Help Build "The Center"

The Center  

The Bettie Steiger Community Enrichment Center and Business Incubator
A service of Whitman County Rural Library District
104 S. Main Street Colfax, WA 99111
4000 sq. ft, built approx 1937
Contact: Kristie Kirkpatrick,, 509-397-4366


What is the Center and when will it be complete?

The Center will be the educational, social, cultural and business hub for Whitman County featuring classes for all ages, gallery space, business incubation, historic information, tourist activities, or other potential uses. While no date has been set for completion, library staff and community members are working as time allows to secure funding and make improvements.

Is it being used?

Initially, library officials and the community were not going to use The Center until after renovation. Because of demand for library programs, community programs and meeting space, use of The Center began almost immediately upon its purchase and has continued to grow, even in its current “under construction” state.

Who is funding The Center?

The Center was purchased by two local families and donated to the library for the expressed purpose of community education, technology, cultural programs and other uses. Renovations to date have been funded through donations, grants and volunteers because the library’s tax funded budget already struggles to serve its 14 countywide locations, The Whitman County Library Foundation is working to secure funding for The Center.

What will renovation of The Center cost?

Total renovation cost is estimated at $450,000. To date, we’ve completed $148,000 in improvements and need to raise approximately $232,000 to complete The Center.

Work on the facility to date:

The basement floor has been sealed with cement to prevent mold, moisture and smells. Brickwork and other roof leakage resolved. Spray foam insulation has been applied to the ceiling. A direct entry from the library to The Center with fire protection features is nearly complete. The front façade is nearly complete with a new foundation, windows, door and siding. Lighting and signage are in progress.

Who owns and manages the center?

Whitman County Rural Library District owns the building, with Whitman County Library Friends/Foundation and other partners funding many of the improvements, activities and programs taking place within the facility. Kristie Kirkpatrick, WCL’s director currently manages the facility with an eventual goal to hire a Center coordinator.

How will The Center enrich the lives of community members?

The Center will be the hub of activity for Colfax and the surrounding communities. It will serve residents of all ages seeking educational, cultural or social engagement. The Center will draw travelers to stop and visit and help our local businesses grow. The Center and activities held there will help meet the challenges of the 21st century through education, innovation, small business, the arts, education and community building.

What types of education, cultural, and technical classes will take place in The Center?

With the Library’s only meeting room bursting at the seams, educational, cultural and technical programming are already overflowing into The Center. Once the facility is complete this will only increase, not only through the library’s efforts but also from community partners and agencies.

For kids, the library provides a wide array of educational opportunities, including baby, toddler and preschool classes, Play and Learn, Crazy 8’s math club, software coding classes, Lego programs, book discussion clubs, 3rd Thursday afterschool club and outreach to schools and daycares. WCL often sponsors partner programs like scientists and science centers, guest authors and experts, musical performers and more.

For adults WCL provides a wide variety of classes such as literary, computer skills and technology, career search, skills and support, history, science, cooking, fitness and travel, often in partnership with Community Colleges of Spokane, Humanities Washington, regional agencies and local instructors.

For seniors, we provide educational, technical, everyday living and perhaps most importantly social opportunities. From gentle fitness, low-vision readers and bingo to technology instruction and support, health and wellness, ACT 2 community enrichment classes and heritage programming, the library works hard to see that seniors and all residents receive quality access to life-long educational opportunities.

What types of business incubation could occur at The Center?

The Center will accept a variety of business incubation options in the hope that entrepreneurs using the facility will develop a steady stream of business and reliable clientele before venturing into their own locations throughout the region.

Of the 4000 sq. feet available in the Center, up to 400 square feet could be dedicated to a specific business usage. Fiber Internet, changes in the electrical services, sound proofing and other modifications to the facility could be made in order to accommodate a small manufacturing business or other types needing incubation.

Currently, Yoga, Dance, Exercise and Art instructors are interested in renting the Center. These uses are quite feasible considering the size limitations of the Center. Gallery space and sales space is also being considered for budding local businesses to sell their artwork or other small sized items.

The Center may also house a fully equipped professional office available for use by appointment. The office would provide users with a desk, phone, fax machine, computer, high speed Internet, scanner, small conference table and other things needed for small business meetings and operations. With the limited broadband access throughout Whitman County, this Office will give prospective businesses the professional tools they need for meetings and correspondence.

The Center is also exploring the Maker Movement, along with grant opportunities and local support for sound and audio production, a 3D printing and other small fabrication equipment and uses, all valuable to potential businesses or workers.

How will The Center improve tourism?

The Center’s gift shop and gallery will attract shoppers and travelers and also hold special events like exhibits and artist receptions. In addition, the Center will seek out and provide information from our region and our small towns to assist tourists. The Library helped develop a historic walking tour of Colfax and will assist in developing a Travel Loop brochure through Whitman County. Both integrate the library’s rural heritage collection with historic sites. The Center will be a hub for county business and travel info!!

Who else is involved?

Tom Maul Architecture and Design, an accomplished firm from Seattle has committed to development and design of The Center.

Volunteers to date include Tom Maul, architect, Chris Sapp Masonry, Real Life Ministry volunteers, Sullivan Construction and Whitman County Inmate volunteers.

The Colfax Downtown Association lists completion of The Center as one of its key objectives seeing it as a key step in the revitalization of Colfax’s historic downtown.

The City of Colfax fully supports this project, seeing business growth and incubation as vital to the town’s future.

Southeastern Washington Economic Development Association and The Port of Whitman have contributed to the Center through funding, guidance & local economic development activities.

Washington State University’s Rural Communities Design Initiative (WSU RCDI) completed a comprehensive community needs assessment. Those results helped determine uses for the facility. WSU RCDI and various university departments will continue to participate in future studies, programming and marketing at The Center.

Colfax Chamber of Commerce is an advocate and partner in this project as the Center will play a key role in community activities, events and celebrations.

The Colfax Arts Council has contractually partnered to offer staffing and marketing skills in exchange for use of the facility to include exhibits, gallery events and classes.

Community Colleges of Spokane hosts Community Enrichment classes at the Colfax Library and fully support completion of the Center in order to expand their low-cost classes.

Empire Health Foundation has provided funding for Senior Citizen programming and equipment that is currently taking place in The Center and The Library.

Community partners have expressed an interest in teaching classes or selling their local products through The Center. Many residents have donated to The Center or have written letters of support for the project.

Whitman County residents are showing strong support for The Center through donations, volunteer efforts and most recently, a fundraising auction that raised $50,000 for the project.

Planning to date:

WSU’s Rural Communities Design Initiative held open community assessment workshops to identify the most pressing needs in Colfax. Results of these meetings have gone into the architectural and program planning for the facility.

CKA Architect Larry Kom completed a feasibility study for the Center, developing an estimated cost for renovation and reviewing the zoning regulations.

Whitman County Library adopted new meeting room policies to accommodate for-profit uses. This model is growing in popularity, demonstrating the funding model will work for The Center.

About Whitman County Rural Library District:

Whitman County Rural Library District (WCL) serves a population of 15,145 over a large regional area (2150 square miles) with branches in 14 towns whose populations range from 80-2900 people. The main branch is in Colfax, which also serves as the county seat and hub for the outlying communities and rural areas.

WCL originally formed by a vote of the people in 1945 and continues to grow. Over the past 20 years, the library district annexed seven towns into the district by 75% or more “yes” votes. Community support is strong, with residents continually voting to keep tax rates as high as legally possible.

Unfortunately, Washington taxing rate laws favor larger library districts and urban city libraries. Inequities can be very significant for rural districts like WCL where we collect only $800,000 in taxes to operate 14 branches and support a large geographic area. For this reason, WCL relies upon community donations and grants in order to thrive.

WCL’s mission is to be the community’s #1 resource for information, recreation and discovery. WCL is committed to serving all residents in the places where they live, work and go to school whether it be through our system of 14 branch libraries, the website or outreach services. To accomplish this mission, WCL strives to provide top quality information while meeting the most pressing needs of our communities.

As a result, WCL provides popular innovative programs like an IT Microsoft Training Academy, public computers, wireless Internet hotspots, business partnerships and support, and educational classes while still maintaining traditional services like outreach delivery to schools and seniors. For kids, classes like software coding, Crazy 8’s math club, afterschool and preschool classes, and summer reading all while maintaining traditional services and materials collections.

WCL is proud of its award winning services that include a Sustainability Award from Webjunction as “The Little Library That Could” and featured programs in ALA’s Real Success Stories. Bill Gates visited WCL in 2002 citing the library’s innovative approach to service and technology. In 2004, Washington State Library called WCL the best rural library in the State nominating them as one of the top 100 libraries in the USA. WCL’s programs and staff have won numerous awards and have been featured in local, state and national workshops, broadcasts and publications.

November 2015.

How can I help?

Email Kristie Kirkpatrick  today!