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Forks Public Library opens in Forks on January 19, 1946.
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On January 19, 1946, the first public library in Forks opens in an unused room of the town's elementary school. As a branch of the county's Clallam Rural Library, it has an initial collection of 600 books, augmented by volumes from the county system, and Lillian Dimmel is the first librarian.
Bringing Books to Forks
When Muriel Huggins moved to the area around Forks in 1941, the remote Olympic Peninsula timber town of about 550 people had no library. So Huggins went about collecting books and magazines to share, hand-delivering items people wanted to read. Her husband later built shelves in their enclosed porch, where people were free to come and go and borrow what they liked.
Huggins joined others when planning for an official library began in 1944, and it opened in January 1946. Soon after, the library faced some immediate challenges: the Town of Forks had voted to incorporate in August 1945, which meant that the new library could not remain under the management of the rural library district. The local PTA (parent-teacher association) rallied forces to keep the library in Forks, and a nonprofit library association was formed.
The Rabbit-Hutch Library
The fledgling library also found itself in need of a new home barely a year and a half into operation, as the library's grade-school home was needed to accommodate increasing enrollment. A small building once owned by long-time resident Bert Fletcher, where he raised rabbits in the 1920s, became temporary quarters in 1947, and the short-lived "rabbit-hutch library" was born.
Around the same time, residents decided that the library would make a fitting war memorial, and the Forks Memorial Library Association began fundraising -- the association would operate the library though 1973, with staff and materials provided by the county's rural library district. In 1951 a site was donated on the corner of B Street and the Olympic Loop Highway (U.S. 101); volunteers completed the building's construction that year, and the library's first permanent home was dedicated June 28, 1952.
Permanence has a way of fading, though, and the need for an expanded facility was evident by the 1970s. The library merged with the newly formed North Olympic Library System in 1973, and plans to resolve crowding at the Forks branch were underway by 1979.
The Book Brigade
The solution turned up just across B Street in the form of the old Seafirst Bank building, which was remodeled and opened January 19, 1981, with 20,000 books. Volunteers moved the library's collection, including grade schoolers who formed a human "book brigade," passing books hand-to-hand across the street and through a window of the new library.
The Forks Memorial Library celebrated its 60th year in 2006, serving the still-small town of 3,120 with a collection of 30,000 books and circulation topping 65,000 items checked out annually.
Kathy Cunningham, "History of Forks Memorial Library," 1971, "A History of the Forks Memorial Library," n.d., "On a Crisp Winter Day in December ... ," n.d., clippings binder, Forks Memorial Library, Forks; Grace Fletcher, "Rabbit Hutch Library?" Forks Forum, November 16, 1950, n.p.; "Celebrating 60 Years," Peninsula Daily News, January 22, 2006, n.p.; Timothy Carradine, "Data Sheet," City of Forks website accessed December 7, 2007 (http://www.forkswashington.org); Julie Van Pelt phone interview with Theresa Osborne, November 28, 2007, and phone interview with Muriel Huggins, December 7, 2007.
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