In the early 1900s, Algona's first library occupied the second floor of the Milligan Hall; Pacific's first library opened in 1947. The libraries in the neighboring White River Valley communities each moved several times over the years. As the population and library-services needs grew, each library eventually leased space in its community's city hall. Algona and Pacific voters approved a proposal to annex the two libraries to the King County Library System (KCLS) in 1990. Four years later KCLS opened a new 5,250-square-foot Algona-Pacific Library, located on Ellingson Road in Pacific, which continues to serve as a cultural and educational center for both communities.
Algona and Pacific
The small White River Valley cities of Algona and Pacific are located in King County some 30 miles south of Seattle, with Pacific straddling the King-Pierce county line and Algona lying just north of its neighbor.
The area that became Algona was settled by homesteaders in the 1870s and 1880s. The community, originally known as "Valley City," developed after the completion of the Seattle-Tacoma Interurban Railway in 1902. Crops were cultivated, in large part by Japanese and Filipino American farmers, and businesses opened. Algona incorporated as a city on August 1, 1955.
Pacific, also known as "Pacific City," benefited from the hops explosion throughout the White River Valley in the 1880s and 1890s. The community thrived, increasing in population, building more homes, and opening businesses. The completion of the railway in 1902 brought additional growth and development. Pacific incorporated as a city of the fourth class on August 10, 1909.
Milligan Hall (later the Marlow Apartments and then the Ha-Do Apartments), at 200 First Avenue in Algona, is one of the city's oldest buildings. Between 1910 and 1920 the earliest known Algona library occupied a space on the second floor. The library was managed by Catherine (or Katherine) M. Jennings (1871-1952). The Algona Community Club, with Herbert V. Yandell (1894-1988) as president, formed around the early 1920s and supported the library. By 1925, the town's population grew to 1,000.
On August 27, 1946, the King County Rural Library District, created a few years earlier and later known as the King County Library System, opened an Algona library branch in the rear of the city's old fire hall, providing staff and service on Tuesdays from 2 to 5 p.m. and Fridays from 2 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m. Ethel E. Smith was the librarian, at a salary of $29 per month. The small space was so crowded with books that the librarian's desk and chair could barely fit. The new library took the place of a bookmobile stop that had previously served Algona residents. The branch circulated 760 books for adults and 786 books for juveniles over a five-month period.
In March 1950, the library moved to a room in the Presbyterian Church (later the Baptist Church and then the Algona-Pacific Church of God) at the corner of Warde Street and Milwaukee Boulevard. The room was 20 square feet, painted pale green and ivory, and new shelves were built and installed. Nearly 5,000 books were circulated in 1955. The City of Algona incorporated in 1955 and by 1956 contracted with the King County Rural Library District and appointed the first library board.
In 1960 a 900-square-foot room was added as an annex to the Algona City Hall, then located at 308 1st Avenue, and the library moved to that room in February 1961. It was open for 19 hours a week, on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. An estimated 3,400 books were offered and more than 14,000 items were circulated. The Algona City Council conducted regular council meetings at the library. Doris Iko and Norma Phillips were the librarians.
Another move came in 1974, to the new City Hall at 402 Warde Street. Use of the library increased significantly in the 1980s due to KCLS computerizing the catalog. Sherry Kalte was the librarian from 1970 to 1986, and Camile Wilson was the librarian from 1986 to 1994. In 1993 the library's catalog of the collection went online and access became available through dial-up modem. Circulation was estimated at more than 36,000 items.
In March 1947, the Pacific Library opened at the club annex to the Pacific School gymnasium (the Women's Club Room) through the efforts of Bessie Burns (1884-1958) and Pattie Hagard. This was considered a huge step forward in the community. The book collection totaled 800 items. Pacific had no library before 1947.
In 1951 the library moved to a rented space in a building owned by Ruth E. (1910-2011) and Owen E. (1906-1986) Campbell. Two years later, in 1953, the library moved to the city hall building at 133 Third Avenue (where the police and fire stations were later located). During the 1950s, more than 8,000 items were circulated each year and Barbara Haney was the librarian. Hildur Morgan (1902-1966) and Beverly Dragseth were the librarians during the 1960s. As 1973 approached, the library moved into the new City Hall at 100 3rd Avenue Southeast. The library was open for 20 hours a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Similar to Algona, the Pacific library experienced many changes, including providing information by phone or fax, books by mail, and access by dial-up modem.
The Algona and Pacific libraries shared the same phone numbers and were open opposite days of the week to make sure there was a library open six days a week. The cities negotiated with KCLS, which provided staff and service for both libraries, for hours of service based on what they could pay. The contracts with KCLS lasted for several years at a time, with new contracts negotiated when existing ones expired. The need for the cities to contract with KCLS ended when the two libraries were annexed into the county library system in 1990.
By the mid-1960s, libraries in King County needed help, and fast. Libraries located in cities, like those in Algona and Pacific, depended on often-scarce allocations from city budgets both for capital costs and to pay KCLS to run the libraries. In unincorporated areas, residents organized every form of fundraising events plus managed donations and yearly dues to put books in their libraries. But even as local residents found ways to finance library improvements, growing demands for library services outpaced local funding capacity.
According to a Seattle Times columnist writing a few days before the 1966 general election, "[t]wo courses of action have been suggested to solve the problem" -- either pass a $6 million bond issue appearing on the upcoming ballot, "which would be matched by an equal amount of federal funds to build new libraries and expand those under the most pressure," or else mount "a 'Stop reading!' campaign" (Fish). In the November 8 vote, the county library bond passed with 61,663 votes in favor and 39,254 against.
Two decades later, on September 20, 1988, King County voters approved a $67 million bond issue for construction of new libraries, which included Algona and Pacific. With more people from varying backgrounds and with diverse educational needs moving to Algona and Pacific, the additional funds provided support for more projects to serve these communities.
On May 22, 1990, a special election was held among voters of the two cities to approve or reject annexing the Algona and Pacific libraries to KCLS, thus turning over full responsibility for funding, maintaining, and operating the libraries to the county system. If voters approved annexation, this would be the first step in building a joint library for the Algona-Pacific community. More than 70 percent of the voters from each city chose to join the library district. The small libraries in the leased city hall buildings totaled less than 2,000 square feet and their users were ready to take the next step.
After the voters approved annexation to the King County Library System, plans were made to move forward on building a large library that would accommodate additional services for both communities. On September 29, 1993, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new Algona-Pacific Library.
The New Library
The new Algona-Pacific Library opened on July 19, 1994, replacing the two smaller library sites. The new 5,250-square-foot library was located at 255 Ellingson Road in Pacific. An open house and dedication ceremony was held on August 6, 1994, with music, magic, and entertainment scheduled throughout the day.
The library was built and furnished with funds from the library system's 1988 bond issue. The City of Pacific contributed $15,000 and the City of Algona $10,000 to the cost. The new building housed a large supply of books for children and adults, audio and video tapes, and general reference materials, and provided story hours for children as well as technical services.
Going Beyond Possibilities
KCLS has come a long way since November 1942, when county voters approved creation of the King County Rural Library District. Along the way, the service area grew at a rapid pace while the need for space, staff, and services increased even more rapidly. New libraries were added, advanced technology was introduced and installed, and city library facilities were annexed to KCLS. With the opening of the Algona-Pacific Library, possibilities to move forward began presenting themselves. Two years later, in 1996, the Algona-Pacific Library was one of five libraries that received a Microsoft Libraries Online grant, which provided cash, software, technical training, and support.
On September 14, 2004, voters passed another $172 million capital bond, allowing KCLS to rebuild, renovate, and expand most libraries. A contemplated expansion of the Algona-Pacific Library was scaled back to interior improvements, which were completed in 2007. The work "included remodeling the interior, new carpet, paint, shelving and way-finding components to help guide patrons through the library. New exterior siding also was installed" ("Delivering on a Promise ...," 34).
In 2007, KCLS upgraded technology for all libraries with state-of-the-art computer workstations, integrated broadband, laptops and other portable devices, upgrades to the server that runs the online catalog and circulation system to improve capacity and performance, reservation services, and digital color printers and plotters. To meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines for accessibility, in 2010 the children's area of the library was modernized by removing four sections of shelves, redistributing materials, and adding another table, creating a welcoming invitation for families.
"KCLS had its busiest year ever in 2010. Among the benchmarks was circulating 22.4 million items -- more than any other library system in the United States -- to the 1,318,745 people who live in King County. Those people visited their libraries an amazing 10,199,150 times last year. More than 100,000 new library cards were issued. KCLS web traffic reached 31,000,000 visits, and 77,000 people attended programs at its libraries" (Berry).
The Library Journal cited those statistics in announcing that KCLS won the 2011 Gale/Library Journal Library of the Year Award.
At the Algona-Pacific Library, circulation went from 165,922 checkouts in 2005 to 197,674 in 2013. The library served local residents and reached out to nearby communities.
The Algona and Pacific libraries over the years transformed on a regular basis. Drawing people of all ages and providing a range of multimedia learning resources, the libraries and their librarians were making invaluable contributions. Despite the challenges and rapid technological changes, the Algona-Pacific Library has found ways to evolve to continue serving the needs of its White River Valley communities.