Best Small Library Award

    The Kansas Library Association names the Atwood Public Library as the Best Small Library in Kansas for 2020

    Small libraries have many challenges as they provide services and resources to their communities. In 2020, these challenges have been compounded and magnified by the effects of the pandemic. Small libraries in Kansas have been rising to these challenges, in true Kansas fashion of “Ad Astra per Aspera” (To the Stars through Difficulties) with absolutely stellar results. The Awards Committee commends all the libraries that were nominated for the award this year for innovation, imagination, and true commitment to their communities. The Committee is pleased to award the Atwood Public Library, Atwood, Kansas, as the Best Small Library for 2020. Grace Kastens is the Director of the library, with two additional part time staff members, serving a community of 2,500 people in Rawlins County.

    A few highlights of the Atwood Public Library’s innovative programming:

    • The Around the World Book Club has been a new feature in the library starting at the beginning of the 2020 year. Thanks to a grant from Midwest Energy the library purchased a year’s subscription to Universal Yums, a company that mails monthly snack boxes each based in a different country. Using that as a guideline, book selections were made set in that particular country, using inter-library loan to have the needed copies on hand for participants. Book discussions and snacks are enjoyed at monthly meetings, and patrons who have participated have offered wonderful positive feedback about the program.
    • A permanent StoryWalk, installed around the Lake Atwood walking path, was a monumental undertaking, including planning and installing signage, working with the township board, obtaining a grant from the Dane G. Hansen foundation for costs, and finding sponsorships to support the cost of changing out the stories regularly, including updating the signs and purchasing books. Sponsors have stepped up as a way to support early literacy. The StoryWalk became even more important to the community while the library was shut down due to Covid, providing a safe outdoor environment to promote literacy, with continued support from local teachers and civics groups. The StoryWalk is an excellent example of how a library can expand beyond its four walls in a community.
    • The Smart Seniors program at the Atwood Public Library, in partnership with the local K-State Extension Agency, has brought programming to the senior population in the community. This program included a series of classes designed to help the 65+ age group to become more familiar and comfortable with technology, more specifically smart phones.


    The KLA Awards Committee commends the Atwood Public Library and Director Grace Kastens for innovative programming, partnerships with community groups, and obtaining funds from local businesses, civic organizations, and individuals motivated to support the library. It is truly inspiring to learn of the wonderful things taking place in the smaller communities of Kansas. KLA wishes to express our deep gratitude to Auto-Graphics, Inc., for their long-time support of KLA and sponsorship of the Best Small Library in Kansas Award. I also wish to thank the KLA Awards Committee for their hard work in selecting the recipient of this award: Savannah Ball, Wichita Public Library; Crystal Hutchinson, Fort Hays State University; and Elizabeth Trigg, Osawatomie Public Library.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Laurel Littrell

    KLA Awards Chair and Past President



    The Hamilton County Library in Syracuse, KS


    Ashland City Library in Ashland, KS


    Cimarron City Public Library, Cimarron City, KS


    Horton Public Library, Horton, KS


    Hesston Public Library, Heston, KS


    Wamego Public Library, Wamego, KS


    Kinsley Library, Kinsley, KS


    Garnett Public Library, Garnett, KS