WA Secretary of State Blogs

Seattle Public Librarians Wow Teens in SE Washington.

October 8th, 2015 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public No Comments »

Ask WABelieving that a good way to reach teenagers is through that tool they all so dearly love (their phone), in late September, Ask WA Coordinator Nono Burling headed to SE Washington.  With the start of the new school year she hoped to spread the word about Washington State’s Virtual Reference Cooperative and how it could help them.

But wait, step back!  What is Ask WA you ask?  Ask WA is a cooperative of public and academic libraries around the state that work together to provide 24/7 help from a librarian to Washington residents.  Almost 60 libraries and library systems belong to the cooperative and any library in Washington is eligible to join.  Washington State is one of the “pioneers” for this program.  We have many librarians who have been doing chat reference for many years and are highly skilled.

But back to the road show… Knowing that some of the smaller libraries in our cooperative are hard pressed for time, Nono offered to visit their High School students to tell them about the program.  Asotin County library and The Denny Ashby library in Pomeroy readily accepted the offer and made arrangements with their local high schools.

Day one: Clarkston High School.  Asotin County Library has adopted the Library Now app which WSL developed a few years ago.  This was a boon as there is a live webpage where she could demo just how it would look on a student’s smartphone.  The teachers allowed the kids to get out their phones and install the app right then and there.  In each class Nono talked about the service, showed how to find the download app on the Asotin County Library’s webpage and then connected with a librarian.  During the early morning classes we chatted with librarians on the east coast but later in the day it was all Washington librarians.  The kids asked great questions and were very excited to be chatting live with a librarian.  Best story from Clarkston … the sophomores.  After the first “normal” question a hand was raised.  “Ask her ‘Why did the plane crash?’” “Hmmm…Can you give me a bit more information?”  “Oh it’s a joke.” So the question was typed in clarifying that it was a joke.  While the librarian was searching the answer was requested.  “Because the pilot was a loaf of bread!”  ??? The whole class looked dumbfounded; this made no sense.  Then up on the screen, an answer from the librarian, “Because the pilot was a loaf of bread!”  The class erupted!  Point and Match to Jen from Seattle Public Library!

Day two: Was a repeat performance in Pomeroy.  The school had set up a schedule so that over the course of the day Nono would see every 7th-12th grader in Pomeroy.  Bouncing back and forth between two classrooms she chatted with librarians from as far away as Maine and Minnesota. But then a Seattle Public Librarian named Becky stepped in.  Apparently she enjoyed herself because she picked up class after class.  “Hello 7th grade!”  She completely WOWed the kids fielding questions from “How tall is Mount Everest?” (29,029 feet) to “How many bones does a dog have?” (It depends on the breed, tail bones you know!), to “How many strands of hair does the average person have?” (Every half square inch of the human skin has about 10 hairs.) “Ewwwww!”  One Reader’s Advisory question had the kids scrambling for a pencil to write down the recommended books. The kids were very impressed and excited enough to return often over the next few weeks.

All in all it was a successful visit, and the students of SE Washington now have a new place to find answers when they are stuck on an assignment.  Are you an Ask WA member that is interested in having Nono visit your school? Are you not currently a member library but would like to know more about the program?  Either way please contact Nono Burling.

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Con Artists take note, you’ve got nothing on J. A. Fallgatter!

September 22nd, 2015 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection No Comments »

From the desk of Steve Willis, Former Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

Stories about con artists were a regular feature of early Washington newspapers. Some, like this article from the August 22, 1902 issue of The Lind Leader, are more amusing than others:


 Proved to be a Grafter from Graftersville.– He Left Debts Galore.

 J.A. Fallgatter, erstwhile proprietor of the Lind Art Studio, is gone– whither deponent saith not. He boarded a train at two o’clock last Friday morning and has not been heard of since.  Lind art Studio

 Fallgatter proved himself to be an artist in more than one line. As a photographer he was nothing extra, but he was a past master in the art of grafting and he worked not only Lind, but the adjacent country, right. He worked it to a finish, to a fare-you-well. For thoroughness his job of doing up the country would be hard to beat.

 He owes nearly everybody from Paha on the east to Hatton on the west. North and south hill stretch from the Odessa neighborhood to Washtucna.

 All he left to satisfy his creditors is a cheap building covered by a lumbermen’s lien and a fourth class photograph gallery outfit that is mortgaged for more than it is worth.

 Fallgatter came here a few months ago with a camera, rented a room of Sam Armstrong and commenced taking pictures. As soon as he became acquainted he asked the St. Paul and Tacoma Lumber company for lumber, on credit, to put up a gallery. As he seemed to be a good rustler and stuck strictly to business he got it.

 In the meantime he had, by securing a few small loans, raised money enough to buy a new camera and other things needed to start a gallery. He told the Bruster brothers, the carpenters who put up his building, that he could not pay them for their work until fall and gave them a note for the amount owed them, secured by a mortgage on the outfit.

 It has been about two months since he put up the building. He has been doing some business right along but the “enormous expense” of starting up left him so short of money that he bought everything on credit that he could. Occasionally some creditor– generally an imaginary one– would press him for money and he would work the “rush act” on some acquaintance for a small amount.

 JA Fallgatter has skipped outWhen the Lindites got to comparing notes after his departure it was found that by borrowing money, making purchases on credit and “standing off” people who had worked for him he owed nearly every man in town and several of the women. The majority of these bills are small ones, ranging from a few cents to $5 or $10.

 Besides the stunts referred to above he had another one for connecting with cash and this one he worked on the country people. As soon as harvest commenced he traveled through the country taking farm views. Wherever he was given work he collected all he could on the pictures ordered as a guarantee of good faith and very few of these pictures were ever finished. He had been working that little graft for two or three weeks before making his sneak and is said to have made a nice little clean-up by it.

 It is very evident that Mr. Fallgatter did well here. He landed in Lind dead broke and is supposed to have left with not less than $500 in his jeans.

 Besides his numerous little bills he owed a few larger ones. He stuck Fred Irwin for $51, Jacob Koch for $28, N.B. Rathbone for $21, Dr. Smith for $30 and Riley Fry for $14.

 He owed Misses Ella Sturdivan $20 and Una Scott $15 for work in the gallery.

 When a later con artist showed up in Lind and relieved some suckers of money, the newspaper said the victims had been “Fallgattered.”

John A. Fallgatter’s biography is, as you might expect, somewhat murky and contains conflicting data. Born in Wisconsin ca. 1850, he was married twice, apparently fathered several children, and moved around a lot. He is on record as having lived in Afton, Iowa (1870), Buckeye, Kansas (1880), Lakin, Kansas (1900), Milton, Oregon (1908), Dufur, Oregon (1910), Redmond, Oregon (1911), Lynden, Washington (1920), and Everson, Washington (early 1920s).

In addition to working as a photographer, he was also a minister, a farmer, and a carpenter. He died in Northern State Hospital in Sedro -Woolley, May 29, 1924.








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My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni

September 9th, 2015 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Articles, Washington Reads No Comments »


My Sister’s Grave. By Robert Dugoni. (Seattle: Thomas & Mercer, 2014. 410 pp.)

Recommendation by Carolyn Petersen, Assistant Program Manager, Library Development

Tracey Crosswhite became a detective with the Seattle Police Department as a result of her younger sister’s murder. Tracey never was convinced that the man convicted and serving time for her sister’s murder was the true perpetrator. When Sarah’s remains are at last discovered, Tracey thought justice would be served at last.  Instead the repercussions for the small town in the Cascade Mountains where Tracey and Sarah grew up are not at all what Tracey expected.   This title is an engrossing cross between a murder mystery and a legal thriller. If you like books by Scott Turow and Nelson DeMille, then author Robert Dugoni is an author you should investigate.

ISBN-13: 978-1477825570

Available in the Pacific Northwest Collection at NW 813.6 DUGONI 2014
Braille and Digital Book editions available for Washington residents unable to read standard print through WTBBL.
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Washington Rural Heritage Volunteer Recognized for Excellence

September 9th, 2015 Evan Posted in Articles, Digital Collections No Comments »


Wanda Alderman (right), standing with Whitman County Library’s Patti Cammack.

Wanda Alderman, Friend and volunteer for Whitman County Library recently received an Outstanding Volunteer Award from The Washington State Genealogical Society recognizing her efforts to preserve important historic images and records for a number of agencies and projects including Washington Rural Heritage, the State Library’s  local history digitization program.

Volunteering for the library for nearly 7 years, Wanda has been the public face of the local project, tracking down hidden collections, interviewing contributors, documenting critical cataloging information, and providing community programs. Thanks in large part to Wanda’s efforts, Whitman County’s Rural Heritage collection contains nearly 4000 images and averages 4000 site visits per month.

Additionally, Wanda has volunteered for Find a Grave for 14 years, served as Bethel Cemetery secretary/treasurer for 10 years, transcribes records for Washington State Digital Archives, donates time and resources to the St. John Historical Society, and keeps scrapbooks for her alma mater Steptoe school.

Wanda is shown here, with Whitman County Library’s Rural Heritage project manager, Patti Cammack at a public program and open house this July promoting the digital collection. These two are truly leaders in the community digitization field, having digitized materials from more than a dozen partner institutions in Eastern Washington and more than 100 previously inaccessible family collections.  Thank you Wanda and Patti for championing our common heritage!

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New Digital Collection: Medical Lake Heritage

September 3rd, 2015 Evan Posted in Articles, Digital Collections No Comments »

Large format photography, Medical Lake Library, 2015. Scanning a men's wool bathing suit.A new digital collection from our Washington Rural Heritage program tells the story of Medical Lake—the inland Northwest’s first destination resort and spa community.  This collection of historical documents, photos, and cultural objects was digitized in 2014-2015 by the Medical Lake Library (Spokane County Library District) in partnership with the Medical Lake Historical Society.

Located 15 miles southwest of Spokane, Washington, Medical Lake was once lauded for its curative properties. The lake’s mineral waters were said to provide a cure for everything from “rheumatism” to “kidney complaints” to “skin diseases.” In the late 1800s and early 1900s, a bustling enterprise developed around the lake. Visitors came from far and wide, and an electric train connected the town to Spokane for a period. Medical Lake boasted several hotels, lakeside resorts, and a sanitarium that pumped lake water directly into its baths. In addition, the lake’s minerals were extracted and sold throughout the United States in the form of salts, tablets, soap, an ointment, and even a porous plaster. The water itself was bottled for export.

While the lake’s heyday was relatively brief, it helped firmly establish the town of Medical Lake, and its legacy and local historical interest endures.

Learn more about the history of Medical Lake at HistoryLink: Medical Lake: The Inland Empire’s First Spa.

Highlights from the collectionblog_boom include:

  • The Story of Medical Lake, a 1972 souvenir edition of the Cheney Free Press celebrating 100 years of Medical Lake history. This special edition constitutes an excellent local history of the area, providing profiles of early citizens, businesses, organizations, and community events.
  • Early newspapers from Medical Lake, including the Medical Lake Ledger and Medical Lake Enterprise.
  • Objects and artifacts from the Medical Lake Historical Society, including products incorporating mineral salts and extracts.

Congratulations to the Spokane County Library District for making this unique collection widely accessible for researchers, students, and the general public!

imls-logo-2c.jpgWashington Rural Heritage is supported with Library Services and Technology Act funding provided by the federal Institute for Museum and Library Services. To learn more about participating in Washington Rural Heritage, contact Evan Robb, Digital Repository Librarian at evan.robb@sos.wa.gov.

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Tribal Libraries in Washington receive grants from IMLS

September 2nd, 2015 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Tribal No Comments »

From the desk of Carolyn Petersen.Stillaguamish Tribal Library

The recent announcement of the IMLS Basic grants to Washington State tribes reveals the importance placed on learning by the Native America tribes of Washington State.

The following tribes applied and received the basic grant:

  • Kalispel Indian community of the Kalispel Reservation–Usk
  • Yakama Tribal Council—Toppenish
  • Lower Elwha Tribal community—Port Angeles
  • Lummi Indian Business Council—Bellingham
  • Suquamish Indian Tribe of the Port Madison Reservation–Suquamish
  • Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe—Sequim
  • Skokomish Indian Tribe of the Skokomish reservation—Skokomish Nation
  • Nooksack Indian Tribe—Deming
  • Hoh Indian Tribe—Forks
  • Nisqually Indian Tribe—Olympia
  • Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe—Tokeland
  • Port Gamble Band of S’Klallam tribe—Kingston
  • Samish Indian Nation—Anacortes
  • Squaxin Island Tribe—Shelton
  • Makah Indian Tribe of the Makah Indian Reservation—Neah Bay
  • Stillaguamish Tribe of Washington –Arlington

In addition to receiving basic grants two of Washington’s Tribal Libraries received special Enhancement Grants.

Yakama Tribal Council – Toppenish, WA

With this award, the Yakama Nation will revive the existing outdated library collection with relevant new books, and audio and video resources. The library staff will focus on professional development in cataloging, reading literacy, and collection development in order to facilitate, support, and assist patrons in meeting their information retrieval needs. The library will also collaborate with the Yakama Nation Tribal School to select readings to enhance student project-based learning research needs. The Yakama Nation envisions building upon their collaborative success by updating the library collection and promoting reading. These developments will enhance library programming, promote reading, and generate enthusiasm for reading at Head Start facilities and at library story hours.

Nisqually Indian Tribe – Olympia, WA

The Nisqually Tribe will utilize a StoryCorps recording studio within the tribal library to record the stories of tribal members. Trained staff will use the recording technology to facilitate sessions where tribal members exchange and share their stories with each other. These recordings will then become part of the knowledge the tribe can share from the tribal library’s collection and will be preserved for future generations.

Tribal libraries are spread all across the state and have a variety of missions.  Some serve as afterschool support for the youth of their tribe.  Others concentrate on early childhood literacy.  Yet others serves as their community’s public library.  Some tribal libraries support college programs both distance and on site while yet others  provide genealogy resources for individuals to prove tribal membership.   There are museum research collections. Some libraries provide resources to preserve their native language.  Each of these libraries is unique and reflects the values of its tribal community.

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Libraries and STEM learning

August 31st, 2015 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public 1 Comment »

Keva CityFrom the desk of Rand Simmons, Washington State Librarian

Do you consider those years in elementary, middle, or secondary school as the primary time you invested in learning? Perhaps you went on to college or graduate school. But, over the course of a person’s life only about 3% is spent in formal education.

Education is not the equivalent of learning although one hopes the two intersect. However, some who study learning believe that the most effective learning happens not in formal education environments but in informal settings.

Once called the “people’s university” the public library has filled an important role in society, that of facilitating informal learning. The goal of lifelong learning ranks high on many library mission statements. We know that once a person completes formal education he or she will continue to learn and it makes sense that they turn to public library and use its resources. Libraries remain a trusted place to learn.

Much of the STEM movement has focused on children and on encouraging girls to become engaged in science, technology, engineering and math. But, STEM is important to adults, too. Adults need to find and hold jobs, to enter STEM careers or simply to enrich one’s knowledge.

Sally Chilson, Spokane Public Library

Sally Chilson, Spokane Public Library

The Washington State Library has invested federal funds to purchase STEM kits – Legos to be exact – that circulate among rural libraries so that kids can experience the wonders of science. 3-D printer is a popular STEM educational tool in libraries. We recently purchased a well-loved Egg Bot (a friendly art robot that can draw on egg-shaped objects) and demonstrated it at the annual conference of the Pacific Northwest Library Association. (See this short You Tube video of the Egg Bot).

Another State Library STEM program is the Microsoft IT Academy, an online technology training program provided free to the residents of Washington through public, two-year academic and tribal libraries. The IT Academy is a partnership between the State Library/Secretary of State and Microsoft and is funded by the State Legislature. Over 15,000 state residents have accounts on the site and are taking advantage of the hundreds of online courses over the past two years.

Project manager Elizabeth Iaukea notes, “Every time a learner takes an IT Academy course they are engaging in STEM. Public libraries have been supporting STEM education for at least two decades.”

11699044_898830330182470_7504914450782232784_o“Libraries and museums are improving learning in science, technology, engineering and math, a national priority for US competitiveness.” (Institute of Museum and Library Services)

Rand Simmons and Elizabeth Iaukea recently attended the Public Libraries and STEM conference in Denver, CO.

According to State Librarian Rand Simmons, “Public libraries are amazing. They constantly adapt to meet societal needs. STEM addresses a national concern that the U.S. not fall behind in science, technology, engineering and math. Public libraries partnering with STEM industries and non-profits and government agencies that focus on STEM are part of the solution. Despite predictions of their demise public libraries remain viable and vibrant.”

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Visit the San Juan Islands – Winter and Spring 1907!

August 26th, 2015 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public No Comments »

From the desk of Marlys Rudeen – Deputy State Librarian

Traipsing through issues of the San Juan Islander for January-April 1907 is serious business.  For the islanders are a litigious lot and there seems to be a fair amount of news regarding lawyers, courts, suits and arrests in what we think of today as an idyllic vacation spot.  I’ve picked out a few events that struck me as interesting, but there is far more to be explored.

Feel free to browse through the issues for 1898-1914 on your own at the Chronicling America site,

(http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88085190/) at the Library of Congress.  Choose the link to ‘Browse’, then use the drop down to choose a year, and the calendar display to choose an issue.

Jan. 5, 1907

  1. 1 The first electric street light in Friday Harbor lights up the intersection of Spring and Main streets. Voluntary contributions from citizens will be necessary to purchase additional lights.  The paper takes the stance that incorporation is advisable in order to fund such civic improvements.

Jan. 12, 1907

  1. 1 The danger working in lumber mills is underlined by the report of the accident suffered by Dutton McNallie, a 19-year old, who lost his left arm to the planer at the Friday Harbor Mill.
  2. 3 Under the heading “No Women Politicians”, the paper quotes Pope Pius X where he exhorts women to do everything they can to care for the poor and uplift civilization, including education. “They should study everything, with, of course, the exception of theology.”  He continues that women should be lawyers, doctors and teacher, but should not enter politics.  “Women in Parliament!  The idea is preposterous.  Men there make blunders sufficient.”

Jan. 26, 1907

  1. 1 Former San Juan Co. resident, W. C. Boone, is in jail in Salem, OR, charged with bigamy. Also it seems his name is actually D. M. Richards.  He married a Miss McFadden in Salem on Sept. 15, 1906, failing to mention that he already had a wife in the Bellingham area (and several children) from whom he had never obtained a divorce.  It is also charged that when he married the wife in Bellingham, he already had a wife in Ohio.

The Whatcom County Bar Association has instituted proceeding for the disbarment of E. J. Grover.  Specific charges include misappropriation of funds and soliciting a bribe.  Grover is known for “having been associated with Mr. Garrett in the trial of the Wold-Ziegler cow case.”

The case of the McCrary Liquor License – whether or not to issue a liquor license to W. H. McCrary becomes a burning question in San Juan County.  There will charges and countercharges, sworn affadavits, lawyers and county commissioners weighing in over several months.  See “Officials Clash on License Question.”

Feb. 2, 1907

  1. 1 “McCrary Liquor License Held Up.”

Feb. 9, 1907

  1. 1 “The ‘Pirates of Penzance’ would have to ‘go away back and sit down’ if they were to come into competition with the fruit and produce commission pirates of Seattle. Compared with them the ‘Forty Thieves’ of the Arabian Nights were mere novices in the art of robbing the public.”

What sort of tactics do fruit and produce pirates employ?  An Orcas Island orchardist shipped 70 boxes of choice apples to the commission, for which he expected payment of about $60 according to current fruit prices.  After considerable time and several letters he went to Seattle and confronted the owner of the shop which had sold the fruit.  The shop owner admitted he had received the fruit in good order and sold it at good prices, but instead of paying the grower he had used the money in his business and so didn’t have it to make payment, and “what are you going to do about it?”  (Pirates, indeed!)

Street lights  – It turns out the single street light was being donated free for a couple months by the local power company.  Now they announce that it will be shut off unless someone raises the money to pay the monthly fee.

Feb. 16, 1907

  1. 1 “Special Meeting of Commissioners” (McCrary Liquor License.)

Feb. 23, 1907

  1. 1 An argument between citizens, A. Stoliker and Fred Peasley became heated, with such florid language that Mr. Peasely went so far as to attempt to have Mr. Stoliker placed “under bonds to keep the peace.” There was a hearing before Justice Oscar Bergman of the Valley Precinct. “While the evidence showed that the language used by Stoliker wasn’t indicative of a feeling of brotherly love toward Peasley and that it would be somewhat out of place in a Christian Endeavor meeting or high class literary symposium, it did not impress the justice as being of such a character as to indicate that Stoliker was really thirsting for Peasley’s gore… and he was accordingly discharged.”

Mar. 2, 1907

  1. 1 “A repeated Misstatement Corrected” (McCrary Liquor License.)
  2. 6 The current serialized novel is “The Iron Pirate” by Max Pemberton.iron pirate

Mar. 16, 1907

  1. “A Statement from Commissioner Sandwith.” (McCrary Liquor License.)

Also a new physician settle in Friday Harbor, Dr. George H. Shrodes.

Mar. 23, 1907

  1. 1 “Mr. Frits Demands a Retraction.” (McCrary Liquor License.)

Apr. 6, 1907

  1. 1 Another saloonkeeper, Fred Lightheart is acquitted in a case involving gambling in his saloon. “While the fact of gambling in the saloon was clearly established, the evidence failed to show that it was done with his knowledge or consent.”  (Perhaps they limited their play to darkened corners?)

Apr. 27, 1907

  1. 1 A proposed tax on dogs ($1 for a male, $2 for a female) is said to be unconstitutional by the attorney general. The county attorney had consulted him after the county commissioners proposed the tax.

Ed Gilshenan who was thought to be drowned in the San Juan Channel, turned up safe and sound at his home on Waldron Island.  He did indeed capsize, but managed to reach Brush Island.  Once there it took several days to flag down a steamer that picked him up and allowed him to find his way home.

I’ll leave the islands now but hope you will visit and make the acquaintance of the early citizens.  And in case you’re wondering, Mr. McCrary does indeed get his license, though I would be hard put to identify exactly where and when it happened.

The San Juan Islander was digitized through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities under the National Digital Newspaper Program.  The Islander and many other American newspapers can be found online at Chronicling America (chroniclingamerica.loc.gov) at the Library of Congress.

Additional newspapers for Washington can be found at Historic Newspapers (www.sos.wa.gov/legacy/newspapers.aspx) at the Washington State Library’s web site.  The State Library is a Division of the Office of the Secretary of State.


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Even boring machines can be interesting.

August 17th, 2015 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, State Library Collections No Comments »

With Big Bertha in the news on a regular basis we got to thinking about boring machines in general. Or rather, interesting boring machines.  One in particular comes to mind, from the historic coal mining community of Roslyn, Washington:


From Roslyn local historian, Sue Litchfield:

Steep-pitched mines predominated the Roslyn-Cle Elum Coal Field, making it more expensive to extract coal than the relatively flat coal seams in the east and Midwest. In an effort to cut costs Tom Murphy the mine’s general manager designed and built the N.W.I. Company’s coal boring machine. The boring machine was able to drill crosscuts and air tunnels in a third of the time required by conventional means. “Murphy earned recognition from engineers throughout America and other countries for his genius in coping with the problems of steep-pitch mining in the Roslyn Cle Elum Field,” wrote Cle Elum’s Miner Echo. “A boring machine, first put on paper about 1940 and finally constructed in the Roslyn shops about 2 years ago, was one of his pet projects. Employed at the No. 3 Mine, the machine has eliminated the expensive upkeep of ordinary main airways by boring them 42 inches in diameter through the coal.

These photos of the Northwest Improvement Company’s coal boring machine, as well as other mining machinery and equipment photos were digitized by the Roslyn Public Library with grant assistance from the Washington State Library. They are part of the Washington Rural Heritage Collection and come from the family photo collection of a descendant of Frank Badda, who worked for decades in the Roslyn mines, working his way up to the position of Superintendent until the last mine was closed in 1963.

Oh and back to Big Bertha, she does have one thing that the Roslyn boring machine lacked… a Twitter page.

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The Lives and Times of Bookmobile Librarians – A piece of our library history.

July 28th, 2015 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public 1 Comment »

bookmobile “Never were maidens more ardently pursued than we were by the elements in the pioneer days of rural bookmobiles in the great Pacific Northwest.”

Thus begins the December 1947 issue of the Library News Bulletin (LNB). The LNB was a publication of the Washington State Library from 1932 – 1975, and one that we have recently decided to digitize.  It contains the early history of the libraries of Washington State.  They have been silently lurking on a shelf near my desk and have only today made themselves known to me.  What a treasure trove they are for those of you interested in Library history.  In the spirit of Steve Willis I pulled the aforementioned issue off the shelf and discovered an entire “Bulletin” dedicated to Bookmobiles. In 1947 bookmobiles were apparently the hot ticket in Washington.  These staunch librarians ventured out all over the state, bringing books to their most remote patrons.  Here are a series of quotes from the issue, including stories that they reported from their rounds.

“’I have an emergency request,’ Declared a ten year old bookmobile patron.  “My penguin is sick.  Have you a book telling what to do for a sick penguin?” – Snohomish County Library.

When the cranberry growers on the Burrows Road were too busy to come to the bookmobile in the midst of harvest this fall, driver Charles Jackson and librarian Mary Botten walked out on the bogs and helped with the harvesting.” – Grays Harbor County Library

“’My wife wants this book renewed.’ “I’m sorry sir but I have another reservation for that book.  I shall have to keep it for the next reader.’ “Good enough for her, serves her right.  I told her she should be reading her books instead of moving the furniture around the house to some new place where nobody can find anything.’” – Snohomish County Library

“At one stop, a woman and her two children always arrive in the family ‘jeep.’  She was absent one day, and the bookmobile had traveled several miles when the driver heard a queer sound and looked back to discover that we were being chased by a jeep!” – Whatcom County Library.

“Along a lonely country road a lady, scarcely middle-aged, flagged the bookmobile. ‘Could I have library books?  I can’t get to any of the scheduled stops and I am so ill that there is nothing left for me to do but read.’  Dropsy, from which she is suffering has already developed to such an extent that boarding the bookmobile is physical impossibility.  Our schedule was already crowded.  An added stop threw off the whole day’s program.  So what?  There were always the few minutes assigned to lunch. We found a way.” – Snohomish County Library

“The traveling library again reaches the flats and there stands ‘Grandpap,” one-eyed and 90 years old, with his book-filled suitcase ready for exchange, A woman, nearly out of breath, hurries into the library gasping, ‘I was in Vancouver and I almost didn’t get back in time to meet you here and I just don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have anything to read.” – Clark County Library

“One of our patrons had trouble remembering when he should go to the bookmobile and always arrived just as we were pulling away from the stop.  One day he arrived exactly on time and someone asked him how it happened.  ‘Oh,’ he replied, ‘my wife sets the alarm for me now, so I’ll know when to leave the house.’” – Whatcom county Library

“At one of our stops the patrons rate only second in our affections.  A little golden cocker spaniel is always there to greet us.  He barks his welcome and wags his tail impatiently until the door is opened, and in he jumps to receive our words of greeting.  After a quick inspection to be sure everything is ship-shape and the librarian and driver on deck, he skips out, quite satisfied that he has exercised true community spirit by recognizing and appreciating the new bookmobile and its staff.” – Snohomish County Library. 

Now a days we reach our patrons on bicycles, at festivals, by email, through electronic chat, and on and on.  These bookmobile stories are just an early example of what we did and what we still do as librarians. We go where our patrons are.  Have a good story to share of going that “extra mile” for your patrons?  Tell us in the comments.

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