Walking inside the library does not have the feeling it used to. Tiptoeing customers have been replaced with children playing games, teens surfing the web, families attending educational programs and adults browsing the numerous library books that cater to a variety of interests.
It has been 140 years since the Topeka and Shawnee County got its start. Since then, the library has played a huge role in Topeka’s community.
“Back in my day, we didn’t even go to the public library; we went to the school’s library. Topeka High’s library was great for its time,” said John Salisbury, former Library Foundation trustee.
Salisbury played a vital role when the Topeka and Shawnee Public Library was expanded and renovated. He became chairman of the Great Expectations campaign and helped identify, cultivate and solicit gifts from potential donors.
The process was not easy; The Library Foundation sought to raise $3.5 million in order to help the library fulfill its potential.
“We needed to be able to expand. We were laughed at when we announced we were building a café inside the library. Now it’s a great success,” said Salisbury. “This library is one of the most outstanding libraries in the country.”
Salisbury recalled that the campaign was a great success because of the support that the staff and volunteers provided.
Thanks to his leadership, The Library Foundation raised $4.2 million by the time the library reopened in 2002. Salisbury remembers his pride in helping the campaign be successful. He noted that it was also nice to be able to meet many new people who were interesting and enjoyable.
Salisbury has been an active member of the community, assisting organizations such as The Library Foundation and the Topeka Community Foundation.
Salisbury believes it is important to donate to the library because it is the only public library the community has. Private philanthropy has an important role to play. He noted that there are many school libraries, but with all the budget cuts, funding for schools, libraries and media centers is vulnerable.
“We need to continue to expand,” Salisbury concluded. “We are doing so many great things!”