Richmond Beach Library Association members make plans on March 4, 1919, to reopen library following conclusion of World War I.

  • By Paula Becker
  • Posted 5/12/2017
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 20359

On March 4, 1919, members of the Richmond Beach Library Association meet to formulate a plan for reopening the library. Founded by the association in 1899, the Richmond Beach Library has been closed since early 1918 as a result of the U.S. entry into World War I the previous April. Association members agree at the meeting that the Richmond Beach Library should be reopened and vow to canvas the community for new association members.

Focused on the Home Front

The Richmond Beach Library originated in 1899 as a small lending library in shared quarters, and moved to a newly constructed building of its own in 1912. However, in 1918 the library closed so that residents of the community could focus their attention on home-front activities for the duration of America's involvement in World War I. The library association had initially considered closing the library as early as 1915 due to lack of funds, perhaps because membership in the association flagged as Richmond Beach residents turned their energy and focus to the war even before America's official entry into the fighting on April 6, 1917.

Like the members of many other communities around the country, Richmond Beach residents participated in war-bond campaigns, knit and rolled bandages for the Red Cross, planted Victory Gardens, and sent their young men to war. Householders coped with food shortages and did what they could to aid the war effort. Raising money for library operations paled in comparison to the greater needs that the war brought home.

Richmond Beach was rural and many residents already farmed their land, so the community was ideally suited to help produce food for the war effort. An April 1917 classified advertisement in The Seattle Times opined, "Everyone who can should plant their lot or their neighbor's lot to potatoes now. All farm produce must continue to go up as long as the war lasts. We do not raise enough west of the mountains to supply the Seattle market alone. The trains may all be tied up moving military supplies the same as in Europe. You should raise as much as you can and help yourself and also help the government" ("Ranches and Acreage to Let").

Back to the Books

The war ended with the Armistice of November 11, 1918, but the Richmond Beach Library did not immediately resume operation. In order to reopen, the library needed operating funds. Members of the Richmond Beach Library Association met on March 4, 1919, to make plans for raising the money needed to reopen the library.

They agreed to hold a fundraising dance, charging 50 cents for admission and 15 cents for coffee and sandwiches. The question of charging for library borrowing privileges was raised, but tabled. Since membership in the library association had dwindled during the facility's closure, the six members present agreed that each of them would bring three new members into the group. Membership dues were one dollar per year. A later newspaper article commemorating this meeting stated:

"The president made a short speech before the meeting ended, urging each of the six association members to consider that the success of the library was in their care, and that unselfish dedication and unceasing effort must prevail" ("Hard-working Ladies ...").

Library Growth over the Years

The fundraising dance was held four days later on March 8, 1919. The Richmond Beach Library reopened the following week. Within a year, the library association had grown to 55 members.

In general, libraries around the country were inadvertently aided by the war and its aftermath. A 1919 article in The Seattle Times attributed the growth of library use after the war to the efforts of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) and the American Library Association at army camps at home and abroad: "Men just returning from service who never used the library before they went away are daily taking out cards and are doing much in making this one of the biggest years the library has ever had" ("War Helps Libraries"). The article was referring specifically to libraries in Minneapolis, but the American Library Association found that many returning servicemen used and advocated for libraries in their home communities.

In 1944 the Richmond Beach Library became the second library to join the newly formed King County Library System (KCLS). The library building built in 1912 and reopened in 1919 continued to serve the Richmond Beach community into the twenty-first century. In 2001 KCLS opened a modern new Richmond Beach Library located at Richmond Beach Center Park.


Sources:

HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, " Richmond Beach Library, King County Library System" (by Paula Becker) http://www.historylink.org/ (accessed May 12, 2017); "Richmond Beach Library, 1899-1999" ed. by Ann Schulz and Marge Griffin (Richmond Beach: Richmond Beach Library Association, 1999), archival collection, Richmond Beach Library, Richmond Beach, Washington; "Hard-working Ladies Reopened Library After War," unidentified news clipping in Scrapbook Collection, Richmond Beach Library; Cara Bertram, "After the Eleventh Hour," November 14, 2013, American Library Association Archives website accessed March 30, 2017 (https://archives.library.illinois.edu/ala/eleventh-hour/); "War Helps Libraries," The Seattle Times, December 28, 1919, classified advertising section, p. 12; "Seattle Society Spends Week in Hard Work for Red Cross Fund," Ibid., May 26, 1918, social section, p. 4; "Organized Labor in Seattle Does Bit in Bond Drive," Ibid., April 21, 1918, p. 13; "Ranches and Acreage to Let," Ibid., April 15, 1917, classified advertising section, p. 5.


Related Topics:   Education | King County Library System | Organizations

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