Life and times of the Creston Public Library

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The original location of the Creston Valley Public Library

How do you celebrate a library’s birthday? Faithful readers may recall that my indicating in a column a few months ago that Creston Valley Public Library was nearing its 96th birthday. When you get to be this age, birthdays just come and go, no need to make a big to-do about it. But a 100th birthday is something special, and we want to celebrate the library’s fast-approaching centennial year in style.

Creston Valley Public Library was incorporated on September 13, 1920, and was housed in the Creston Fruit Growers Building on Canyon Street, near the former location of The Other Side Café. In a February 2011 article in I Love Creston magazine — which is still available online, Google it! — Creston Museum Manager Tammy Hardwick details the nomadic existence of the library over the next 90-odd years as it moves from temporary location to temporary location.

Longtime volunteer Helena White, who still faithfully shelves books twice a week, has been volunteering long enough to recall the move in 1967 from the old town hall (now Willis Jordan Financial) to the library’s first “permanent” location in the new centennial building on Vancouver Street (since torn down to allow for Swan Valley Lodge expansion). Current volunteers Barb Thomas (who later served as Chief Librarian for a number of years) and Marion Sawall also began volunteering at the library in the centennial building in the early 1970’s.

The library’s financial condition over the years was often as uncertain as it’s physical location. There is no question that the library would not be in existence today without the dedication and hard work of volunteers such as Helena, Barb, Marion, and many others, as well as the on-going support of our Area Directors and Mayor. Needless to say, the stability that the library has enjoyed over the past number of years has been the exception rather than the rule in Creston.

As a relative “young’un”, I have a great deal of admiration for the generations who came before me and who, as a rule, faced much greater hardships than my generation faced. My grandpa cleared the land and built his own house. I only built a birdhouse for the garden.

I guess that this library is a little bit like these older generations: it has endured some hard times, and left a better legacy for those who came later.

Prognosticators have predicted the end of public libraries for decades. At one point, it was believed that we would all carry personal libraries around with us on microfiche—we all know how that turned out! Computers and the internet as well only served to make libraries ever more vital as facilitators of access to information. Sharing information resources as a community just makes too much sense.

So, while 100 years is long in the tooth for us humans, I figure it’s still pretty young for a library. On September 13, 2020, we’ll not be celebrating the end of an era, but just one snapshot in time of a great community institution, an institution that has impacted so many of us so deeply and in so many ways over the decades.

How do you think we should celebrate the library’s centennial? Send me an email at aaron@crestonlibrary.com, or stop by the library anytime. I would love to hear from you.

Aaron Francis is the Chief Librarian at Creston Valley Public Library. He is currently reading Little Bastards in Springtime by Katja Rudolph.