Arts and Entertainment

Off the Shelf: With a lot of help from our friends

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The Sequim Library: To a newcomer, it may seem a hip, bustling restaurant with servers, chefs and hosts choreographing magical meals for hungry patrons, queuing up at the door.

 

But this welcoming, unique space has a long history and the magic took hard work from many friends.

 

We can count Ben Franklin as a progenitor, with his Library Company, founded in Philadelphia in 1731.

 

Fast forward and leap across the continent to Sequim in 1915, when the Sequim Women’s Club started a circulating library of 300 books which were later distributed to military posts.

 

The Progressive Club bought land in 1923 for a library which would have to wait until the Public Works Administration pitched in funds to build it in 1936, this after a delegation, including Mary Rhodefer, Clyde’s mother, traveled to Seattle to lobby for the cause.

 

 In the meantime, the Women’s Auxiliary of the Jack Grennan American Legion Post began their own library, for a time housed at the Brayton Drug Store.

 

The Clyde Rhodefer Memorial Library (415 N. Sequim Ave.) was run by volunteers until 1947, when it became part of the newly formed Clallam County Rural Library District. The Port Angeles Library joined the district in 1973 and the County Library District became the North Olympic Library System.

The year 1983 brought the Sequim Library to its present location, on land donated by Gertrude Nelson, with generous support from the City of Sequim, the Friends of Sequim Library and many others throughout the community.

The Friends would love to have you join, share ideas and donations (in very good condition, please) for their wildly successful second-Saturday-of-the-month book sales.

 

As library usage, collections and staff have burgeoned, the Friends have helped support programs and events, especially programs for children, new furniture and equipment, books and other library materials and the 2009 renovation. They installed the outdoor stage behind the library and ran electricity to it.

 

You might have danced to some Irish fiddle tunes near the outdoor stage last summer. Not always a quiet library, a toddler dance party rocked the meeting room just the other day!

 

The library is the hottest spot in town, crackling with energy and providing what Zadie Smith says, “cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay … Nor can the experience of library life be recreated online. It’s not just a matter of free books.”

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning the story of the Sequim Library. I encourage you to savor more tidbits of local history at the non-fiction shelf around 979.99. Bon appétit!

 


Mary Coté is a customer service specialist at the Sequim branch.
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