History of the Library

The Kalama Woman's Club had designated money for Mrs. Hite Imus to attend a Woman's Club convention in Yakima. When Mrs. Imus was unable to attend, she gave the money to the Woman's Club to start the Kalama Library. 

The library was started in 1917 with 1,000 volumes and was a rental collection for public use. The collection grew rapidly as the rental fees were used to buy books. This first library was housed in the millinery shop of Mrs. Mary Johns, who also acted as the librarian. 

Later the library was moved to the drug store in the Cloniger Building. 

The City Hall burned down in 1924 but the books were saved and housed in the Bybee Building. Mr. Chase Still was the librarian.  When Mr. Still resigned, the library was  moved to Mr. Camack's Confectionery for many years.  Mr. Camack became the city librarian.

During this period, many gifts of large collections were received from the State Traveling Library, Mrs. Stephenson's family, Mrs. L. Spear's family and others.

The confectionery sold and once again the library moved. The library was housed in the Wells Building.  It was first operated by volunteers from the Woman's Club, and later the library was managed by W. P. (James) Wells.

The Community Building was finished in 1937, and the library moved again. The officers of the Kalama Woman's Club deeded the library as a gift to the city.  The library had grown to 3,000 volumes.

The city clerk acted as the librarian at this time.  Elsie Potter, the city treasurer, received an additional $150 a year to act as librarian.  Joan Durgeloh donated her services as librarian when she was the city clerk.  Water clerks, Irene Wicker, Martha Dyer and Elaine Bradford also donated their services as librarians.

Mrs. Harriet Swasey, a retired schoolteacher, was appointed librarian on June 5, 1965, and paid $65.00 a month.

The library moved again in 1968 to the Kockritz Hotel Building on First Street.  The new library was furnished through the efforts of the Kalama Library Board, AMALAK Woman's Club and local citizens.

Alice Gjelstad, a retired teacher, was appointed librarian on January 1, 1973. The library moved in 1981 to the old Fire Hall on the corner of First and Geranium Streets. Mrs. Gjelstad retired on January 26, 1982, at the age of 78.

Violet Johnson was appointed librarian. Dixie Loomis worked at the library during the evening, but in September of that year library hours were shortened, eliminating the need for an evening librarian. Violet Johnson served as the librarian for the next 15 years. Molly Ciancibelli started her career with the library at this time.

In 1996 the library survived a flood. The books were all moved and the library was housed temporarily in the Community Building for a year. When the library was restored and remodeled, it reopened at the  First and Geranium location.

Janelle Hoffman was hired in May, 1997, when Violet Johnson retired.  Louise Thomas was hired as librarian in 2001.  Louise served as the Library Director for 17 years, retiring in January 2019.  Elaine Bystrom was promoted to Library Director in March 2019 and now has a staff of three part-time library assistants.

The library has 15,000 items, a computerized circulation system, computers and internet access for public use, and WIFI.  FOLK, (The Friends of the Library at Kalama), Envision Kalama, AMALAK, and a host of supporters and volunteers, through their efforts and donations, ensure that the Kalama Public Library continues to provide 21st century library services for the citizens of Kalama.

Made possible with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Washington State Library, Office of the Secretary of State.