Duvall Library, King County Library System

  • By John Caldbick
  • Posted 9/26/2016
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 11262
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In 1932, with the nation in the grip of the Great Depression, the Women's Civic Club of Duvall decided the time had come for their small town in rural northeast King County to have a library. A vacant café provided a rent-free first home, but the women had greater aspirations. Raising funds door-to-door and dollar by dollar, club members spent the next three years gathering the resources to establish a permanent library on land provided by the town. Built with scavenged lumber, donated materials, and labor paid for by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Duvall Library opened in its new home in 1935. The property and building were owned by the town, but the books were owned by the Women's Civic Club, which also operated the library. In 1956 ownership of the books was transferred to the town, giving the library a completely "public" identity. This removed a legal obstacle to the Duvall Library becoming part of the King County Library System (KCLS), which it initially joined in 1957 and fully annexed to in 1993. The original building, expanded twice, served the community until 2012, when a modern new library was dedicated.

Early-Days Duvall

In the early 1870s brothers James (1847-?) and Francis Duvall came up the Snoqualmie River by boat and homesteaded on a hillside overlooking the river. They were loggers, drawn by the region's vast expanse of huge fir and cedar trees, and they were followed by other woodsmen, many of them Union veterans of the Civil War.

About a half mile downstream from the Duvall homestead was the small community of Cherry Valley. In 1909 the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad was building a line along the banks of the Snoqualmie River and found that Cherry Valley stood in its way. After negotiations, the railroad agreed to move the settlement's buildings to the site of the Duvalls' hillside homestead, which the brothers had since sold. These relocated homes and commercial buildings formed the core of the new town of Duvall, which was first platted in 1910 and incorporated in 1913.

By 1914 buildings on the town's unpaved Main Street included a shingle mill, a Methodist church, a pool hall and confectionery, a general store, a hotel, a theater, a hardware store, and a bank. The town generally prospered during the second decade of the twentieth century, although the 1920 federal census counted just 258 residents, a number that would fall to 200 by 1930. Nonetheless, Duvall soon boasted its own light and power company, a train depot, four hotels, a school, and, from 1911 to 1917, its own newspaper, the Duvall Citizen. But one thing the town did not have was a library, and a group of dedicated women decided to provide one.

Women Take Charge

On January 6, 1912, Lon Brown (1877?-1938), who a year later would become the town's first mayor, announced in the Duvall Citizen that he was opening a "Circulating Library." It is unclear whether he carried through on his idea; there is no further mention of it in available histories, and between 1917 and 1952 Duvall had no newspaper of its own that might answer the question.

What is known is that in 1929, with the Great Depression looming, a group of women in Duvall organized as the Welfare Workers, hoping to find ways to help the community's needy through the increasingly hard times. In 1932, just a dozen years after woman suffrage became law nationwide, the group changed its name to the Duvall Women's Civic Club and expanded its activities to include other civic matters and, with notable success, town politics. These efforts were led by the club's president, Mabel Emma Bourke (1883-1976), who in March 1932 was elected mayor of Duvall. All three open seats on the town's five-member council that year were also won by club members -- Cora Roney (1877-1959), Mrs. J. I. Miller, and Theresa E. Stapleton (1875-1953). They all were elected by better than two-to-one margins, and with the mayor's seat and a council majority they were ready to govern. Stapleton's husband held one of the two holdover council positions, but The Seattle Times noted that if push came to shove, she could "be depended upon to vote with the women against her husband" and the other male council member ("Lady Mayor of Duvall ... ).

An All-Volunteer Effort

Because of the lack of a town newspaper, contemporary accounts of the efforts that went into establishing Duvall's first documented library are hard to come by. Fortunately, in August 1937 one member of the Women's Civic Club, Janna Burgess (1885-1968), detailed how it was done in an article written for The Sunday Oregonian, Portland's leading newspaper. Entitled "Any Town Can Have a Library," it provides a breezy but detailed description of the Civic Club's campaign to bring books to the residents of Duvall during some of the darkest days of the Great Depression. Written by a direct participant and close to the time the events took place, it is probably a more accurate account than some written decades later, several of which disagree on various details.

According to Burgess, the idea for a library was born during the club's autumn meeting in October 1932, when the 20 women present asked themselves, "What shall we do this winter?" ("Any Town ... "). They decided that Duvall needed a library, and with little experience and less money, they charged cheerfully ahead. As Burgess described it, "Nothing daunted ..., we laid our plans for an enterprise that was to give us more jolly get-togethers than we had had in years and that was eventually to give the town a piece of valuable property" ("Any Town ... ").

There followed a series of small fundraisers, beginning with a "basket social" at the local schoolhouse that brought in all of $25. Then, Burgess recalled, "like a rolling snowball we began to gather more" ("Any Town ... "). A basic need was met when Chesley Funk (1884-1968), the owner of a Duvall café that had fallen victim to economic hard times, offered the building rent-free for use as a library. Another volunteer provided a stove, and a third a load of free firewood.

With a home secured and $17 left to spend, a committee of club members traveled to Seattle and scoured second-hand bookshops, returning with 71 volumes "including novels, biography, science, books for children of all ages -- in short, something for everyone" ("Any Town ... "). They put on a party to celebrate the opening, charging an admission fee of 15 cents or one book. The library was open to the public two afternoons a week, staffed by volunteers from the club. Unfortunately, no one seems to have recorded the precise date of the opening, but the circumstances suggest it was in the early months of 1933.

The library's holdings soon grew with the addition of used books bought or donated. Worn-out discards from libraries in Seattle and Redmond came pouring in, and the women patched the worst of them to last for at least a few readings. Club members with magazine subscriptions gave each issue to the library, and all participated in an ongoing series of fundraisers that included a regular card party, baking contests, garden parties, a play, and dances. Burgess recalled:

"By the end of the first year we had over 500 books, something more than 100 readers, and a feeling of community unity because of the work and fun we had had together. The fact that everyone helped create the library made everyone feel that it was his, and from the first it was well-patronized" ("Any Town ... ").

A Home of Its Own

Success soon led to more ambitious plans. Just two years after their first basket social, the members of the Women's Civic Club, at a supper that included their husbands, decided that to start a new campaign -- to build a dedicated library building that would also serve as a much-needed community center. One of the men mentioned that a Depression-era federal government program would probably pay local men to build the library if the community could come up with the necessary materials.

That was a challenge, as was finding and obtaining a suitable site. But soon the parts began to fall into place. The women started a door-to-door campaign, visiting every house in the town and the surrounding area, asking for a minimum donation of one dollar. Several businesses were more generous, and a variety of fundraising events brought in more. Before long, $600 had been raised. It was not enough, but more help was on the way.

Several of the town's men formed a club auxiliary, and in return for demolishing an old warehouse near the railroad tracks they were given enough salvaged lumber to frame the new library. They also drew up building plans and made the necessary arrangements for workers, many of them unemployed locals, to be paid with funds provided to the state by the Federal Emergency Relief Act (FERA). A local logging company offered to provide without charge enough 26-inch cedar bolts to supply hand-cut shakes for the exterior. The final piece fell into place when the town (the government of which was still dominated by members of the Civic Club) offered the use of two unimproved lots on the west side of Duvall's Main Street. Other donations included such necessities as nails, hinges, and glass for windows. After exhausting local generosity, the effort was still about $250 short of what was needed, but the women felt confident enough to borrow from a local bank.

Work got underway and was completed by the spring of 1935, but once again no one appears to have recorded the exact date that the library opened to the public. When the FERA program expired before all the work was done, local men and boys volunteered their time to finish the job. The library was small, measuring just 32 feet by 22 feet, clad in cedar shakes, with a finished cement basement and a small kitchen on the main floor for community events. At the dedication ceremony the Women's Civic Club deeded the building to the town, but retained ownership of the books and continued to staff the library with volunteers. By the time Burgess wrote her article for The Oregonian in 1937, the library's holdings had grown to 1,400 books, with more being purchased or donated every month. Among its most valued volumes were a set provided by the Carnegie Institute for International Peace that contained detailed descriptions of foreign lands and their peoples.

Private or Public?

Little was recorded about the Duvall Library for nearly two decades after Janna Burgess's article in The Oregonian. About all that is known is that in 1940 Anna Bredenberg (1889-1957) was hired as the first paid librarian, at a salary of $35 a month. The library remained open and served the community throughout the remaining years of the Great Depression and World War II. But Duvall remained a very small town, and one without a newspaper -- the 1950 federal census counted only 236 residents, an increase of just two since the 1940 count.

News of the library surfaced again in 1952, when The Carnavall Reporter started publication, covering both Carnation and Duvall. The paper reported in November 1955 that the library had 6,000 books on its shelves. But trouble was brewing -- before the end of the year questions were raised about the relationship between Duvall's government and the library's management.

For many years the town had provided the women's club with about $250 a year to subsidize a portion of the librarian's salary, while the club, which owned the library's contents and managed its affairs, continued to raise money to purchase books and maintain the facility. The split ownership between the town and the private club barred the Duvall Library from being considered "public" for purposes of state law. The state attorney general informed the town council in late 1955 that giving public monies to a private library, even merely $250 a year, was illegal and must end.

On December 8, 1955, the town council met to consider the dilemma. Three options were put forward. The first was that the town lease the building to the Civic Club for a nominal fee, then pay the club for the services the library provided in the same amount as before. The proposal, too clever by half, was rejected.

The second option was for the town of Duvall to take over the library and appoint a board to run it, while the third suggested turning the library over to the King County Library System, which was established by county voters in 1942 as the King County Rural Library District to provide library services to rural county residents. Neither of these two ideas found even a single supporter at the council meeting, although both would soon be adopted.

It took a good part of the following year for the problem to be resolved. On September 18, 1956, the Duvall Library board (just when this board was appointed, and by whom, is unclear) transferred ownership of all the books it held to the town of Duvall. The Carnavall Reporter assured readers that this "solution, while vesting title in the Town, will not materially affect the management or conduct of the Library in any way. The Women's Civic Club will continue to help support it and manage it as before" ("Duvall Library Status ...").

A month later Duvall Mayor Emmitt Minaglia (1912-1993) appointed a five-member library board to oversee the library under the new arrangement of total town ownership. One of those appointed was Janna Burgess, who had been involved with the library from the beginning and had told the story of its early days in her 1937 article for The Oregonian. In 1956 Rose Norenberg (1912-1984) was appointed Duvall's head librarian, a job she would hold until 1978. Upon her retirement a community-meeting area in the library was named the Rose Room in her honor.

Joining the King County Library System

It was not long before the town council was reconsidering its earlier rejection of entering into some kind of agreement with the King County Library System. Dorothy R. Cutler (1917-2013), the Washington State Library's Chief of Library Development, was invited to address the council on May 9, 1957, and to describe some of the advantages that would flow from such an arrangement. The council then voted to ask a representative of KCLS to speak at the next meeting, but it was already obvious what the Duvall Library must do to survive and grow. On June 13, 1957, a contract was signed between Duvall and KCLS. The town would continue to own the building, but the library would be operated by the county system and benefit from its greater resources.

The advantages of being part of a larger system were almost immediately apparent. On July 18, 1957, the Duvall Library received a $3,681 grant from the State Library Development Fund, channeled through KCLS, to add shelves and update equipment. The funds were soon followed by 3,000 library books provided by KCLS. On August 3 the Duvall Library held an open house to mark the new arrangement, with coffee and cookies provided by members of the Women's Civic Club, at least a few of whom had been around since the library first opened in the vacant café more than 25 years earlier. Although the record is not entirely clear, it appears that it was in 1959 than an addition was built on the south end of the library building, one that matched the style of original section.

The building served Duvall for another 53 years, with ongoing financial support from the Women's Civic Club (at some point the word "Women's" was dropped and it became simply the Duvall Civic Club). In September 1987 King County Executive Tim Hill (b. 1936) signed a $66,770 Community Development Block Grant for Duvall that partially financed a 2,280-square-foot-addition to the back of the existing library building, nearly tripling the available space. The total cost of the addition, completed in the fall of 1988, was $137,000. The City contributed $25,000, the local Grange organization contributed $10,000, and the Civic Club raised money for furnishings.

The contractual relationship with the county system remained in place for 36 years, until 1993, when Duvall voters by a nearly two-to-one margin approved annexation of their library to KCLS. In that same year, voters in Kent, Mercer Island, Burien, and Woodinville passed identical measures. These local governments could then remove the libraries from their individual budgets and fully merge them into the county library system, funded by a much larger tax base.

A Grand New Library

It is remarkable that the original Duvall Library building was, with the two expansions, able to serve its community for more than 75 years, carrying on even as the town's population exploded in early twenty-first century. The 1980 census counted 729 residents, but by the year 2000 Duvall's population had ballooned to 4,616, and it reached 6,695 in 2010. A study published in 2005 estimated that the population of the total area served by the Duvall Library exceeded 13,000; in 2011 alone nearly 165,000 items were checked out. Even with the 1998 addition, the existing building was simply too small and too old to meet the needs of a new century.

Fortunately, the library was now part of a large and thriving county-wide system that enjoyed broad public support. Even though a 2003 bond proposal for library funding failed, voters the very next year approved by a nearly two-to-one margin the issuance of $172 million in bonds for KCLS to fund capital improvements over the next 10 years. With this in hand, the system immediately began planning to build new and replacement facilities and to expand and upgrade existing libraries. However, because of Duvall's burgeoning growth, a six-year building moratorium had been imposed by the town in 1999. It was lifted in August 2005, and planning a replacement for the long-serving building began almost immediately. The first step was a community study to help evaluate what was needed and determine design criteria.

The entire process took almost exactly seven years, but on August 25, 2012, the modern new library was dedicated in downtown Duvall with a crowd of more than 600 in attendance. Designed by Johnston Architects of Seattle, the 8,000-square-foot, two-story building was nestled into a hillside at the northeast corner of the intersection of Main Street and NE Stephens Street, just two blocks south of the old library and in the heart of historic downtown Duvall. It was designed to meet the LEED Silver standard and is equipped with a ground-source heat pump, energy-efficient lighting, and a "green roof" planted with sedums. Recycled materials were used extensively, with the building's exterior dominated by large windows surrounded by recycled barn wood and weathered steel. The landscaping was designed by Nakano Associates of Seattle and featured extensive plantings and vines on trellises on every side of the building.

As of 2016 Duvall's library board has six members, appointed by the mayor and approved by the city council. Members serve three-year terms, and there is a seat at the table for a representative of the city's youth, who serves a one-year term. The board acts in an advisory capacity to the city council and consults and cooperates with the board of trustees of the King County Library System and local library officials.

The original library building was preserved and in 2016 serves as the Duvall Visitor Center. A Friends of the Library committee that was once part of the Civic Club became an independent, non-profit organization in 2011, but the club itself continues on. In 2016 it marked the 87th year of serving its community and still actively supports library programs. From September through June each year the club meets on the second Wednesday of every month in the Rose Room of the old building, a testament to the enduring link between the Duvall Library and the women who made it a reality.


"Lady Mayor of Duvall Visions Spotless Town," The Seattle Times, March 11, 1932, p. 1; Janna Burgess, "Any Town Can Have a Library," The Sunday Oregonian, August 22, 1937, p. 66; "Duvall Area," Washington Secretary of State Legacy Washington website accessed August 14, 2016 (https://www.sos.wa.gov/legacy/cities_detail.aspx?i=4); "Duvall's History," Duvall Chamber of Commerce website accessed August 14, 2016 (https://duvallchamberofcommerce.com/duvalls-history/); "Duvall: About Duvall's Library," King County Library System website accessed August 14, 2016 (http://kcls.org/about-duvall-library/); "Duvall Library Community Study, December 2005," King County Library System website accessed August 14, 2016 (https://w3.kcls.org/community_studies/Duvall%20Community%20Study.pdf); Karen Bean, "Duvall Library," King County Historic Sites Survey, September 20, 1985, available through King County Historic Preservation Office, Seattle, Washington; Valerie Sivinski and Bret Drager, "Duvall Library," Historic Property Inventory Form, available through State of Washington Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Olympia, Washington; Leroy Alan Miller and Donald T. Williams, A Livable Community: The Story of Duvall (Duvall: Duvall Historical Society, 2007), 31, 32, 45, 57; A History of the State of Washington, Vol. 4 ed. by Lloyd Spencer and Lancaster Pollard (New York: The American Historical Society, 1937) 775; "A Short History of the Duvall Library," The Carnavall Reporter, November 17, 1955, p. 5; "Library Problems Considered by Council," Ibid., December 15, 1955, p. 5; "Duvall Library Status Changed," Ibid., September 20, 1956, p. 2; "Town Council Meets," Ibid., October 18, 1956, p. 3; "Duvall Town Council Has Busy Meeting -- Considers 5 Projects," Ibid., May 16, 1957, p. 3; "Duvall Library Gets $3,681 Grant for Improvement," Ibid., July 18, 1957, p. 1; "Open House to Mark New Era at Library," Ibid., July 25, 1957, p. 1; "King Co. Library Heads Address Civic Club," Ibid., November 14, 1957, p. 3; "Duvall Civic Club Says New Library Addition to Be Started Soon," Ibid., November 13, 1958, p. 1; "Decennial Census Counts of Population for the State, Counties, and Cities: 1890-2010," Washington State Office of Financial Management website accessed August 16, 2016 (http://www.ofm.wa.gov/pop/april1/hseries/pop_decennial_census_series_1890-2010.xlsx); "Library Board," City of Duvall website accessed August 20, 2016 (http://www.duvallwa.gov/175/Library-Board); "About," Duvall Civic Club website accessed August 17, 2016 (http://www.duvallcivicclub.org/about/); "A Great Library Needs Friends," Duvall Friends of the Library website accessed August 19, 2016 (http://duvallfol.org/about/); "Duvall Library," Johnston Architects website accessed August 18, 2016 (http://johnstonarchitects.com/projects/public/duvall-library/); "Duvall Library," Nakano Associates website accessed August 18, 2016 (http://www.nakanoassociates.com/portfolio/duvall-library/); HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Duvall -- Thumbnail History" (by Alan J. Stein), http://www.historylink.org/ (accessed August 15, 2016).

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