Puyallup has always had a library. Even before there was a city, there was a library. Before Ezra Meeker platted the town in 1877, his wife Eliza Jane was lending books to the community from her cabin in what is now Pioneer Park. In true pioneer spirit, everyone shared.
By 1880 the community had outgrown this arrangement. Eight prominent businessmen pledged $5000 to form the Puyallup Library Association. They rented a small room on Pioneer, just west of Meridian, and employed a librarian, Francis McCoy. She earned $25 a month. If she wanted to take a vacation, she was required to find and pay her replacement herself.
At the beginning of the century, industrialist millionaire Andrew Carnegie turned philanthropist. He financed the building of public libraries across the country. Eventually, 3,000 Carnegie libraries were built. Local citizens convinced the City Council to apply for a grant. In exchange for Carnegie building the library, at a cost of $12,500, the Council pledged an annual budget of $1,250.
The Carnegie building was built in what is now Pioneer Park, on land donated by the Meekers. They gave the property to the City of Puyallup with the understanding that it would be used only for a park. Meeker's permission had to be obtained before construction could begin. At the time, he was traveling the country promoting the Oregon Trail Restoration. Eventually he was located in Texas, and gave his consent.
The new library opened in 1913. It was 4,000 square feet with the typical Carnegie library staircase entrance. This building served the community for 50 years. Eventually city engineers had to declare it unsafe. The floors sagged under the weight of the books. The voters passed a bond for the construction of a new, modern facility. It was 11,622 square feet, and the cost was $210,000.
The Library of the 1960s
The population of Puyallup grew from 12,450 to 30,740. A building which housed mainly books in 1962 now accommodated videos, CDs, talking books, and computers as well. The meeting room was in constant use and patrons had a hard time finding a quiet place to work or study.
September 14, 1999, voters approved a bond, allowing the new 39,500 square foot library to be built. August 30 and 31, 2002 was the grand opening celebration for the new building, beginning with an elegant gala and silent auction, and culminating with crowds of people anxious to see their new library.
The new building provides space for 150,000 books, 20,000 videos,12,000 talking books and 10,000 compact discs, numerous periodicals and newspapers as well as computers for accessing the internet, databases, and word processing. There are multiple meeting rooms to allow community groups of varying sizes to meet at the same time. Study rooms are available for students. Quiet spaces for reading are separate from more active areas. The library is able to provide more programs for all ages and was built with the future in mind.