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Powell library celebrates 100 years next week

The Powell library has been around for 100 years now, with a history of steady growth.

Library staff will celebrate its centennial Aug. 9. (See related story.)

“The first semblance of a library in Powell was formed by 10 women in a cabin used by the employees of the Bureau of Reclamation in 1910,” wrote Cindy Moore, Powell library branch manager, in a letter to The Powell Tribune.

The Ladies’ Union was renamed the Powell Library Club in 1911 when it reached 56 members. “Because of the vision of these extraordinary and far-sighted women, Powell has a library today,” Moore said.

The Powell library got its start in 1912. In the early days, it was an itinerant library.

Powell’s first mayor, A.P. Libby, built the first shelves for the first batch of books, but those volumes soon outgrew the space in Libby’s home and were transferred to Dr. J. D. Lewellen’s drug store, wrote Robert Bonner and Beryl Churchill in their 2008 book, “Powell’s First Century: Home in the Valley.”

Books were donated, and money was raised from bazaars and theatricals.

The club deserves credit for its enduring commitment, Moore said.

“A lot of those founding members stayed with it for years and years,” she said.

When the library in Cody opened in May 1916, it seemed only reasonable to a library board member in Cody to open a library in Powell.

“Since a library can only be useful to a reading people, it would seem that the Park County Library might be very useful to the Powell community, unless there is some hindrance,” said Rev. Warlaw in a speech at the Cody library’s opening, as reported in The Powell Tribune. Well, sort of, anyway. Bad weather hampered the reverend from actually attending to deliver his address.

In September 1930, the Park County Library Board authorized at least $20 per month for the Powell library’s upkeep. The same month, the Powell library was to receive $50 to $150 for books, “at one time as needed,” reported The Tribune. “The librarian may select the books and any patrons of the library who would like some particular book may name his or her choice and it will be sent,” reported The Tribune.

The Baptist church held the books for a time. Then a fund was established to raise money to purchase the Fairview School that was three miles southwest of Powell. The school was moved in 1921.

Half of the building was allotted to the library and half to the school district, Bonner and Churchill said.

Two additional sections were added to the building in 1930. The wing containing a fireplace was used as the Library Club room. The old fireplace was dismantled and reassembled. It remains to this day in the library’s Fireside Room, Moore said.

In 1934, the original stucco building located at the present site was built. In 1937, it became a branch of the Park County Library, Moore said.

The next big addition was in 1981, when the children’s section and meeting room were added. In 1989, problems with the roof were repaired, Moore said.

In 1990, Park County invested $400,000 in renovations to the library, said Bonner and Churchill.

The most recent renovation work on the building was completed in 2011, Moore said.

These days, e-books, online databases and wireless connections are fundamentals, but traditional books remain essential to the library. Computers used by patrons are busy from morning to night. Numbers are up in summer reading programs, and the volume of books being checked out is increasing too, Moore said.

“There is some talk of increasing the size of the library,” Moore said.

“Powell is such a sweet little town,” Moore said. “To have a real jewel of a library here would be really nice.”

Perhaps the Library Club didn’t envision patrons surfing the Internet or reading books from electronic devices smaller than paperbacks, but the ladies laid the cornerstone of knowledge.

“I think they were before their time,” Moore said

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