For the past century, the Pierce Free Public Library has been a hub of community activity. The library will celebrate its centennial June 17-22 with contests, art projects and a talk by an author and distant relative of E.D. Pierce, the town’s namesake who discovered gold in Pierce in 1860.

“I even remember when I came here in 1969, the library was a lot busier then,” said Kim Ward, director of the library.

“Kids would come in after school and sit there for hours using encyclopedias for reports. That’s really changed through the years because they can get everything on the internet.

“But now you have people come in and use the computer and do all kinds of things, and that’s huge,” Ward added. “We have a lot of retirees in town and most of them read and use the library. Young people come in and bring little children. A lot of people who are tourists stop in to ask questions about the history of the town and area, and we have a lot of people who commute for work and they come to get books on (compact discs) to help with their drive.”

The library began under a school district libraries provision of the Idaho Legislature in 1919. T.B. Reed, a state legislator from Clearwater County, promoted the project, and it was approved when 28 school district patrons voted in favor of a local library tax, with 10 opposed.

The library opened on Sept. 20, 1921, at the Pierce School. Laura J. Waters, a teacher, was the first librarian and was paid $30 a month for her services. Two volunteers also helped and by June 30, 1922, the library’s collection had grown from 540 books to 1,022. The library was open 24 hours a week after school and in the early evenings six days a week.

In 1922, land was purchased on Main Street and, in October of 1923, a new library building had been constructed for $4,645.97. The building was remodeled in 1970.

These days, Ward said, the Pierce Library is part of the VALNet online library system and has more than 600,000 items, including computers, books, periodicals and CDs. State and federal grants have helped improve the collection and provided internet access.

Ward said about 600 people use the library each month — about 100 more than the total population of Pierce.

“We’re still important,” she said. “This is where people come and use the computer for job searches and the loggers use it to file their unemployment. People just come for information and that is huge and VALNet gives us access to a whole range (of resources).”

The centennial celebration is titled “Six Days of Fun.” On Monday children are invited to help paint a 6-foot-tall birthday cake at Studio 205 across the street from the library. The cake will be displayed in the front yard of the library.

On June 18, people are invited to make a bookmark at the Elk Snout Coffee Shop next door.

The activities June 19 include a short essay contest due by 3 p.m. Entries are limited to 250 words and will be judged in two categories: grades third through sixth; and grade seventh through adult. The topic is: “A book I really enjoyed and why.” Prizes of $50 will be awarded to the top winner in each category.

On June 20, there is a “Post Your Shelfy” creative photo contest. People are invited to post a photo of themselves with their favorite book and the most creative photo will win a $50 prize.

The contest June 21 is to guess how many books are in the library. A $50 prize will be awarded to the winner.

On June 22, Eilene Lyon from Durano, Colo., who is a descendant of the wife of E.D. Pierce, will present a talk about a book she is researching on Pierce’s life. The talk begins at 4 p.m. at Studio 205.

Refreshments will be served throughout the week.

Ward said all the prize money was donated by the Idaho Central Credit Union. And a book drive is running through the month of June where people can purchase current bestsellers. The credit union will match the total sales in cash to allow the library to buy more books, Ward said.

Library hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday; and closed on weekends.

Hedberg may be contacted at kathyhedberg@gmail.com or (208) 983-2326.

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