History of WCL
all began in August, 1944, when a petition to create a library
district, signed by 300 Whitman County taxpayers was presented
to the county commissioners. In the November, 1944 general
election, the voters approved the formation of a library district.
1,743 voted in favor of the new district and 1,462 votes were
cast against the measure.
first library board appointed by the county commissioners
included Roy Peringer, Belmont: Mrs. W.S. Redman, Palouse;
Mrs. Bert Davis, Rural Pullman; Mrs. Gilbert Ferris, Lacrosse;
and Ernest Hemingway, of Thorton. Gladys Bowles, Lewiston,
Idaho, was selected to be the library's first new director.
library had its beginning in the county courthouse, a temporary
location until a rental agreement could be worked out at
the site of a former tavern located on Main Street, which
presently houses Hickman's Boot and Saddle. The furniture
was war surplus, the floor had no covering and, understandably,
some patrons wandered in for a brew, not books.
both years, 1946 and 1948, there was a measure on the county
ballots to abolish the library district. Fortunately, the
measure was voted down each time. In fact, the library gained
in popularity and service. In 1948, this was shown as there
were then 25 branch libraries in the county and close to
44,000 books were circulated. Hay had the honor of having
the first branch.
February, 1949, Bruce Carrick from Brandon, Alberta, was
appointed librarian. Following his resignation in September,
1950, he went to the Spokane County Library and, later moved
on to the Spokane Public Library, where he stayed for many
years as head man.
Biller, the children's librarian, succeeded Mr. Carrick
as director of the system. She recognized the need for a
bookmobile to provide better service to the people and,
in October, 1951, a bid was accepted. The bookmobile arrived
in February, 1952, and it was soon on the road. This addition
resulted in the closure of many of the smaller branches.
January of 1955, George Droste became the director and began
planning for a new building to house the expanding library
facilities. During that same year, the City of Colfax contracted
for library services.
Bell of Dawson Creek, British Columbia, followed Mr. Droste
as director in January, 1957. He continued the work of finding,
or building, a new library headquarters. A building on the
corner of Main and Spring Streets was destroyed by fire
and, in the summer of 1959, the District hired Warren C.
Heylman to design the new building. The lot, now the location
of the present Colfax branch, was purchased, Sceva Construction
Company of Spokane was awarded the bid and the work began.
The total cost of construction was $99,630.96.
the new library building was made much easier with the help
of the Colfax Jaycees and other volunteers, who formed a
"book brigade," passing books from person to person down
Kirchgraber became the director in August 1960, and was
followed by Margaret Clow in January, 1962. The average
cost of a book during the 60's was $15.95, novels averaged
$5.50 and paperbacks, 95 cents.
service expanding to most of the schools in the county,
the need for a replacement bookmobile became evident. One
was ordered and went into service in August, 1964.
the new library was built, the basement was left unfinished
in order to save money. Then, in 1966, that job was completed,
adding a large meeting room, an office, kitchen, store room
and public rest room facilities. In 1968, for the sake of
comfort, air conditioning was added. Also, added to the
library's inventory was a collection of large print books
and the first of the books-on-tape, both very popular additions.
Clow retired in April, 1982, and was succeeded by Nancy
Benson, who was the director for only a short time. Gail
Warner became library director in November, 1982, She began
the job of compiling the information and documents necessary
for joining the towns with branch libraries to the County
Library District for taxing purposes. Up to this time the
towns were served through contracts and several of them
opted for this inclusion.
valuable addition to the Whitman County Library came about
in 1983, for it was at the time the Friends
of the Library group was organized and established.
was busy and productive year for the library. Director Warner
began looking at the feasibility of lifting the lid on levies
and placing a special levy on the September primary ballot.
Both measures were approved by the voters in that year's
primary. Other projects were underway, as well. The search
for a new bookmobile began, plans were in the making for
a remodeling of the building and the move toward computerizing
the library system was begun.
plans made in 1984 began to be implemented in 1985. The
S.G. Morin & Sons Construction Company was awarded the
bid for the remodeling, which began in July. All library
functions were moved to the basement for the duration of
the upstairs work. At the same time, a computer committee
was formed to analyze the three companies that offered library
computer systems. That done, the library staff began entering
the book collection into the computer system. The new bookmobile
went into service late in August and a great deal of work
was being done on a packet radio system to link the branches
to the Colfax branch. Gail Warner, and her husband Mike
Hughes, worked tirelessly on this project. All in all, a
1988, the computer system was up and running and connected
to each of the branches by radio. The remodeling was completed,
with the addition of the mezzanine serving as the work area.
now for the game of "musical directors." Gail Warner resigned
in April, 1988 and was followed by Andy Waters, who hailed
from the Chicago area. His tenure started in September,
1988. He was followed by Anne Getman in 1991. She moved
on to an Oregon library and was replaced by Catherine McKinney
in February, 1994. She left the latter part of 1994 and
was followed by Steve Kenworthy, who became the library's
director January, 1995. When he left in 1998, long time
staff member Kristie Kirkpatrick became the interim
director. She was appointed director in 1999.
during the history of the Whitman County Library, children
have been number one on the priority list. From the very
Reading programs have been held throughout the system.
Bookmobile service was provided to many of the schools and
the library staff has worked with children, encouraging
them to become lifelong library users. It has all been an
outstanding effort, but a valuable labor of love.
addition to children's services, book deliveries are made
to nursing homes and mail services are maintained for shut-ins.
The library has built a large-print section for those who
are troubled with smaller, or regular, print books. Books-on-tape
and books on CD are provided for those patrons who enjoy
listening to a book. The video collection has grown immensely.
In 1999, these where checked out 24,626 times.
are 6,303 registered library patrons in the county, using
the the 13 branches. In 1999, 127,879 items were circulated.
The library has on inventory 73,370 books, videos, etc.
The average cost of an item added last year was $38.25.
Attendance at storytime for 1999 was 11,720 children.
of the success in library service can be attributed to the
work and devotion of the staff members. From the shelver
to the clerk to those who manage the branches, many of whom
have devoted years to building a system that meets the needs
of the citizens of Whitman County.
the pencil daters to computers - the first fifty years has
been one of progress. What will it be in 2045? Onward and