If you’ve come by the Puyallup Public Library recently, you may have noticed some new displays in the lobby area. Thanks to some very creative and hard-working library staff members, the Lakewood Historical Society and Museum and the Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion, we have items on display that celebrate more than 100 years of Puyallup Library History.
In one of the display cases, you can find some treasures from our local history room, including a PPL patron register from 1914 and an Annual Report to the State Library of our holdings and circulation numbers from 1912. You can also see a timeline that traces the history of the library with photos and documents.
When you come into the library, look up to see historical quilts hanging from the railing of the bridge that connects the two areas on the second floor.
This year, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the first library building in Puyallup, the Carnegie building, and also the formation of the Puyallup Public Library as an official city department.
However, even before then, there was a library in Puyallup.
Puyallup’s first library was the Meeker log cabin, and since then, Puyallup’s library has been located in Pioneer Park, right in the heart of the community.
In the 1860s, Ezra Meeker’s wife, Eliza Jane, began a lending library from the cabin. What is particularly interesting is that, in addition to books, Eliza Jane lent magazines as well.
In our timeline, we have a list of the magazines that were available, some of which are still being published more than 100 years later, and you can still read them today on the second floor of the library in our magazine area.
For the record, the remaining magazines from Eliza Jane Meeker’s list to which we still subscribe are: Atlantic Monthly, founded in 1857 as a venue for literary and cultural commentary; Cosmopolitan, first published in 1886 as a family-oriented magazine (it did not morph into its current iteration as a woman’s magazine until the 1960s); Harper’s Magazine, which debuted in 1850 and holds the record as the second-oldest continually published magazine in the United States. Finally, you can still read Popular Science, which was founded in 1872 with the mission of disseminating scientific knowledge to the layperson, and it still continues that mission today.
When you look at the full list, it says a great deal about the community and what was important to them. The Meekers’ cabin truly was the doorway to the world for those early settlers in the days before the Internet and instantaneous information, as the magazines provided a glimpse into the events and thoughts of the larger world around them.
The fact that our current library was built by citizens to be Puyallup’s library, with a mission to serve the heart of the community and the doorway to the world, says a lot about what is important to this community today.
This fall, look for a whole series of events that will celebrate our 100th anniversary. At 2 p.m. Aug. 24, we invite you to join us for a specially commissioned performance from historian, storyteller and performer Karen Haas, who will portray our city’s first librarian, Eliza Jane Meeker. In September, we will inaugurate the first Puyallup Festival of Books, and we’re thrilled to host two amazing fantasy authors, Susan Cooper and Ursula K. LeGuin, on Sept. 27-28. Look for more information about the event very soon.
You also can look forward to a community celebration and reception on Oct. 19, when we will highlight our local history collection and raise funds to match a grant from Jerry Korum’s Foundation to help us digitize the collection and preserve it online.
We’ll see you at the library.Tim Wadham is the director of the Puyallup Public Library and can be reached at 253-841-5452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.