Library History

1949 - 2015

In the late 1930's, the American Legion Auxiliary established a library in the courthouse. The books were moved several times and eventually combined with the high school library. Shortly after World War II, the library was reorganized as a living memorial to the servicemen of Clearwater County. The Orofino Chapter of American Association of University Women and a county planning commission organized a fund drive and collected $2,500. A Board of Trustees was appointed by the planning commission: Emery Noble, Chairman; Agnes Oud, Secretary; Nina Mae Jewel, Wallace Webster, and Warren Gardner. Ruth Pearce, a graduate of the Library School of the University of Washington, was appointed to set up the library. Six hundred donated books were collected and cataloged during the summer of 1949. The front half of a storeroom in the IOOF building was prepared with shelves, and on October 8, 1949, the library opened for business. In the first month, 212 books circulated. Children's books were borrowed from the State Travelling Library in Boise and much of the early budget was applied to the children's book collection.

The library board members are all volunteers, serving 5 year terms. New board members are appointed by the current board members. During the early years, funds came only from gifts from civic organizations and donations, such as $1,000 from the City of Orofino. Although the librarian position has always been paid, early operation relied heavily on volunteer help. The first year of operation recorded 6,313 circulation, 431 patrons, and 1,593 items. The library was open three afternoons and one evening a week.

Mrs. Pearce was succeeded by Eunice Merrill in September, 1950. The library became a non-profit corporation March 27, 1950, and in 1951 moved into the newly constructed VFW Post 3296 building on Michigan Avenue. At that time, $10 per month was budgeted to buy books, and the librarian's assistant was paid $1 per hour. In 1952, a serviceman's memorial tax was authorized for library operations funding, and this amounted to $4,000-$5,000 per year.

The library grew rapidly and the VFW room became too small. In February, 1965, Dr. H.D. Britan donated his home for rent-free library use during his lifetime. The Orofino Jaycees, led by Darold Harris and Earl Pickett, raised over $8,000 of community donations by April, 1965, which was used as a local match for federal grant funds to remodel the Britan house, which was originally built in 1909. The architectural work was done by Robert Nelson of Coeur d'Alene, and the contractor was Everett Hollibaugh of Orofino. The $20,000 project was completed and the Clearwater Memorial Public Library had an open house November 18, 1965. The collection then numbered 7,500 and the library was open 18 hours per week.

The Clearwater Memorial Public Library participated in a grant funded demonstration project which allowed for longer open hours and increased operations budget during 1965. The campaign to form a library district was successful, and the voters approved formation of the Clearwater County Free Library District in 1966. The District supports the Weippe Public Library directly and the Clearwater Memorial Public Library through a contract which provides for operating expenses. The district comprises all occupied areas of the county not included in the Pierce and Elk River districts.

Under the terms of Dr. Britan's will, the library received the deed to the property at 402 Michigan Avenue in 1969. In 1974 the board and Dianna Hull, librarian, began planning for further expansion. The library district made $4,800 available as a building certificate, and the remainder of the $8,000 was raised from community support in the form of donated money, time, and materials. An LSCA grant of $12,000 completed necessary funds for the addition of a 1,060 square foot wing for additional shelving, reading room, and a librarian office. Robert Nelson designed and Anderson and Hollibaugh constructed the new wing. An open house was held February 10, 1975.

In 1983, further expansion was required. Adjoining property to the east was purchased and 1,300 square feet were added with an LSCA grant of $35,000 and $48,000 in local donations. The Art Association donated one wall, which still hosts revolving art exhibits of members' work. A Friends of the Library group also assisted in the project planned by the board and librarian Suzanne Calhoun. During this construction period Peggy Flowers became librarian. Architect for the project was Nelson Miller of Spokane, Washington, and the contractor was Wind River of Moscow, Idaho. The new wing was opened August, 1984, and at that time the collection was 24,637 books, 799 records, and 75 tapes. The library was open 45.5 hours per week with 3 full time and 1 half time employees.

Peggy Flowers brought the library into the computer age in 1985, with records of holdings added to Western Library Network, which facilitates interlibrary loans and resource sharing among libraries throughout the United States and Canada. In 1989, an automated circulation system was installed.

Jill Lynch became the librarian in 1990. An adult literacy project began in 1991 with operating funds from an LSCA grant. A small building behind the library was remodeled with local donations and volunteer builders from the Orofino Rotary Club, and was opened as a tutoring center and office. A part time coordinator was hired and volunteer tutors were trained. Federal grant funds supported the project during 1993-1996, and library funds, local donations, and other grants have supported it since. The Adult Learning Center now serves students in Orofino, Pierce, Weippe, and Kamiah, and is organized as a separate non-profit organization.

The board adopted a mission statement and a long range plan in 1993. Resource sharing was the focus from 1993-1995. A grant funded study in 1994-95 resulted in a plan to link the three school libraries and the public library in Orofino with school and public libraries in Pierce and Weippe. A major weeding project made room for new books, and the library increased its hours to 50 a week.

In 1995, the library significantly increased resources available to patrons by providing access to the Internet and joining the VALNet regional circulation consortium. VALNet links most libraries from Clarkston, WA to Kamiah, ID with a shared online public access catalog and a courier document delivery system.

Pam McBride became the Director in 1999. New shelves and computer counters were built by volunteer Gerry Beard, and a remodel of the office was accomplished. New computers were obtained through grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Hewlett-Packard. The Adult Learning Center continued operation in the library annex and offered basic computer skills, GED tutoring, one-on-one tutoring and job skill training.

In 2001-2002, the library had 2,389 registered borrowers and the equivalent of 3 1/2 full time staff. It was open 51 hours per week. CMPL had 29,369 books and magazines, 350 audio tapes, and 360 video tapes. We subscribed to 52 different magazines and newspapers. 800 children attended programs throughout the year.

Chris Ashby became the library Director in January 2003. Five new patron computers were acquired with funds provided by the Clearwater Free Library district, and volunteer Gerry Beard built cubicles for them that provided privacy and handicapped access. Ginger Rowland observed 30 years at the library and promised 30 more.

The library purchased the adjacent property for future expansion and leased it to Clearwater Youth Alliance for their youth programs. The library shake roof was removed and replaced with a “copper” metal roof and the rental house behind the library was razed in 2009 to provide patron and staff parking. A library Friends group was restarted and revitalized.

The “Let’s Talk About It” book discussion group grew in attendance, Chris was awarded Reading is Fundamental director of the year for Idaho in 2009, and Universal Borrowing was instituted. In 2009, the library had 3685 registered borrowers and the equivalent of 4 full time staff. It was open 51 hours per week. CMPL had 31427 books and 3416 magazines, 551 audiotapes, 290 CD audio books, and 215 DVD movies. We subscribed to 88 different magazines and newspapers.

Ellen Tomlinson became the library Director on August 1, 2009. In the following years the library did a lot of maintenance and improvements. Additional parking at the back of the Library, new heat pump in the adult wing, all overhead lighting replaced, new windows in the children's area, new safety doors and safety glass in the foyer, a new printer/copier and telephone system. The Friends of the Library helped to make some of this happen with their fundraisers at The High Country Inn. The Library joined the State of Idaho BTOP grant and through this grant acquired high speed, wireless internet 24/7 for the library and it's patrons. The Grant updated our computers and added more. The Library acquired Epads and Ebooks for training and use.

Current board members are: co-chairs Margaret Cook and Jo Sharrai, treasurer Betty Burnham, and trustees Lynn Card and Tammy Gilmer.

Current staff members are: Director: Marcia Player; Children's Librarian: Kim Silflow; Assistant Librarians: Ginger Rowland, Jessica Long, Shelia Roberts, Cleo Castellanos, Emylie Leidheiser, Raina Johnston.

Revised 12/01/16