Tacoma Public Library invites you to participate in a community event this weekend to mark the 100th anniversary of the South Tacoma Library. According to the library’s Web site, the South Tacoma Library opened its doors for the first time in May 1911, launching the first branch of the Tacoma Public Library System. In 1905, the idea for the library first emerged when members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union sought an alternative to the many saloons in the area for evening entertainment. For $20, the group rented out the Gried Building on South Union Avenue (now South Tacoma Way) and used the space as a reading room, providing materials such as books, newspapers and magazines. The organization’s treasury paid the first month’s operating fees, and after that gifts and donations maintained the services.
Late that year, in October, the reading room took significant steps toward becoming a library. Tacoma City Council voted to permit J.T. Eshel, the City Librarian, to spend up to $30 a month to help equip and maintain the building and turn it into a library branch in South Tacoma. He purchased the room’s contents, including the books and equipment. The new library moved into the Sauriol Building, and later into a store building. Under new ownership, the branch became known as the Free Reading Association. A short time later, the name was changed to the South Tacoma Library Branch.
The following year, 1906, a Board of Trustees was appointed, officially making the South Tacoma Library branch the first in the city. In 1909, the Board appropriated $5,000 from Tacoma City Council to spend toward a new location. After careful consideration, a building at South 56th and Puget Sound Avenue was selected, and the library continues to be located there today. The library was built for $6,200, including the site building, furniture and equipment. On May 3, 1911, the City and the South Tacoma community accepted the building and Miss Maud Halliday was appointed as the first librarian.
Many years later, in 1958, the City’s building inspector deemed the building unsafe and inadequate. On March 11, the citizenry of Tacoma voted on a $116,000 bond to be used for a new building to be constructed at the same location, under the condition that the building site be jointly occupied with Fire Station Number Seven. During four months of construction, (June 20, 1958 through September 14, 1959) the library’s temporary location was located at 5602 So. Lawrence. And on September 14, 1959, the Library reopened. The Library continued to serve the community until 1986 when it was closed for 15 months for renovation and expansion through the Library’s 1984 Construction Bond. The South Tacoma Library reopened in December 1988.
On Sat., Oct. 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the South Tacoma Library, located at 3411 South 56th Street, will celebrate its 100th anniversary by sharing historic photographs and news clippings that mark the library’s history. For more information, visit http://www.tacomapubliclibrary.org/ .