Library gets generous gift

Register Editor

Register/Susan Lynn
Iola Public Library Executive Director Roger Carswell stands in the kitchen of a house that has been donated from the Flewharty family to the library.

Roger Carswell is not prone to excitement. Bookish and soft-spoken, his emotions are usually kept in check.
So it was a slight amusement to see Carswell, director of Iola Public Library, bubbling with good cheer last week when he was able to officially spill the beans of a most generous gift: the estate of recently deceased Nancy Flewharty had been given to Iola Public Library by her daughter, Molly Flewharty of Milford, N.J.
That means the house, two garages and three-plus lots across the alley from the library are now in its possession.
But before Carswell and his crew dare to dream about possible uses for the house and the site, they are wrapping up plans for a long-awaited $800,000 in renovations to the 42-year-old library. The update is due to begin in February and will add an entrance to the library, create 15 percent more shelving, add a 66-seat meeting and program room, add and renovate restrooms, allow Carswell an office and give a top-to-bottom spiffing up with new ceiling tiles, painted walls and new carpeting on the floors. The library will also get a new roof for the eastern two-thirds of the building.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Carswell said of the updates to the 15,000 square-foot building that houses almost 100,000 books, CDs and DVDs and functions not only as a library but also as headquarters for the Southeast Kansas Library System.
Money for the renovations comes from a $400,000 Community Development Block Grant matched by $310,000 of city funds and $90,000 that the library had built up in reserves.
Because the library is so heavily used almost every day of the year, wear and tear has been significant. And though the renovation doesn’t add square footage, the redesign can mean greater efficiencies, Carswell said.
Space now used by the SEKLS on the southwest end of the building will be dedicated for public library purposes, including a new entrance directly off the parking lot and a meeting room perfect for children’s programs and for library events such as speakers.

AS FOR the Flewharty property, the gift came most unexpectedly.
Nancy Flewharty was a library regular and because she lived just right across the alley, became a favorite of library personnel, especially in her more frail years when she needed more than just library materials, but occasionally a helping hand. Her daughter, Molly, appreciated these kindnesses and when the time came to settle the estate from her mother’s Aug. 28 death, returned the favor with the generous gift, a value in excess of $100,000, Flewharty said in a phone conversation Friday from New Jersey.
The property is now the library’s to do as it pleases, Carswell said. A Christmas story time for children is the first scheduled event in the spacious home. But for the most part the house will be used for library “spillover” during the next year of renovations.
The house, 211 East St., was home to three generations of Flewhartys and Powells.
Nancy Flewharty was born in the house to J.M. and Ina Powell in 1927. In 1988, Tom and Nancy Flewharty and her brother, John Powell, gave the west end of their property to the City of Iola, which was made into a parking lot that is now on the corner of Sycamore and East Streets and frequently used by library staff and patrons.
The expected year of work to the library “gives us some breathing room,” to decide the best use of their new property, Carswell said. In his “wildest” dreams he envisions an expansion of the current library building over into the former Flewharty property and making the library “everything it could be,” for its patrons.
However the house is used, it and its property is a gift “we’ll appreciate for eternity,” Carswell said, speaking not only from the library’s perspective, but as a citizen of Iola.