History of FVRLibraries

Photo of Bigfoot Book Store sign inside Yacolt Library Express, 2022

Bigfoot Book Store Sign

The Bigfoot Book Store sign, inside Yacolt Library Express. Photo taken October 2022. 

Picture of the fairy garden in the Cascade Park Community Library courtyard

Cascade Park Community Library Courtyard Fairy Garden, October 2022

Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, FVRLibraries enchant and captivate. 

Photo of Bigfoot Book Store, inside a jail cell in what is now Yacolt Library Express

Bigfoot Book Store, Yacolt Library Express

A former jail cell houses the Bigfoot Book Store, run by Friends of Yacolt Library Express. Photo taken October 2022. 

Volunteers pass books to the new Ridgefield Community Library, June 5, 2021.

Ridgefield Community Library Book Brigade

A band of intrepid volunteers passes books to to the new Ridgefield Community Library, June 5, 2021. 

Photo of a crowd gathered outside for the grand opening of Vancouver Community Library, July 17, 2011

Grand Opening of Vancouver Community Library at 901 C St

Community members braved the rain to greet their new library! July 17, 2011. 

Photo of the exterior banner attached to the La Center Community Library building, circa May 8, 2004

La Center Community Library Grand Opening: Exterior Banner

Exterior banner announcing the grand opening of La Center Community Library on Saturday, May 8, 2004. 

Photo of a newspaper article in the Columbian, dated August 18, 2001, about the move of the La Center hospital building in preparation for its becoming a library. Onlookers observe as the building is loaded onto a semi truck.

Moving Day for La Center Community Library, 2001

Community members look on as the former La Center hospital building commences its voyage to its new location next to the city park, and its new life as the La Center Community Library building. 

Black-and-white photo of interior stairs leading to Goldendale Community Library, dated 3-20-1984

Goldendale Community Library, Interior Stairs

Interior stairs leading to Goldendale Community Library, March 20, 1984.

Black-and-white photo of Goldendale Community Library groundbreaking, circa 1984

Goldendale Community Library Groundbreaking, 1984

The Possible Dream: Go for it! This was a beginning of the big remodel that added East and West wings to the original Carnegie building.

Photo of a child at a computer at Vancouver Community Library, when it was on Mill Plain, circa 1980s

Child at Computer, Vancouver Community Library

A child uses a computer at Vancouver Community Library, circa the 1980s (check out that machine!). 

Picture of a FVRlibraries bookmobile adorned with balloons and a toy giraffe, circa 1973

Bookmobile, 1973 Orchards Parade

A bookmobile, balloons, a friendly giraffe....what more could you need? 

Black-and-white photo of a worker opening the rear doors of a FVRLibraries bookmobile, circa 1973. The worker is wearing a witch costume, including a pointy black hat with a paper Jack-o'-lantern attached to it.

Skamania County Bookmobile Halloween, 1973

A good witch staffs the Skamania County bookmobile, Halloween 1973.

Black-and-white photo of a parade featuring a Stevenson Community Library bookmobile from the 1970s

Bookmobile Parade in Stevenson, circa 1970s

Your library is a treasure! 

Black-and-white photo of FVRLibraries bookmobile, circa 1969

Hooked on Books, August 1969

Books are groovy. 

Photo of a library worker standing in front of the Stevenson Community Library building, pre-1967.

Stevenson Community Library, Grace Jones

Librarian Grace Jones stands in front of the old Stevenson Community Library. She was retired by 1967, when the present building opened. 

Black-and-white photo of Stevenson Community Library circulation desk, circa 1967

Stevenson Community Library Circulation Desk, 1967

Stevenson Community Library employee staffing the circulation desk, circa 1967. 

Black-and-white photo of Stevenson/Skamania County branch library, circa 1967

Stevenson Community Library Exterior, 1967

Exterior shot of Stevenson Community Library, circa 1967. 

Black-and-white photo of Stevenson Community Library interior, with a deer head mounted on the wall, various items displayed on tables, and a wood floor

Library Display from Long Ago, Stevenson Community Library

A long-ago display at Stevenson Community Library. 

A black-and-white photo of a diorama displayed at Stevenson Community Library, date unknown

Diorama on Display, Stevenson Community Library

A diorama on display at Stevenson Community Library, many moons ago. 

Architect concept drawing of Steven Branch Library, circa 1965

Stevenson Community Library Concept Drawing, 1965

Concept drawing of Stevenson Community Library by Wm. Donald Cassady, architect, circa 1965. 

Season's Greetings report from Stevenson Community Library, dated December 10, 1945

Stevenson Community Library Season's Greetings Report

Season's Greetings from Stevenson Community Library, December 10, 1965. 

Picture of a library worker checking out materials to a patron, circa the early 1960s

Carnegie Library Checkout, early 1960s

A Carnegie Library staff member checks a book out to a patron, circa the early 1960s. 

Picture of Thelma Campbell, a Carnegie Library worker, circa the early 1960s

Thelma Campbell, Carnegie Library

Carnegie Library staff member Thelma Campbell (standing) on the job in the early 1960s.

Black-and-white photo of the Carnegie Library circulation desk

Vancouver Carnegie Library Circulation Desk

The interior of Carnegie Library, featuring the stacks and circulation desk. 

Photo of children from Yale School standing in front of a FVRLibraries bookmobile, circa 1960

Clark County Bookmobile at Yale

In the early 1960s, the bookmobile was a popular visitor to the Yale School.

Picture of a Carnegie Library worker using a typewriter, circa the early 1960s

Carnegie Library Staff, Early 1960s

A Carnegie Library staff member toils away at the typewriter, producing cards for the catalog, circa the early 1960s. 

Black-and-white photo of the Carnegie Library circulation desk, circa June 1946

Carnegie Library Circulation Desk, June 1946

The Carnegie building on 16th and Main streets was built in 1909. The library closed in 1963, when the library on Mill Plain Boulevard opened. 

Black-and-white photo from a newspaper article about the launch of the Clark County traveling library (bookmobile) dated November 26, 1941

Bookmobile Launched on Courthouse Steps, November 26, 1941

An article in the Portland Oregonian about the launch of "Clark County's traveling library," dated November 26, 1941. 

Black-and-white photo of La Center hospital building, repurposed into a library. The hospital was built in 1905.

La Center Hospital Building

The La Center Community Library building in its previous life as a hospital, circa 1905. 

Early libraries in our area

The very first library in the Pacific Northwest was established by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1833 at Fort Vancouver. Requests for books and periodicals were sent to the company’s headquarters in London. This subscription library remained in operation for 10 years and books were loaned throughout the region. After it was discontinued, other efforts were made to provide a subscription library in the area. One was located on the grounds of St. James Mission in 1865, organized by the Vancouver Catholic Library Association and later run by the Vancouver Library Association. This library moved several times; it was located over Maxon’s Store in 1878, then Weigels Store the following year.

Meanwhile, one other early library was established in Union Ridge (now called Ridgefield) in 1868, as a Sunday school library.

The first free public library in our area was started in 1891, when the Women’s Christian Temperance Union petitioned the City of Vancouver for a tax-supported library. The City Council approved this and appointed a board of trustees. In 1908, a Carnegie grant was secured for construction of a library building. Vancouver Public Library opened on December 31, 1909 on the corner of 16th and Main Streets, on a lot donated by L. M. Hidden.

During the early 1900s, many other libraries were established throughout the region.

Formation of Clark County Libraries

In November 1940, teachers from several school districts in Clark County got together to discuss combining funds to buy and share books among the schools. Vancouver Public Library staff agreed to select, process, and distribute the books, which would be owned by the schools. Soon there was interest in expanding this resource so there would be books for adults, too. This set the stage for developing regional library services.

Eva Santee

Eva Santee was hired as librarian for Vancouver Public Library in 1940. “Library service for all,” was her motto as she began to expand the reach of the library to underserved areas. In 1941, Eva worked with Washington State Library to secure a Works Progress Administration grant that provided funding for a bookmobile, driver, librarian, and collection of books. Vancouver Public Library contributed space in its basement and additional books from its collection. The rural schools book pool was also incorporated into this collection and there were other contributions from the community to help pay for the service. Bookmobile service throughout the county began on November 18, 1941, and was an enormous success. Skamania County expressed interest in participating, so service was expanded to cover both counties.

Knowing the WPA grant funding would end, interested residents circulated a petition during the summer of 1942 asking the Clark County commissioners to place a measure on the ballot to establish a rural library district. This request was granted, and that November the voters approved formation of Clark County Library, the first rural library district in the state. A board of trustees and librarian were appointed and the new system went into operation in April 1943. Local taxes now paid for bookmobile services and Clark County residents also had access to Vancouver Public Library.

The war had an impact on the formation of libraries in Vancouver. Vancouver Housing Authority included libraries in its projects. There were six neighborhood libraries that were soon integrated into the Clark County Library system. Also, a library was opened in Battle Ground on April 1, 1944, as part of the Clark County Library system, and the independent Washougal library joined the system in 1944.

Formation of Fort Vancouver Regional Library District

By 1945, Eva Santee was leading discussions about forming a larger library district by merging Vancouver Public Library and Clark County Libraries. It took five more years, but Eva stuck with it and on July 1, 1950, Fort Vancouver Regional Library District was born. Skamania County joined FVRLibraries in 1952, expanding the district’s service area to 2,500 square miles. The district had six outlets at that time: Battle Ground, Fruit Valley, McLoughlin Heights, Stevenson, Vancouver, and Washougal. Other milestones from Eva’s time include:

  • The replacement of Vancouver Public Library, which moved in 1963 from the Carnegie building on Main Street to a larger, modern building at 1007 E. Mill Plain Blvd. Funding for this library was obtained through a bond measure that passed on the third try.
  • A library opened in North Bonneville in 1954. A new site for the Battle Ground library was acquired in 1958 and the new facility opened in 1959. The operation of the library in Ridgefield was turned over to FVRLibraries in 1961.

Eva Santee retired in 1967.