Nourishing minds

Mark and Sue Carlson honor his mother with investment in Hale Library.

By Marisa Larson

Campaign Themes:

“Reading nourishes the mind. Our hope is that the Virginia Carlson Family Reading Room will be a literary haven where ideas germinate, innovation flourishes, and young minds grow for generations of Wildcats to come.” — Mark Carlson


Four generations of Mark and Sue Carlson’s family have studied in Kansas State University’s Hale Library (previously Farrell Library). With ongoing renovations at Hale, Mark and his wife, Sue, saw an opportunity to invest in K-State and honor Mark’s mother, Virginia, who was a librarian. The children’s literature section of Hale Library will be called the Virginia Carlson Family Reading Room.

“The opportunity to honor my mother and her legacy, support the renovation of one of our country’s greatest resources, and in so doing, benefit students and faculty for years to come inspired us to make this gift,” Mark said. “Naming the beautiful room that houses the children’s book collection and which provides a peaceful setting in which K-State students can study and reflect is an ideal way to honor her legacy.”

Virginia (Bulkley) Carlson graduated from Kansas State College in 1952. She taught at elementary schools in Kansas City and Manhattan, Kansas. In 1970, she began her library career as the children’s librarian at Johnson County Library. She went on to work on the bookmobile, at several branches and ultimately led automation (now called Information Technology) for the Johnson County library system. Virginia was passionate about the importance that children read. She created a list of recommended children’s books for library patrons, which her own family used to choose books for their children, her grandchildren.

“My mother encouraged us to read, not only through her words, but by example,” Mark said. “She almost always had a book in her hands. One of my favorite pictures of her was taken on a Saturday morning. She is in her pajamas, sitting on the deck deep into a novel with only a few pages remaining.  One can also see the ‘Johnson County Library’ on the pages of the book. 

“My mother understood well the importance of libraries not only in academics, but in society.  She knew that libraries democratize knowledge, making it available to all. Each step of her career path (children’s collection, bookmobile, chief of automation) focused on enhancing access to the written word for those who need it most. She understood the importance of reading for young developing minds, the thirst for books in rural America, and the potential for the internet and digital information to greatly expand access to the written word.

“Reading nourishes the mind,” Mark said. “Our hope is that the Virginia Carlson Family Reading Room will be a literary haven where ideas germinate, innovation flourishes, and young minds grow for generations of Wildcats to come.”

Virginia Carlson  

Mark and Sue Carlson familiy

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