Puyallup is a community that embraces its heritage and wants to preserve its history. The fact more than 100 people attended our special August program to honor Puyallup’s first librarian, Eliza Jane Meeker, is certainly evidence for that.
The fact that the current library was designed with a local history room also is a tangible manifestation of the importance that Puyallup places on preserving its past.
Preservation is the key word here. You may recall the tragedy that occurred on July 6, when the derailment of a train carrying crude oil caused fires that killed an estimated 47 people and destroyed dozens of buildings in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, including the library and its unique and irreplaceable local history archive.
“The library started gathering historical documents and personal effects from residents in 1996, and the collection had since grown to include everything from local social club records to the earliest known photos of the town, to information about Donald Morrison, a Lac-Mégantic resident and notorious 19th century outlaw,” according to Library Journal magazine.
Sadly, the library may never know the full extent of the loss as many materials had come in fairly recently and had not been cataloged.
Had Lac-Mégantic’s archives been digitized, its contents would not be lost, not just to the town’s residents but also to writers, historical and genealogical researchers and others from around the world. While we would not have access to the physical images and documents themselves, we would at least still have access to the information through the digital copies.
We certainly aren’t planning on a lahar any time soon, but the urgent need to preserve Puyallup’s history and to make the photos and documents available to anyone online is very apparent.
Earlier this year, the Puyallup Public Library embarked on a project to begin digitizing our historical records, beginning with our photos. A generous matching grant kickstarted the project, but now the library needs to move to the next level.
The Puyallup Library Foundation will celebrate the library’s 100th anniversary Oct. 19 with a community open house and birthday party designed to raise funds to continue the work to preserve Puyallup’s heritage. The event will begin at 4 p.m. with a presentation by cartoonist Stephan Pastis, creator of the comic strip “Pearls Before Swine.”
The event will continue into the evening with an opportunity to meet and have books signed by a number of Pacific Northwest authors, including Bonnie Becker, Laura McGee Kvasnosky and Suzanne Selfors, along with many more.
There is no admission charge, but there will be plenty of opportunities to help. We’ve heard many of you would pay almost anything for a chance to climb into the library’s clock tower. For a minimum $25 donation, you will be able to do just that on Oct. 19. As a bonus, when you get up there, you will be able to visit with Thomas Britanyek, the individual who installed and still maintains the chimes that mark the hours in Pioneer Park.
We’ll have a special quilt, original art by Pastis and other items available for sale. You also can purchase a memorial brick or tile.
Of course, our history room will be open, and representatives from the Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion, as well as the South Hill Historical Society, will be available to answer questions.
The library will remain open through 8 p.m. I invite you to join us in the celebration.Tim Wadham is the director of the Puyallup Public Library. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.