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On March 1, 1877, The Kansan challenged its readers to seek the founding of a reading room for Newton, but apparently the idea failed to get off the ground. Miss Clara Rand, who came from Chicago on a visit to Newton and accepted a teaching position while there, organized a library association and a semi-private library known as a "Ben Franklin Library." Membership was set at $1.00 per year. In 1885, the local chapter of the W.C.T.U. and other groups began soliciting funds for a library, and a permanent organization was formed May 25, 1885. In 1886, the Kansas Legislature passed a law which granted second class cities the right to levy a tax for the support of a free library and reading room. An election was held in Newton and the measure passed. The library was established as the Newton Free Library and Reading Association. On September 27, 1886, the Newton Library Association transferred its stock and furnishings to the Newton Free Library.
Carnegie Library: Newton, Kansas
Harvey County Historical Society has contributed more photos

In 1900, Mayor G. W. Young learned that Andrew Carnegie was investing money in community libraries if the community would offer ten percent of the amount of his gift as annual support. On March 26, 1901, a committee was appointed to meet with the city council and a committee from the Commercial Club to plan measures to secure some of the Carnegie library money. On March 14, 1902, Carnegie responded to Newton's plea and offered $10,000.00 for a library, an amount later increased to $15,000.00.*
The location for the building caused considerable wrangling. Board minutes indicate that in May, 1902, bids were made for four different lots while lots in a fifth location, those owned by Emerson C. Lewellen at Second and Main Streets, were offered as a donation. It was not until February, 1903, before the site at Second and Main was accepted.
W. W. Rose, an architect located in Kansas City, who designed the Kansas building at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, was chosen to design the Newton Carnegie Library. The contract was awarded to Reikowsky & Co., of Hutchinson, for $11,745.00. The bid for plumbing was made by Mr. Hollinger and was accepted in the amount of $376.86, and the contract for steam heating went to Mr. Follett for $892.50. The building was completed in December, 1903, and the official opening was made March 14, 1904.
*Bobinski's Carnegie Libraries, which quotes from Carnegie Corporation publications, states that the grant to Newton was $16,000.00; however, the Handbook of Kansas Libraries (1902)and library records indicate the final amount given was $15,000.00, that it was on that amount that bids had to be evaluated, and minutes state that Carnegie would release $2,000.00 or $3,000.00 at a time until $15,000.00 was reached.