Remembering Edmonds' Carnegie Library | Home Again

By Joanne Peterson | Aug 15, 2017

I enjoy thinking about the Edmonds library of my youth, the old brick Carnegie Library on Fifth Ave North, where I spent carefree childhood hours. Eventually, I reported there for my first after-school job during high school.

Even though it’s now the Edmonds Historical Museum, its history in my heart resounds with rich and sweet girlhood library memories.

I remember my earliest Edmonds library days, age 7, walking with my father the short blocks from our home at Fourth and Dayton, pride of ownership of my first library card causing me to skip and dance with joy as we approached the old brick building with its long flight of concrete steps.

Beginning in third grade, my friend Mary and I made regular forays to our library 12 months a year. We’d walk or bike through rain or sun, stop by on our way home from school or spend hours on a Saturday.

Every year we’d sign up for the summer reading program, though we needed no encouragement to increase the time we spent reading

As teenagers, Mary and I both worked at the library after school, evenings, Saturdays and summers, shelving books, checking them out, stamping the cards in the pockets inside the book covers, collecting nickel fines for overdues.

I remember the thrill of sometimes being alone in the library on summer evenings, the only person working. It’s difficult to imagine that being the case, isn’t it?

But those were different times, times when neither the librarian nor our parents feared for the safety of teenage workers being alone, serving the public, turning out the lights at 9, locking the door and going down the many steps to walk home in the summer dusk.

Those were times, too, when most library patrons hadn’t even thought about a need for reference librarians, teen programs, literary presentations, writing groups, computer access, homework help, technical assistance or countless other services and privileges now expected and provided in public libraries.

During the school year, teenagers came to the old Carnegie library in the evenings to sit in straight-backed chairs, taking notes for research papers. The encyclopedias shelved above the long sloped stretch of oak desktop provided the majority of their research material.

When the teens whispered, the librarian shushed them. As a rule, that was the extent of her involvement.

Today’s library, at 650 Main St., welcomes community members to deeper experiences and opportunities than anyone ever thought of during the time I worked in the Carnegie Library.

Whether they are 5 or 95, local residents can find in today’s library in Edmonds something they require or enjoy, with cheerful service provided by skilled staff members.

Oh, yes, the old card-catalog vanished, and many older patrons still miss it, but countless innovations enhance modern library services.

The Friends of the Edmonds Library group, which meets monthly, provides strong support for today’s library services by providing funds for furniture, equipment and other items outside the library budget. A major source of those funds is the Friends of the Library ongoing book sale, just inside the library entrance. Quality donations of books and magazines keep the book sale going. Shoppers can purchase book bargains for all ages and interests.

I hope you’ll stop by; your purchases will help your library.

Today the Edmonds Public Library is worlds different – and better – than it was when I was a girl. I think, though, that the simplicity of that old library suited the simplicity of those days. It was a privilege to be part of that era, as well as this one.



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