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Volunteers needed for ceremonial 'book brigade' to open new Wichita library

When the downtown Wichita Public Library opened in 1967, a volunteer "book brigade" helped transfer books from the old library across the street. Officials are organizing another brigade on June 16 to mark the opening of the new Advanced Learning Library.
When the downtown Wichita Public Library opened in 1967, a volunteer "book brigade" helped transfer books from the old library across the street. Officials are organizing another brigade on June 16 to mark the opening of the new Advanced Learning Library. Courtesy of the Wichita Public Library

Back in 1967, when the Central Library opened at 223 S. Main in Wichita, a "book brigade" of junior and senior high school students passed books hand to hand from the former Carnegie library to the new library across the street.

Later this month, Wichita library officials hope to recreate that historic event with a ceremonial book brigade to mark the opening of the new Advanced Learning Library.

"Creating this special memory for a new generation of Wichitans has been something we have looked forward to for a very long time," said Cynthia Berner, Wichita's director of libraries.

Officials estimate it will take at least 500 volunteers to cover the .7 mile distance from the Central Library on South Main to its new location, at 711 W. Second St. The library is asking individuals, organizations or companies to sign up to participate.

Brigade lines will form starting at 8 a.m. June 16 — grand opening day for the new library — with the first materials leaving the Central Library at 8:30 a.m., Berner said. The transfer of items between the buildings is expected to take about 30 minutes.

Participants are being urged to wear Wichita apparel or clothing that highlights the group they represent, Berner said.

The event will take place rain or shine, she said. As the last item passes along the brigade, participants will be encouraged to go to the Advanced Learning Library for a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony. After that, the new library will be open for business, and special activities will highlight its new features and amenities.

Most of the library's 440,000 items already have been transported by Hallett Movers, a Chicago company, and reshelved at the new $38 million downtown branch. The book brigade on June 16 will be a ceremonial one, Berner said — a way for community members to acknowledge and celebrate the library's opening.

If you'd like to participate, sign up at the library's website, www.wichitalibrary.org/brigade.

The Advanced Learning Library is getting the books from the old downtown library moved over currently as they get ready for their grand opening June 16.

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