Eric Norris, the 17th State Librarian of Kansas, spoke on the history and services of the State Library. The State Librarian serves at the pleasure of the Governor, although traditionally the position has not been treated as a political appointment.
The State Library began as a traveling territorial library and became formally established with statehood in 1861. Now located on the third floor, north wing of the State Capitol Building in Topeka, the State library has been restored in appearance to its original architectural elements.
The modern State Library serves a reference function for the public and state government. It maintains the Kansas Government Information data base (KGI) along with a legislative hotline that provides the content and status of bills and statutes. There are numerous other information databases and extensive information available on Kansas libraries. Various educational resources, e-books and audio books are available on line. The State Library administers a Talking Books service which provides free resources to any Kansan who cannot read regular print. It also features an annual list of Kansas Notable Books which showcases 15 of the best new books about Kansas or written by Kansas authors.
The State Library works closely with all the libraries in the state, including seven regional library systems, providing continuing education for librarians and trustees. It distributes an annual grant to rural libraries, coordinates an inter-library loan network, and provides expertise on Kansas library law to library directors and library boards.
Public access to the the State Library was curtailed during the pandemic, but online services were maintained. Plans for fully opening the State Capitol Building are in the works. A complete listing of resources and services are available on the State Library website.
Eric grew up in Hays, KS, and attended Kansas University as an undergraduate. He earned an MA at Fort Hays State and an MLS at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Eric has served as head of Hays Public Library and has also worked in human resources and as a journalist. Eric has family in Lawrence where he resides.