Library offers local historical information in online ketes
Like most cities in northeast Kansas, the cities of Bonner Springs and Edwardsville were awash in “trouble and turmoil” in the spring of 1903 as residents battled a devastating flood of the Kansas and Missouri rivers that felled bridges, buildings and even a young Bonner Springs teenager, Jesse McAfee, who lost his footing and drowned in the rising waters.
“Houses are floating out of the bottoms, over where the crops were planted,” C.L. David, who was one of Bonner Springs’ first City Council members, reported in a journal entry dated 8 a.m. May 31, 1903, just as the flood was rising to levels of about 15 feet above ground. “All is trouble and turmoil; just now word comes that a man by the name of Mitchell is up in a tree across the river in the bottoms calling for help; one family is in the attic of their house, waving a white cloth out the gable window; a rescuing party is now starting for them to take them out.”
The flood died down and the cities have long since rebuilt themselves. But this chapter in Bonner Springs and Edwardsville history is alive and well in a new format at the Bonner Springs City Library. To its online offerings, the library has added a series of ketes devoted to the history of the library and the local area.
Much like a wiki, a kete is free, open source software that allows users to create and share information online. A kete, however, makes it easier to also share audio and visual materials, like photographs and video.
The word “kete,” by the way, means “basket” in Maori — one of the official languages of New Zealand, where the software was originally developed.
Kim Beets, the library’s director, said the name was fitting, as the software truly allows for a basket of items that library patrons can look through — rare and historical items that wouldn’t be so easy to access otherwise. She said it provided an easy answer to the question, “What do libraries do with that file drawer of stuff no one ever sees?”
Recently, the Northeast Kansas Library System has pushed to get ketes into all its libraries, Beets said. She said Bonner was one of the first libraries to utilize the software. And even as a pilot location, the library already has been able to give an online presence to a significant amount of historical information with the kete software.
Linda Losier, a volunteer who works in the library’s Kansas Room, began working on the project at the beginning of last summer. She has developed four different ketes — one for Bonner library history that includes a number of documents and photos; one containing some of the earliest photos taken of the Lone Star Cement plant on Kaw Drive, which was built in 1906; one with images documenting the 1952 tornado’s aftermath in Bonner Springs; and one containing images and materials related to the 1903 flood, including the entire journal C.L. David used daily, and sometimes hourly, to record the flood and the destruction it left across the cities of Bonner Springs and Edwardsville. Those journal entries would be published in The Chieftain 10 years later, in 1913.
Losier and Beets said there was more to come, and the hope is that the library’s ketes will continue to expand and evolve. Specifically, Losier said, she wants to develop ketes for obituaries and oral histories, where patrons can listen to interviews from older residents of Bonner Springs through a simple click of the mouse button.
“If you’re truly doing it right,” Beets said, “it’s nothing” you ever stop developing. “You can always add to, always develop, always enhance.”
Losier said she hopes easier access to the city’s history would help create some renewed interest among community members.
“This city has a lot of interesting history … and I hope our community will learn about it and appreciate the history of this town,” she said.
Access the library’s series of ketes by going to bonnerlibrary.org, clicking on “Kansas Room” near the top of the page and then clicking on “Local History Photos” from the drop-down menu.