Joe Schmitt writes a weekly blog called The Good Life, featuring information about the region’s history, culture, climate and economy. The blog also showcases new residents, clubs and organizations, outdoor recreational opportunities and local events.
Albert Einstein said it best, when he said, “The only thing you have to know, is the location of the library.” Lucky for us, Yakima County has 18 public library locations to choose from, but it didn’t start out that way…
Yakima’s first library was established in 1891 as a ‘social library’; that is, a library that requires a fee or a membership for one to check out books. For .5¢/week you could check out a book, or for $2.50, you could become a lifetime member (that’s the equivalent of about $70 today). By 1892 the association was comprised of 75 members and offered over 350 volumes available for check out.
It was over a decade later before Yakima opened the doors to its first public library (no fee’s or memberships required) in 1907 with funds donated by the Andrew Carnegie Estate. Over the next several years, libraries started popping up all over the county; Wapato (1909), Sunnyside (1911 with Carnegie funds), Toppenish (1912), and Mabton (1914).
In 1951, the Yakima Valley Regional Library was formed as a merger between the city and rural libraries. This merger allowed for books to be circulated throughout 16 community libraries and included 3 bookmobiles to service underserved areas. Today, all towns or cities in Yakima County are either annexed to or contracted with the Yakima Valley Libraries for library service with the exception of the City of Grandview.
Currently, the Yakima Valley Libraries serves over 240,000 people throughout the county, and was open a total of 41,548 hours in 2011 and circulated over 874,433 books.
“People use the library to apply for jobs online, for research on one of our databases and to explore genealogy. They can even take practice tests to prepare for the GED and other standardized tests,” said Kim Hixson, Yakima Valley Libraries Director.
In 2010, the library launched an online electronic resources section where patrons can check out eBooks (they currently have over 7,500 items available) from the comfort of their home. And most recently, the library, in partner with New Vision and Heritage University, put together a business resource center which provides users links to things like, local resources, and recommend reading selections.
“We are excited to continue to find new and innovative ways to support our patrons and their needs. The business resource center will allow our patrons access to a number of resources that were previously unavailable or only available to those with the financial resources to pay for them,” said Hixson.