The mission of the Erie City Public Library is to enhance the quality of life by being effectively involved in the community.
Board of Trustees
The present-day library began in the year 1878, when a twelve year old boy named Leon Cambern, along with his brother walked from Fort Scott to Erie to join his parents. Leon grew up in Erie and is considered a pioneer resident of Erie. Mr. Cambern served as a state senator for the Neosho-Wilson district from 1908 to 1912. He founded the Bank of Erie in 1892. He also served as president and general manager of the Southwest Gas & Fuel Company and had extensive oil interests. Leon was married to Rose Jessep Cambern, and they had seven children.
A public library was organized for the city with Mrs. F. A. Johnson as President of the Board and Mrs. Paul Cory, Secretary. The board was composed of representatives from the various Women’s Clubs: The Carnation Club, the Twentieth Century Club, The Monday Study Club, The Entre Nous, The Pleasant Hour Club, and O.A.O. Club, the Auxiliary of the American Legion and the Blue Bag Club. The first library was located in rooms over J. T. Coles Grocery. In 1932, the City of Erie allocated $400 for a new library. They also allowed 160 days of labor at $.25 per hour for it’s construction. The Erie Savings and Loan Association donated the money for the materials. The Two Room, brown shake shingle building was built on West 4th Street.
From an article in the April 21, 1933 copy of the Erie Record:
Large Number of Guests at Formal Opening Wednesday Afternoon
The Erie Public Library was formally opened on Wednesday of this week, and a large number of local Club women and representatives of Women’s Club from Chanute and Pittsburg as well as many others. The opening was sponsored by the Entre Nous Club and through the afternoon, punch and wafers were served and a silver offering was accepted and a total of $19.50 was received. A total of 105 people attended the opening.
Erie’s beautiful little library is no longer a dream, but is a reality. The new building is located on West 4th Street and it is a distinct asset to the city. The building is of the bungalow type and is beautifully finish both on the exterior and interior and the grounds the building have been landscaped in a charming manner.
The Library was moved from its former location over J. T. Cole’s grocery store to the new home the latter part of last week and it is now no longer necessary for patrons of the library to climb a long flight of steep stairs to get their books. The library now contains a total of three thousand five hundred books and more are being added from time to time when funds are accumulated for this purpose. The first book checked out of the new library was Everett Mix.
The current library was built from a bequest of $50,000 to the City of Erie from Alice C. Chadwick who was Leon’s daughter. Alice was educated in Erie and furthered her education at the old Liberty Ladies School in Liberty, Missouri. She met her future husband, E. Wallace Chadwick in Erie while he was working on a summer job doing a geological survey of the Neosho River. They married and moved to Pennsylvania where he became a lawyer and a judge in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. He served as a U.S. congressman from 1947-1948. Mrs. Chadwick lived in Pennsylvania until her death on October 26,1970, at the age of 83.
The couple had no children but Alice had a sentimental interest in Erie, returning to visit in the summer of 1970 to explore, leaving a bequest to the city for the library. In her will, she requested that a committee of trustees be appointed, with her brother, Theodore J. Cambern on the committee. The cost of the building, furnishings and fixtures, was provided by the bequest with the city to provide the site and maintain the building after its completion.
The building was completed and opened in 1974. The building was remodeled in 2004.
The State of Kansas gave out CARES/SPARKS Funding through Neosho County in the fall of 2020. The Erie City Public Library, in an effort to help with food insecurity for Erie families, applied for a grant and we purchased a greenhouse to grow plants for family gardens. The grant also allowed a Seed Library to be formed so that families can access seeds to feed their families and a refrigerator to store produce donated by community members in the WE Share Program. In January of 2021, a Yoderbilt greenhouse was delivered, and we started growing plants.
In March 2020, We applied for a grant from Kansas Health Foundation for a mobile kitchen, Charlie Cart. This kitchen is being used to teach elementary age children how to cook.
In July, 2020, we applied for an ARPA grant from the State Library of Kansas and purchased a portable building for outdoor programming in the event of a possible shutdown from the Covid 19 virus. This building is equipped with wooden benches and electrical outlets with USB ports for charging phones. Our library offers 24/7 WI-FI services which are also accessed in the pavilion.
The Erie City Public Library has become a gathering place for activities and programs to enhance the community. Libraries are not just books any more.