In 1985, less than 2,000 people lived in the small town of Lake Stevens, and community members knew the importance of having a library.
While the Lake Stevens Library has been housed in several places, for the last 25 years it has sat on Main Street in the center of downtown.
“In looking through my file on the Lake Stevens Library history, it appears that the Lake Stevens branch was established in 1946, as part of the one-year-old Snohomish County Rural Library System,” Mary Kelly, Community Relations and Marketing Director for Sno-Isle Libraries said.
The first “library” was housed in the middle of Mrs. Sophia Gibbs’ living room on the corner of Main Street and 20th St. NE. Patrons could stop by and check out a book or two.
After moving from the Gibbs’ home, it took over the old Post Office, which is now City Hall. But in 1985, Project Coordinator Karen Alessi got the ball rolling to replace the Bill’s Pharmacy building with a brand new 2,500-square foot library.
“Karen helped bring Hewlett Packard to Lake Stevens and so she was able to talk them into helping bring the new library to town. They donated $5,000 to the project,” longtime resident and past Library Board member Nancy Mitchell said.
Soon the entire community was involved in making the updated library come to life. “It gave the whole community a sense of pride to be able to take an old drugstore building and turn it into a cozy library where young kids would enjoy coming,” Mitchell said.
Fast-forward 25 years and while the look of the library hasn’t changed much, many of the services have been updated.
“Libraries, as a whole, have changed and kept pace with the changes we have seen in the information pipeline. It is no longer a repository for the printed word only,” Library Board member Lorna Hole said. The Lake Stevens Library now has seven computers for patrons to use. Two of those computers sit in the children’s section of the library. Those computers have strong filters to keep kids safe while on the internet. “The computers have been a very high demand service,” Lake Stevens Librarian Chy Ross said. “The few computers we have in our crowded library are almost always in use by students, genealogists, job searchers and others,” Hole said.
Now, Lake Stevens has over 25,000 residents and many of those are frequent visitors to the library. “In 2009, 97,454 visits were made to the Lake Stevens Library,” Kelly said. “Also in 2009, there were 149 programs held at the library and more than 6,400 child attendees over the course of the year.” The traditions of a library have changed too.
“Libraries are no longer hush-hush environments. The librarians welcome and encourage communication and are wonderfully helpful,” Hole said.
Different ideas have been thrown out regarding expanding the library system in Lake Stevens, but with the downturn in the economy, those plans have been put on hold.
“The Lake Stevens facility is a top priority (for Sno-Isle Libraries), it’s definitely high on the radar,” Ross said. “But the economy makes it a more difficult situation.”
When the time comes, it is likely the Lake Stevens community will come together again, to ensure the success of the library system.
“This is a wonderful community to work with. I find it a really engaged community,” Ross said. “It’s a great feeling in this town and it’s my goal to make sure the library is part of that.”
“As the economy rebounds, the community will be able to again give consideration to a new and larger building. In the meantime the library staff does a magnificent job considering the physical limitations of the building,” Hole said.
While technology changes so quickly these days, the future looks bright for the Lake Stevens Library and its users.
“The Library Board would hope that even five years from now that Lake Stevens would have a beautiful facility that has more room for everything––meeting rooms, more computers, adequate parking. By 10 years we may have a need to expand the library due to increased use by the community––the expansion would have been part of the original design when the new library was built. By 25 years, who knows what technology will be like,” Library Board member Debbie Ames said. “Look at the changes in the last 25 years in music––records, eight tracks, cassette tapes and even VHS tapes have become obsolete.
The library has adapted to challenges in space, accessibility of materials and the format of materials. Twenty-five years into the future who knows what formats will exist? I hope that books––printed word will still be a choice available.”