On June 13, 1957, the town council of Duvall formally approves a contract that transfers operation of the Duvall Library to the King County Library System. The Duvall Library was built on public land on Main Street in 1935, largely through the efforts of the Duvall Women's Civic Club. Upon completion the building was donated to the town but was operated by the club, which retained ownership of the books and furnishings. This meant that under state law the library was classified as a private, and not a public, entity, and was thus ineligible for government funding. Unaware of this restriction, Duvall's municipal government had subsidized library operations in the modest amount of $250 a year, a practice that ended in late 1955 when the state attorney general's office ruled that it was illegal. The issue is resolved when the Women's Civic Club transfers to the town all of its legal interests in the books and equipment and the Duvall town council turns over library operations to KCLS. The contractual arrangement will last until 1993, when the voters approve annexation of the Duvall Library to KCLS.
Tough Times, Determined Women
The nation and the world were deeply mired in the Great Depression when the members of Duvall Women's Civic Club decided in October 1932 that their town needed a library and that they should give it one. The club's president, Mabel Emma Bourke (1883-1976), had been elected mayor of Duvall earlier in the year, and in the same election all three open seats on the town's five-member council were won by other club members -- Cora Roney (1877-1959), Mrs. J. I. Miller, and Theresa E. Stapleton (1875-1953). These women and their cohorts had organizational skills and political power, and they meant to put them to good use.
There was not a lot of money around for anything other than necessities, but a few small fundraisers and donations brought in enough to get a start. Chesley Funk (1884-1968), the owner of a Duvall café that had run out of customers, offered the women the use of the vacant building rent-free. Other volunteers provided a pot-bellied stove and a load of firewood. After buying some shelves and furnishings the women had $17 left, which they spent in Seattle's second-hand bookshops. An opening-day party in early 1933 charged an admission fee of 15 cents or one book, and the library was then open two afternoons a week, staffed by volunteers from the club. As the months passed more books were collected by purchase and donation; by the end of the first year the library held 500 volumes.
Just two years after the idea of a library first came up, a campaign was started to provide a permanent, dedicated building to house it. The women of the club began soliciting money door-to-door, asking for one dollar from each household. A little arm-twisting of local businesses brought in larger donations, and some small fundraisers added to the pot. Several husbands of club members organized a men's auxiliary and were given a large amount of lumber as payment for demolishing an abandoned warehouse. Donations of nails, hinges, and other building needs came trickling in. Once sufficient material was gathered and building plans prepared, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration supplied wages for workers, many of them unemployed locals, to put up the structure. When that program expired before the job was done, men and boys from the town kept working on a volunteer basis.
The finished library was barely more than 700 square feet, clad in cedar shakes, with a finished cement basement and a small kitchen on the main floor for community events. At the dedication ceremony (the date of which has not been preserved) the Women's Civic Club deeded the building to the town, but retained ownership of the books and furnishings and continued to staff the library with volunteers, an arrangement that would prove problematic in the future. But for the time being all was well, and by 1937, the library held 1,400 books, with more being added every month. In 1940 a professional part-time librarian was hired at a salary of $35 a month, and at some later point the town of Duvall began contributing $250 a year to subsidize a portion of that pay.
Because Duvall was without a local newspaper for several decades, there is little record of the library's activities during and in the first years after World War II. But in 1952 The Carnavall Reporter started publication, covering both Carnation and Duvall. News of the library soon appeared in its pages, and it was not always good. On the plus side, the paper reported that by 1955 the library had 6,000 books on its shelves. The bad news was that the relationship between the town of Duvall and the library had run afoul of state law.
The Library and the Law
Because the club had retained ownership of the library's contents, managed its affairs, and continued to raise money to purchase more books and maintain the facility, the library was not truly a "public" library under state law even though the town of Duvall owned the property and the building. As a private entity the library could not be subsidized with public money, and the paltry $250 that Duvall gave it every year was inarguably public money.
The state attorney general informed the town council in November or early December of 1955 that Duvall's annual contribution was illegal and must end. (Exactly how such a modest violation came to the attorney general's attention is not known.) It was a small monetary loss in the greater scheme of things, but it spurred the town council to action. Although the 1950 census counted only 236 residents in Duvall, the town was destined to grow, and the library needed to grow along with it. At some point, the needs of the community would outstrip the abilities of the volunteers who had kept the library in operation since it first opened in the vacant café in 1933.
On December 8, 1955, the town council met to discuss the issues, and three options to resolve the library problem were proposed. The first would have the town lease the building to the Women's Civic Club for a nominal fee, then pay the club for the services the library provided in the same amount ($250 a year) as before. This seemed a rather transparent attempt to circumvent the ban on public money supporting a private club's activities and was given little serious consideration.
The second option was for the town of Duvall to comply with a 1941 state law, the Rural Free Public Libraries Act, take over the library in its entirety, and appoint a board to run it. A third and "last resort" was to turn the library over to the King County Library System, which was established by voters in 1942 as the King County Rural Library District to provide library services to rural county residents ("Library Problems Considered ..."). Neither option then received any support from the council members.
Nothing was resolved at this meeting, and nothing would be resolved until the following September. The Carnavall Reporter informed its readers on September 20, 1956, that the Women's Civic Club had transferred ownership of all the books and furnishings to the town of Duvall. This simple act converted the library from a private to a public institution, and it removed the legal barrier to the use of public funds. The newspaper report went on to say:
"The technical knot has been the subject of investigation and discussion the past two years, and the solution, while vesting title in the Town, will not materially affect the management or conduct of the Library in any way. The Women's Civic Club will continue to help support it and manage it as before" ("Duvall Library Status ...").
On October 18, 1956, Duvall Mayor Emmitt Minaglia (1912-1993), adopting the second option presented at the December 1955 meeting and in compliance with the requirements of the state's rural libraries law, appointed a five-member library board to oversee the library under the new arrangement of total town ownership. This resolved the immediate legal problem, but did little to ensure the library's ability to meet future needs.
By May 1957 Duvall was reconsidering its earlier rejection of the "last resort" option of entering into some kind of agreement with the King County Library System. Dorothy R. Cutler (1917-2013), the Washington State Library's Chief of Library Development, was invited to address the council on May 9 and to describe how such an arrangement would benefit the town and the library. While no final decision was made, the library's future path was clear. On May 16, The Carnavall Reporter noted:
"The Council voted to have Peggy Drumm, Town Clerk, contact the County Library and arrange to have them send a representative to next month's Council meeting, at which time it is expected the Duvall Library will officially become a member of the County Library system.
"The Duvall Women's Civic Club also voted in favor of this move at a meeting last week" ("Duvall Council Has Busy Meeting ...").
In another article in the same edition, it was reported that:
"The Duvall Library Board put in two days of hard work, with the help of Miss Dorothy Cutler, assistant State Librarian from Olympia, discarding obsolete and worn-out books and rearranging the Duvall Library.
"This work is being done in preparation for joining the King County Library System in the near future" ("Duvall Library Ready ...").
The council had two options for a relationship with the King County Library System. It could enter into a contract with KCLS for the system to operate the Duvall Library, while the town remained legally obliged to "appropriate money annually for the support" of its operation (1941 Wash. Laws, ch. 65, secs. 9, 10). In the alternative, the library could be annexed into KCLS, which would take it completely off Duvall's books. For the time being, the town council chose to follow the first route, on a path clearly laid out in the 1941 act that authorized the arrangement:
"Instead of establishing or maintaining an independent library, the legislative body of any government unit authorized to maintain a library shall have the power to contract to receive library service from an existing library, the board of trustees of which shall have reciprocal power to contract to render the service with the consent of the legislative body of its governmental unit. Such a contract shall require that the existing library perform all the functions of a library within the governmental unit wanting service" (1941 Wash. Laws, ch. 65, sec. 6).
The Carnavall Reporter noted on July 18, 1957, that "A contract for library service with the King County Library System was made official June 13, and it is hoped the new books and service will be ready for public use by Saturday, August 3rd" ("Duvall Library Gets ..."). The article demonstrated that the benefits of the arrangement were already being felt: It reported that the library had received a $3,681 "integration grant" from the State Library Development Fund, money that was to be used to add shelves and other equipment in anticipation of receiving some 3,000 books from KCLS ("Duvall Library Gets ...").
The agreement between the Duvall Library and the King County Library System would endure for 36 years, until 1993, when Duvall voters approved annexation of their library to KCLS.
By 2010 Duvall's population had grown to 6,695 and the sturdy old building that the townsfolk built in 1935 was no longer adequate, despite two additions that had nearly tripled the available space. Planning for a replacement began soon after county voters in 2004 overwhelmingly approved a $172-million bond proposal to fund capital improvements to the library system, and on August 25, 2012, a modern new library building was dedicated in downtown Duvall. The old library, two blocks to the north, in 2016 housed the Duvall Visitor Center. And the Duvall Women's Civic Club (now called the Duvall Civic Club), helped operate the center, more than 80 years after its members gave their town its first library.