton’s cozy Library space is right-sized for current demand. The Library could get an extra boost, and more patron visits, thanks to city plans to enhance downtown. Edgerton officials have set aside $4 million for a new community building on vacant land between the Library and the fire station. The building’s design will be compatible with the Library. It will have a conference room and offices and will host community gatherings and luncheons, Boy and Girl Scout meetings and other events. It will also serve as the city’s emergency shelter. City officials hope it will open in summer 2021.
To see all of the Johnson County Library locations, visit jocolibrary.org/locations.
Johnson County Library – Nurturing the Community’s Collective Wisdom