FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS THE POST FALLS LIBRARY CELEBRATES A CENTURY
On a hard-packed dirt road in the township of Post Falls the modest home seemed an unlikely place, but it was at the same time the most perfect place for the story of the library to begin in this one-time mill town on the banks of the Spokane River a century ago.
Mrs. Annie Patterson could not possibly have imagined how the five shelves of books she shared with her neighbors would one day evolve into the center of technology, knowledge and experiences that exists today. She transformed the community and transported generations into the unlimited and borderless world of words.
As it was in rural communities throughout the country, the responsibility for learning and teaching was the domain of women. Post Falls was not unique in that respect. The Progressive Study Club was comprised of mothers and wives in the village. They met in each other’s homes, sharing experiences, baked goods and camaraderie. They also shared books.
In an era that predated social media and online learning by a century these women already appreciated the value of the knowledge contained within the books they shared. The first library in Post Falls was a labor of love by the Progressive Study Club and was located in the home of Mrs. Daniel (Annie) Patterson.
In 1910 the Pattersons lived on the corner of Frederick Street and the highway. (In 2015 Interstate 90 bisects the city and the early highway of 1915 is now named 1st Avenue. Located in the neighborhood today are Red Lion Templin’s Hotel, Post Falls City Hall, Post Falls Chamber of Commerce and the historic Presbyterian Church known as the Jacklin Arts and Culture Center.) For two years the Progressive Study Club’s library hours were open to the public “whenever Annie was home.” Those five shelves of books were no doubt well-read.
In 1912 the library moved to a small upstairs room in Nogle Hall, which is described as having been an entertainment center for the village next to the railroad tracks. Mrs. Patterson continued in the role of librarian until 1913 when Cornelia Lewis took her place. Mrs. Lewis was the librarian when the village council drew the charter that officially established a tax-supported public library on December 7, 1915. Post Falls resident June Boyer Goecke, 90, still has fond memories of that era, “My grandmother, Cornelia Lewis, was the second librarian in Post Falls. I remember riding the electric train from Coeur d'Alene to Post Falls to visit her. My uncle (Don Lewis) would go down to the library and start the wood stove to warm it up. Good memories of family, books and reading.”
Mrs. Reynolds became the librarian in 1916 and then Mrs. Florence Lucky served. It was in this time frame that the library moved from Nogle Hall not far to a building on Spokane Street across from Seyforth’s Mercantile, where it remained for several years. Next move for the local library was upstairs at the Oddfellows Hall, in a space that had once been the ladies powder room. 1928 records show that Mary Shanks became the librarian, serving until the end of 1942. During her tenure the village council provided an annual budget of $250 to fund books, salary and maintenance. The library was open two days a week from 1:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and the librarian’s salary ranged from $12-$13.50 per month.
During the Great Depression Post Falls’ only bank closed its doors and in 1933 the library moved to the back of that empty building next to the Oddfellows Hall. Receipts show that moving costs were $19. There in the city center, just a block from where Mrs. Patterson had started the library in her home, the Post Falls Public Library remained for over three decades.
Not until 1966 did the library move into a new location, which is also the library’s current location on Spokane Street and Mullan Avenue.
Ted Snyder was the chairman of the Library’s Board of Trustees and Robert (R.G.) Nelson was the architect of the 1,500 sq. ft. library building, a modern design for the time. The library was financed by a $15,750 federal grant, $10,000 of city tax money and $500 each from the library board gift fund and the Friends of the Library group.
Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s the library was the jewel of this town of approximately 4,000 citizens who were already envisioning the expansion of the facility. Kathryn Prather became the first masters-degreed librarian in 1978 and was instrumental in overseeing the conversion of the library’s holdings to computerized record keeping. The local library was on the forefront of the electronic era, circulating books by computer in 1987.
Joe Reiss served as library director in Post Falls from 1988 to 2010, and in his time at the helm two major developments came to fruition. In 1998 a library bond was brought before the citizens to remodel and expand the facility, needing a two-thirds super majority to pass. The public gave resounding support with 78% approval.
With changing times and via visioning sessions the City of Post Falls began discussing merging the library into the surrounding library district. The measure was placed on the ballot in November 2009 and passed. Since 2010 the Post Falls Library has been part of the Community Library Network, which also includes the libraries in Hayden, Rathdrum, Spirit Lake, Athol, Harrison and Pinehurst and operation of the Bookmobile.
Post Falls is now a vibrant community of 30,000 citizens with Rebecca Melton serving as Post Falls Librarian as it heads into a second remarkable century. “There have been lots of changes in how libraries do business in the twenty-eight years I’ve worked here. But the important things have stayed consistent,” said Melton. “We still value books, information and stories.”