Kate M. Woolsey: Children’s Librarian

Written By: nppladmin - Aug• 27•21
Originally published to facebook.com/NorthPlattePL on August 27, 2021.

Today’s Friday history looks at a beloved librarian, that many of our readers will remember. Enjoy!

Kate M. Woolsey was born July 25, 1880 in North Platte. She graduated from Peru College in 1899 and began teaching school, first at Echo School, then in Sutherland, Hershey, and finally at Washington School in North Platte from 1904 until her marriage in 1910. Following her marriage she moved to Portland, Oregon and remained there until 1932, when she returned to North Platte. She and her husband had two children. Kate’s passion for bringing children and books together left a legacy to the North Platte community. When the new North Platte Public Library, located at 120 W 4th Street was formally dedicated, in November 1967, the Library honored her by naming the children’s area, “The Kate Woolsey Children’s Room.”

The following excerpts are from an article written by Sharron W. Hollen and appeared in the November 27, 1968 edition of the North Platte Telegraph.

“When Kate Woolsey started out, libraries were for adults. No one thought of making special places for children, especially for children who couldn’t even read. But Kate Woolsey loved children as well as books. She also had a great deal of determination and managed to corner a basement room; and then a whole basement in the old North Platte Public Library <the “old Carnegie Library”, which now hosts the North Platte Area Children’s Museum>.

As a result, thousands of North Platte youngsters have been introduced to books and the Library over the past 35 years, with Kate Woolsey doing the introducing. Kate was a library helper when she began working in the North Platte Library in 1933. “We were just a library then,” Kate said, “There was no special provision for children. I’ve been batty about kids all my life and the same way about books; and I thought there should be something special about the library for youngsters.”

Miss Eleanor Wheeler was head librarian when Kate first proposed what seemed to be a rather preposterous dream. “It took an awful lot of persuasion on my part to talk Miss Wheeler into letting me have a room in the basement for children. She thought it would never succeed. I was determined it would. By the time they learned to read, the Children’s Library room was an old friend. The books they read introduced them to new friends and faraway places.” That single room grew into two rooms, and finally the entire basement. A one woman operation soon called for assistants.

Bennett Cerf once said, “The most unfortunate people in the world are those who have never learned the soul-satisfying pleasure of reading good books.” Thanks to one woman’s love and determination, there are thousands of youngsters from North Platte and the area who are not among Cerf’s classification of “the most unfortunate.”

Thank you for reading! And if you were lucky enough to have known Kate Woolsey, or have been inspired to read by a librarian or teacher, count yourself blessed!

See you next week for more North Platte History!

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