Six Seattle Public Library branches close early due to rowdyism on November 18, 1961.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 10/08/2002
  • Essay 3979
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On November 18, 1961, The Seattle Public Library Board votes to close six branch libraries evenings because of "rowdyism" by teens. The action is triggered by an incident at the Greenwood Branch in which approximately 200 youths jammed the library following rumors of a gang fight. Public outcry forced the board to reverse its decision two weeks later.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, the surge in population known as the postwar baby boom resulted in massive construction of schools, but no concurrent increase in after-school activities. Libraries became popular gathering places for high school students, since branches were open until 9:00 p.m.

On November 13, 1961, "word" circulated around Ballard High School "that a girl and her gang would strike that night" against rivals at the Greenwood branch library. Approximately 200 teenagers crammed into the building that evening. A librarian stated, "They didn't cause any trouble other than to prevent any movement within the library. It was almost as if they were waiting, waiting for something to happen" (The Seattle Times). Police were summoned and the librarian turned out the lights to get people to leave.

Discipline had become an issue at several branches. The Yesler Branch hired a proctor to supervise students during the evening hours. Library staff members stated that girls led some of the gangs. The library board closed six branches -- Greenwood, Yesler, Green Lake, Henry, Lake City, and Northeast -- at 6:00 p.m. in reaction to the Greenwood incident.

The Seattle Times reported that Dino Padgett, a dropout from Edmonds High School, stepped forward to explain that she may have been the source of the girl-led gang report. The 104-pound, 18-year old disclaimed any existence of a gang and she traced the rumor of a pending conflict to a dispute over an unoccupied chair in the library.

Parents and educators protested, since the libraries were so important to students who could not get some reference works any place else. On November 28, 1961, the branches went back to their former hours, but with supervision from students selected by the schools and with closer monitoring by parents.


Marshall Wilson, "6 Libraries To Be Closed Evenings Due to Rowdyism," The Seattle Times, November 19, 1961, newsclipping, scrapbook, Greenwood Branch, Seattle Public Library; Marshall Wilson, "Unruly Boys Often Led By Girls," The Seattle Times, November 20, 1961, newsclipping, Ibid.; Marshall Wilson, "Library's 'Mystery Girl' Identified," The Seattle Times, November 24, 1961, newsclipping, Ibid.; "Stillness Returns To Libraries As Night Closure Ends," The Seattle Times, November 29, 1961, Ibid.

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