Everett Public Library

  • By Melinda Van Wingen
  • Posted 12/03/2019
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 20926
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The Everett Public Library commemorated several significant milestone anniversaries in 2019. The year marked the 125th anniversary of the formation of the library, the 85th anniversary of the historic main library building in downtown Everett, the 30th anniversary of the Evergreen Branch library, and the grand re-opening of the Evergreen Branch library following a major remodel and expansion.

Everett Public Library Beginnings

Everett Public Library owes its origins to the Everett Woman's Book Club. This group of prominent and civic-minded women envisioned and realized a public library for their gritty, young community. The Everett Woman's Book Club met for the first time on June 10, 1894, at the home of Mary Lincoln Brown (1849-1935). The club originally consisted of married women, most of whose husbands were business and civic leaders in the new city. The women's desire to create a public library developed through their collaborative work on a public health project. Several of the women had helped to establish a hospital in Everett. In the process of building that vital resource, they identified a lack of reading material for patients. The club women readily exchanged books themselves, but agreed that a lack of an accessible public library negatively affected the quality of life for the community as a whole.

Under the leadership of Alice Baird (1860-1915), president, and Mary Brown, vice-president, the group of 23 women quickly organized a library committee. Its primary mission was to build a public library in Everett. At a special meeting on November 12, 1894, the group adopted a resolution to petition the mayor and council to build a free public library. The group also voted to affiliate itself with 450 other federated women's organizations nationwide. Everett Woman's Book Club strategically used this network of women's clubs to solicit book donations. By June 26, 1895, it had collected about 500 volumes to build the library, about half of the library's first book collection. Over 125 years since its first meeting, the Everett Woman's Book Club still meets regularly at the Everett Public Library and fundraises to support a special library endowment fund.

Finding a Home

Although the Everett Woman's Book Club gained support of municipal leadership, it lacked a stable permanent facility to house the library. The first library collection was stored in the home of Mrs. Robert McFarland until the club secured a public home in City Hall on Broadway. This new library occupied three rooms on the second floor of the wood-frame municipal building, which also housed the court, city administration, and police department. The Everett Woman's Book Club hired its first librarian, Alice McFarland (1875-1914). The club sent McFarland to Seattle Public Library to learn professional library skills.

On April 21, 1898, Everett Public Library opened its doors to the public for the first time. The Everett Woman's Book Club served light refreshments in the council chamber of City Hall. A news report of the grand opening proclaimed: "Everyone is cordially invited to visit the rooms at these hours and avail themselves of the use of the library. No fee whatever will be charged" ("Opening …").

Within three years, the library outgrew the space in City Hall and relocated to a temporary facility on nearby Rockefeller Avenue. In 1903, Everett received a $25,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie for a new library building. The grant required that the City would pledge $2,500 annually for the library's support and operations. The Carnegie library building opened to the public on July 3, 1905.

Growth Despite Hardships

The early twentieth century was marked by a period of rapid growth for the library. After providing a decade of operations in the Carnegie library facility, Everett Public Library began offering branch services to underserved populations throughout town. In 1916, the library established a small branch at the Monroe School in the Riverside neighborhood in response to increased demand for library services there. This period of growth was closely followed by a period of cuts and shortages. Everett Public Library briefly closed to the public in 1917 and 1918 due to low use, a direct result of America's entry into World War I, and the devastating effects of the Spanish Influenza. The new Riverside Branch library closed, and the library faced a $400 budget deficit.

Library director Mabel Ashley (1881-1963) was hired to lead Everett Public Library in 1919, and she served until 1946. Ashley's tenure was marked by two world wars and the Great Depression. Despite economic hardships, she successfully expanded library services during this period.

Mobile Library Service

In the years between the end of World War I and the Great Depression, the library's annual budget included an unusual surplus of funds. If left unspent, the funds would revert back to the city's general funds. Determined not to lose a nickel of library funding, Ashley and the library board developed a plan to buy and operate a bookmobile. In late 1923, Everett Public Library purchased a Ford Model A truck to provide cost-effective library services to schools and outlying neighborhoods.

The bookmobile, named Pegasus for the mythical flying horse, hit the streets of Everett in May 1924. Pegasus was the first bookmobile in Washington state. Everett Public Library's pioneering bookmobile service played a significant role in extending library services to underserved and remote communities, and it was especially effective at reaching school children. The bookmobile's first route included three schools and an orphanage. It also serviced two mills -- Weyerhaeuser Mill A and Robinson Manufacturing -- and two hospitals. Pegasus therefore delivered library service not only to the hardworking laborers in the community, but also to the many men who were injured in industrial accidents.

In 1929, the custom bookmobile coachwork from the Ford Model T chassis was installed onto a new Ford Model AA truck chassis. The 1929 truck served until 1950, when it became unsafe both for the streets and for the librarian drivers. Pegasus was retired and sold at auction. Bob Koger, owner of the Everett Boat House, purchased it to haul gravel, a task for which the truck was much better suited. Everett Public Library continued to provide bookmobile services until 2014, when the outreach program was cut due to budget constraints.

In 1992, Pegasus was rediscovered and purchased for the library by the Everett Rotary Club. Community members, inspired by a sense of civic pride, nostalgia, and a fondness for old vehicles, donated tires, money, and countless hours of labor and mechanical skill to restore Pegasus to its old glory. It proudly represented the library for several years in parades and other community festivities. Recognizing that the library no longer had the space or financial resources to maintain Pegasus, in 2019 library and city administrators began working with the Everett Museum of History to arrange a long-term loan of this historic treasure.

A New Building

The Carnegie Library building provided an adequate home for the library for nearly 30 years. However, as Everett grew its lumber, shingle, and paper pulp production in the early twentieth century, the community outgrew the library facility, and it required more space for materials and programs. The library went through a period of intense growing pains in the early 1930s. The building's auditorium was repurposed to serve as both the children's room and as archival storage for newspapers. Plywood sheets were erected to block the windows, and taller shelves were installed along the walls to hold more books.

Leonard Howarth (1866-1930), a millionaire investor who once headed the Everett Pulp and Paper Mill, bequeathed $75,000 to the City of Everett upon his death in 1930. A citizens advisory committee assembled by the Chamber of Commerce determined that a new public library building would best benefit the community. "The increased use of the library by all citizens, young and old, and the fact that the Carnegie Building had been outgrown, impelled them to this decision" ("Everett Public Library 1950 ...").

The Carnegie Library building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and has changed hands many times since 1934, when it was sold to Jerread's Funeral Parlor. As of 2019, it was used as the Carnegie Resource Center to provide a range of human and social services to those in need in Snohomish County.

A plot of land on the southwest corner of Hoyt and Everett Avenues was selected for the library, and the Seattle-based architectural firm of Bebb and Gould was selected to design the new building. Local contractor Daniel Solie (1889-1978) secured the construction contract and began work on November 9, 1933. Work was completed a year later, and the building was dedicated at a public ceremony on October 3, 1934. Additional funding was provided by donations from the Washington Emergency Relief Administration and the Public Works Administration. The total cost of the project was approximately $103,000.

The 1930s art deco building has been significantly remodeled twice in its 85 year history. In 1962, a major remodel modernized the facade, stripping away many of the historic charms and details of the original building.

Everett Public Library was again expanded and renovated in 1991 by architects Caldwell/Thomas and Dykeman. The architects displayed a skillful ornamental use of aluminum and terra cotta to restore the library's entrance during this renovation. The architects' sensitivity to the competing concerns of historic preservation and a modernizing, growing community are evident in the architecture and design of the building. Historical features blend seamlessly with a spacious, vaulted reading room and other modern upgrades.

New Services and Collections

Everett Public Library's first collection comprised a traditional selection of 1,000 books chosen by women's groups across the country. Over the years, the library has experimented with circulating many non-traditional library collections to its members. This includes a braille library, a collection of phonograph records -- 78s and 45s -- which were almost always damaged by borrowers; audio tapes; 8 mm movies to screen at gatherings; and 16 mm film strips. The library briefly circulated children's toys and jigsaw puzzles, the latter of which caused a significant headache for the staff members who were required to manage all the pieces.

Artwork was one of the library's most popular non-traditional collections. Everett Public Library's youth services manager Emily Dagg recalls borrowing paintings from the library when she was growing up in the 1970s. Her parents installed special hooks at home to hang the library artwork. "Every month, my brother and I would each get to pick out a painting to borrow. The limit was two paintings at a time. There weren't that many paintings to borrow. I seem to recall borrowing the same painting multiple times" (Dagg). According to longtime librarian Hazel Clark (1906-2000), the art collection began when a local arts group held its annual Art Show on the Waterfront. "The Library picked up what was called a 'purchasing prize' painting, and to this nucleus more and more framed prints were added, until the collection filled every available wall and we had rows of pictures lined up on the floor of the balcony's browsing area" (Clark, 137).

The Northwest Room is the most notable and enduring of Everett Public Library's special collections. Under the leadership of Everett Public Library's longest-serving director Mark Nesse (1943-2018), the Northwest Room was created to serve as a repository of the community's history and heritage. Margaret Riddle and David Dilgard (1945-2018) joined the library staff on March 22, 1977, to preserve and interpret Everett's history within the context of the public library. Together they grew the library's collection of local history books, archives, maps, photos, and oral history recordings. Riddle and Dilgard also offered public programs on historical topics, published The Journal of Everett and Snohomish County History, and developed a digital database of the library's historic photos. Riddle retired from the library in 2008 and Dilgard retired on March 22, 2017, after exactly 40 years of service. He is widely remembered as a leader in Everett's historical community and a walking encyclopedia of Everett history.

A Library in South Everett

Everett Public Library continually strives to serve all segments of the community, not just the population within easy reach of the main library in downtown Everett. Small branch libraries were short-lived in different neighborhood schools and housing developments over the years, while the bookmobile provided outreach service for 90 years. In the 1980s, the population of Everett increasingly blossomed in the south end of town. The need for a library near the Everett Mall and the Boeing headquarters was evident.

The original Evergreen Branch building was a modest modular structure that was opened to the public in the spring of 1985 on a plot of city land adjacent to Fire Station No. 6. The temporary branch offset heavy demand at the main library, which was the third busiest library in Washington state that year. Creating the temporary structure was an important first step for Everett Public Library to establish a stronghold in the southern part of the city. "However many branch patrons are South Everett citizens who had not heretofore used the library -- some because they felt a strong dislike for 'downtown.' In all, the service has been very well received, and has helped to fill a long-felt need in the south end" ("Everett Public Library, 1986").

Using part of the funds raised by a 1987 municipal bond, a permanent branch facility opened to the public on December 10, 1989, at a cost of $1.2 million. Tom Tredway of Dykeman Architects designed the permanent branch library to fit the needs of the South Everett community. It included a sculpture by Richard S. Beyer (1925-2012), which celebrates Everett's Woman's Book Club.

Evergreen Branch library continues to grow to serve the diverse and changing needs of the South Everett community. The branch library closed for a major expansion on December 24, 2018, after Everett City Council approved funding for an expansion project. Dykeman Architects was responsible for the library's remodel and expansion design. Faber Construction Company received the construction contract, based on its low bid in a competitive process. The overall project budget was $6.9 million, including design, construction, project costs, sales tax, and contingencies. A grand re-opening celebration was planned for the Evergreen Branch on December 6, 2019, just four days shy of its 30th birthday.


Hazel Clark, An Informal History of the Everett Public Library (Everett, WA: The Print Shop at the Bend in the River, 1996); "Library History," Everett Public Library website accessed November 4, 2019 (https://www.epls.org/158/Library-History-and-Architecture); "Pegasus," Everett Public Library website accessed November 4, 2019 (https://www.epls.org/316/Pegasus); Historylink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Everett Woman's Book Club petitions City of Everett for a free public library on November 12, 1894" (by Janet Oakley) and "Everett Public Library commissions the first bookmobile in Washington in 1924" (by David Wilma), http://www.historylink.org (accessed November 4, 2019); Emily Dagg, email to Mindy Van Wingen, November 4, 2019, in possession of Mindy Van Wingen, Everett, Washington; "Peggy Roars Again," Everett Public Library podcast accessed November 4, 2019 (https://www.epls.org/316/Pegasus); "Amid Mud and Exploding Stumps ... a Library," Everett Public Library podcast accessed November 4, 2019 (https://www.epls.org/355/Everett-Public-Library-125th-Anniversary); "The Everett Library" in The History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties, (Washington: Interstate Publishing Company, 1906), 910; History of Snohomish County, Washington ed. by William Whitfield (Chicago: Pioneer Historical Publishing Company, 1926), 140, 369; Lawrence E. O'Donnell, Woman's Book Club of Everett, Washington: Centennial History 1894-1994 (Everett: Woman's Book Club of Everett, 1994); "Everett Public Library announces grand re-opening of Evergreen Branch and new service hours," Everett Public Library website accessed November 6, 2019 (https://www.epls.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=163); "Everett Public Library Annual Report, 1950," Northwest Room collection, Everett Public Library; "Everett Public Library Annual Report, 1979," Northwest Room collection, Everett Public Library; "Everett Public Library Annual Report, 1986," Northwest Room collection, Everett Public Library; "Everett Public Library Annual Report, 1990," Northwest Room collection, Everett Public Library; Julie Muhlstein, "Wild Ride of Bookmobile Pegasus Could End in Place of Honor," The Everett Herald, November 3, 2019, HeraldNet website accessed November 24, 2019 (https://www.heraldnet.com/news/wild-ride-of-bookmobile-pegasus-could-end-in-place-of-honor/); "Opening of the Public Library," The Everett News, April 23, 1898, p. 1.

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