This Saturday, August 21, the Winslow Public Library will celebrate its 35th year serving the community at 420 W. Gilmore Street. The Friends of the Library invite everyone to a cake and punch reception from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. at the library.
The story of lending books in Winslow begins in 1899, the year before the city formally incorporated in 1900. A group of women founded a Literary Guild with a small subscription library. In 1926, a second-floor room in the fire department on East Second Street became the home of the Woman’s Club free library.
When the Woman’s Club bought the property at 104 East Cherry Street in 1952, the library continued service to readers from its first free-standing building, the garage. Throughout the years the library was supported and nurtured under their care, the Woman’s Club never lost sight of the goal to establish a full time, full service public library for the community.
In the mid-1960’s, the Winslow Junior Woman’s Club began a campaign in earnest to raise money for such a library. Much effort was spent researching ways and means to finance construction, as well as seeking information and advice from the State Library and Archives office. A goal of $50,000 was set and fund raising began. Unexpected assistance was offered in 1966 by the Whipple family, whose 7-year-old daughter Roxanne had been tragically killed in an auto-pedestrian accident. Many generous memorial gifts were given to the fund as well as donations from many civic, professional and school groups and businesses. The City Council passed a resolution to set aside land on which to build the new Roxanne Whipple Memorial Library.
By 1967, it became apparent that a new building would cost more than these combined efforts could raise. The committee used the donated funds to purchase the Wesleyan Methodist church building at the corner of Hicks and Gilmore for $20,000 and deeded it to the city. Following a complete renovation of the building, the Roxanne Whipple Memorial Library opened its doors to the public on August 18, 1969.
In May 1978, a 3,000 sq. ft. addition was completed, which brought children’s services out of the basement and into a bright new room. During these years a staff of up to 12 served not only the city but also the county, receiving some funds from the latter as well as from the city.
The fortunes of the library reflected those of the city during times of economic change in the 1980s and ’90s. In 1996, the city government in a budget-cutting attempt, considered a strategy to eliminate the librarian position, close the library and donate the collection to the local community college. In response, a Friends of the Library group was formed which galvanized the community in support of the library. They gathered signatures, held an enormous book sale and publicized the predicament of the library. The mayor and city council listened.
Today, the library is a thriving city department with a materials budget of $23,700. Last fiscal year a record 40, 030 items were checked out, 37,497 people entered the building and 5,736 people used the internet or the children’s game computer. The staff of 5 (3 FT and 2 PT) serve the community 37 hours weekly. The library benefits from its membership in the Navajo County Library District, a county-funded service that provides a shared catalog among the libraries as well as several rotating collections such as DVD movies, large print books and Adult Literacy materials.