On July 16, 1994, the Skykomish Library in northeastern King County celebrates two important milestones: the library's move to a new location the previous year and the upcoming 50th anniversary of the King County Library System (KCLS) providing library services in Skykomish. The celebration takes place on a sunny summer Saturday and is well attended, with five pages of sign-ins in the guest book. The grand opening celebrates the 1993 move of the library from a small space in the white clapboard City Hall building on 4th Street to a newly renovated Western-frontier-style building on 5th Street. The anniversary celebration commemorates the first contract between an incorporated municipality and KCLS (then called the King County Rural Library District) for the provision of library services, which was entered into between KCLS and the Town of Skykomish in November 1944.
A Move to Its Own Space
The small town of Skykomish is located 18 miles west of the Stevens Pass summit along U.S. Highway 2 in the far northeast corner of King County. The isolated community has endured some economic struggles, but remains proud of its railroad heritage -- the town was founded in the 1890s as a stop on the Great Northern Railway's transcontinental line. In 1944, the Town of Skykomish became the first incorporated municipality to contract with KCLS to provide library services. Some unincorporated communities in King County joined KCLS before Skykomish did, but no municipal government had hired KCLS to provide its community with library services prior to this time. The Skykomish Library opened in February 1945, occupying 500 square feet in the City Hall building.
The City Hall location served the community well for nearly 50 years, although the noise from other functions in the shared building was not ideal. In 1993, the library was able to move to an expanded 842-square-foot location on the first floor of the former Misty Mountain Manufacturing building at 100 5th Street, which KCLS leased from Lorna Goebbel. The new space was dedicated solely to library use, eliminating the noise and other issues arising from the previous shared space.
A Day of Celebration
Although the move took place in 1993, the official dedication celebration for the new Skykomish Library on 5th Street was held the next summer, on July 16, 1994. The program for the event invited residents to "CELEBRATE: The 'new' Skykomish Library and 50 years of library service in the community" (Program). "New" was in quotes both because the library had actually opened the year before and because the Skykomish Library as an institution was already nearly 50 years old. While 1994 was not the 50th anniversary year for the actual opening of the original Skykomish Library, which occurred in February 1945, that November marked the 50th anniversary of the 1944 signing of the contract for KCLS to provide library services. So the move and the 50th anniversary were celebrated together in 1994.
On the sunny Saturday of July 16, the program kicked off at noon with the opening of the frontier-style library building and a show by "master magician Toby Wessel" who "will amaze and mystify you" (Program). The formal dedication was held at 12:30 p.m., with short talks by visiting and local dignitaries, including KCLS Director Bill Ptacek (b. 1951), Louise Miller (b. 1936) of the King County Council, state representatives Val Stevens (b. 1940) and Hans Dunshee (b. 1953), and Skykomish Mayor Robert A. Norton (1927-2005). A short talk on the history of the library was presented, followed by refreshments, more magic, and access to the library and its services. A beautiful sheet cake, trimmed out with blue rosettes on green leaves, announced, "Celebrating 50 Years of Grand Openings, 1944-1994" (Cyrus email). Balloons, balloon hats, streamers, and crepe paper added to the festive atmosphere.
Because Skykomish's early character is so well preserved, it attracts visitors who appreciate it as a living museum of a western railroad and logging town. But the library, renovated and expanded in 2006, has also ensured that the community is plugged in to the twenty-first century, offering four public computers and access to the full range of KCLS collections, databases, and cooperating libraries' collections.