Libraries Where You Least Expect Them: Library Stations of the 1920s

2016 marks the 125th anniversary of The Seattle Public Library. After it was adopted as a department of the city in 1890, the Library opened its first reading room in Pioneer Square on April 8, 1891. To honor this milestone, we will be posting a series of articles here about the Library’s history and life in the 1890s. We also encourage our patrons to share their favorite memories of SPL on social media using the hashtag #SPL125. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest

Library Deposit Station No. 1, Weeds Pharmacy

Library Deposit Station No. 1, Weeds Pharmacy

Imagine being able to check out your next library book at your neighborhood pharmacy, candy store, or even your local department store. In the early 20th century, the library depended on exactly this model. They were referred to as deposit stations to reach underserved populations who weren’t able to make it to an official library. These stations were scattered across pharmacies, fire stations, schools, hospitals and other locales throughout the city and offered mini-library collections catered to each location.

Although the library started opening small neighborhood reading rooms in the early 1900s, library stations really gained full steam in the 1920s with the creation of the Deposit Station Division which was placed under the management of librarian Harriet Leitch. By 1926, the library had 50 stations in operation at a variety of locations including: Greenwood Pharmacy, Sears Roebuck, Imperial Candy Company, Bon Marché, Seattle General Hospital, fire stations, the local jail, Cloverdale Grocery in South Park, the City Engineer’s camp at Skagit River, and Pike Place Market.

The Pike Place Market Station, which opened in 1922 was described in the library’s annual report as “a cheerful room overlooking Puget Sound. Here are books of all classes and borrowers of all nationalities. Housewives carry away the family supply of books in their market baskets with their cabbages and potatoes. Stall owners borrow books to help in gardening and fruit growing. This little library is used as an information bureau and its dictionaries, maps, and directory are in constant use.” The December staff report for the same year noted that the library was sometimes so busy during the weekend that Miss Nation, the librarian, had to “forage for extra chairs from the nearby rest room.” The report also noted that frequent visitors to the station included “tourists camping in Woodland Park, sailors on leave, and visitors who noticed the library in passing” who were issued temporary cards for their visit.

The Market Station remained in operation until 1926 when it closed due to its limited audience and declining usage. In 1933, the library closed all remaining stations as a result of budgetary restrictions during the Great Depression. Luckily, the closures were relatively short-lived. When World War II began, the need for expanded service was renewed as war workers flooded Seattle. In 1942, the library introduced its first new station in a decade at the High Point Defense-Housing Project in West Seattle where it served war workers and their families.

Want to learn more about library stations? Visit the Seattle Room at the Central where we have a scrapbook of material dedicated to the subject along with all of the library’s annual and department reports discussing the activities of the Deposit Station department. You can also find the photos featured in this post along with other photos of our branch libraries online in our digital collections.

~posted by Jade D.

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Bus Reads for August

Swan GondolaBread and WineReclaimers







Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert was along the same vein as Morgenstern’s The Night Circus with a bit of Baum’s Wizard of Oz thrown in. It takes place in 1898 and tells a love story in the midst of the fictional Omaha World’s Fair. In the beginning though before that story unfolds a hot air balloon lands on the house of the Old Sisters Egan, Hester and Emmaline, when they confront the pilot, B. “Ferret” Skerritt, the story of Cecily and Ferret slowly begins…it’s a quirky tale that you will either love or hate…even I’m still not sure, but it’s a good read-alike recommendation and was interesting enough for a bus ride.

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist was a memoir that felt like home to me. The stories of family and friendship and the food that accompanies those interactions; that hunger for connection and nourishment. It had me recalling my own family and friends and the roads we have traveled; apart and back together again. The subject of faith throughout the book is a lot stronger in Shauna then myself, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed by religion when I read it. No matter your personal belief I felt like it could be a book for all. Plus, recipes…I’m a big fan of books with recipes in them!

Reclaimers by Anna Maria Spagna highlights those who are attempting an ecological reclamation of land, rivers, and even a species. Traveling along the West Coast mountain range she connects with these people to tell their story and informs us along the way. I was fascinated by the Elwha Dam removal and this book took me back there through the other events that are making a change in our landscape and mindset. Being from the Pacific Northwest the scenery has been the backdrop to my life, it calls to me and urges me to be a part of it, and I feel as if the writer heard that call as well; sometimes we are born where we are meant to be and other times we find it later in life.

~posted by Kara F.

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Get Outside: Comfort

I long to have a backyard of my own someday, I envision hammocks and a fire pit and string lights and planters and of course an epic BBQ for my boyfriend and I to entertain guests. As we look for houses I’m searching for the yard that can bring that vision to life. In the meantime though it helps to do your homework and find things that will turn a backyard into a comfortable haven. Here are a few items that got me started:

Happy Home Outside: Everyday Magic for Outdoor Life by Charlotte Hedeman Gueniau is a Happy Home Outsidewhimsical and colorful book. Beautiful pictures filled with nooks and hideaways where you can play with simple ideas to brighten up your outdoor space. From unique planters to colorful textiles like tablecloths and throw pillows. Mix and match odds and ends to update your BBQ or party space. Adorable storage solutions and easy DIY projects are found throughout. Just so much fun in one book! Continue reading

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Flaked Soundtrack Appreciation

Flaked_posterWe don’t have a cable television home, but the boyfriend and I do have Apple TV, so we like to occasionally choose a new show to watch together. He binge watches CSI when I work my late nights and I binge watch Shameless on my days off, but it’s nice to have something to enjoy together and discuss. He recently chose the Netflix series Flaked with Will Arnett. I was peacefully reading my book and got sucked in…especially by the music. The music put us on a mission; we needed these songs stat! We googled, we iTunes, we Spotify, we everything and that got me to thinking…I’m sure there are some wonderful library patrons that would enjoy these tunes as well, so I searched our catalog for what I could find so that you can build your own playlist until the soundtrack is officially released!

Happy listening: Continue reading

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Get Outside: Forage

Growing up there was always this one alley nearby that had that largest raspberry bush and it produced the most wonderful raspberries in summertime. My friend and I would grab plastic bags from home and fill them to the brim. After washing them we’d eat them raw, make a simple jam out of them, or freeze them up. This was all before we really knew what we were doing. Later in life some friends and I went mushroom picking on Vashon Island, with a guide who knew specifically what to look for and if we had any questions he was there to help us out. These are just small simple ways that foraging can be accomplished in our urban setting!

Here are a few books in our collection to do some urban foraging yourself:

The Front Yard Forager: Identifying, Collecting, and Cooking the 30 Most Common Urban WeedsFind The Front Yard Forager in the SPL catalog by Melany Vorass Herrera is at the top on the foraging list mostly because the author is a Seattleite that’s fully aware of what this Pacific Northwest city holds. It has everything from decadent recipes to keeping it simple, all while educating you on nutritional information and precautions one should take when foraging in the urban environment. She really knows what she talking about! You will be surprised at what’s edible out there. Continue reading

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South West Stories: Ken Workman

“This we know; The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth.  This we know, all things are connected like the blood which unites one family.  All things are connected”

–Chief Si’ahl, Namesake of the City of Seattle

On Sunday, Aug 21, 2 p.m., Delridge Library hosts Ken Workman, member of Duwamish Tribal Council, and great-great-great-great grandson of Chief Seattle. This event is part of the South West Stories monthly series presenting the history of West Seattle, the Duwamish Peninsula and the Birthplace of Seattle – in collaboration with Southwest Seattle Historical Society. Continue reading

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Must-read Contemporary Essays

While perusing The New Yorker website a while ago, I came across a piece on the nature of the American essay by Vinson Cunningham. Cunningham argues that what makes an essay uniquely American is its sermonizing nature – the way there is always an argument being put forth for the reader to consider and be converted to. Cunningham traces this quality back to America’s most famous essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson. It’s an interesting assertion, although there are certainly many molds for the contemporary essay. Following is a consideration of several recent essay collections by American authors. You can find these collections as well as others, here as a list in Seattle Public Library’s catalog.

essays 1 Continue reading

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