From the desks of Rand Simmons, State Librarian, and Steve Willis, Manager for the Central Library.
We celebrate National Library Week by harkening back to our founding 160 years ago. The Washington Territorial Library, the predecessor to the Washington State Library, was born from the Organic Act of 1853 which established the Washington Territory. Section 17 states that “the sum of five thousand dollars … be expended by and under the direction of the governor of Washington, in the purchase of a library, to be kept at the seat of government for the use of the governor, legislative assembly, judges of the supreme court, secretary, marshal, attorney of the territory, and such other persons and under such regulations as shall be prescribed by law.” $5,000 was the same amount appropriated for the erection of suitable buildings at the seat of government (section 13.)
An inflation calculator indicates that $5,000 US dollars in 1853 would be the approximate equivalent of $147,058 US dollars in 2012. Never mind that the dollars are too short to build a government building or equip a library. What is important in the value the US Congress placed in the importance of a library in the Territory. The Washington State Territorial Library was the first public historical-cultural institution in the Washington Territory. And we are still here.
160 might seem like a humdrum number to celebrate, but in many ways the past dozen years have been the most challenging in the history of WSL. In observing this birthday we not only honor the efforts of our library staff predecessors but also recognize our success in continuing to provide quality service in spite of massive budget cuts.