Camas Public Library turns 90

Events will help mark 'living room’s' milestone

In 2002, construction crews worked to install the “crystal corridor” skylight inside the Camas Public Library building on Northeast Fourth Avenue. The library’s remodel and new addition, funded with a $7.9 million voter approved bond, opened to the public in May 2003. This month and next month, a series of activities will mark the 90th birthday of the library, and National Library Week.

For the past 90 years, the Camas Public Library has been a community destination.

Often referred to as the “living room of Camas,” by staff, the library is a place to study, meet people, learn, and it also serves as a cultural center.

The library first opened in the back of Thayer’s drugstore in April 1923. The 90th birthday celebration also coincides with National Library Week, which begins Sunday. There are a number of events planned to celebrate both occasions.

“We’re emphasizing that with some of the events we’re offering,” said David Zavortink, director. “It’s the ‘third place,’ after home and work.”

Some of the events include hugging the library, a book fair, a library sleepover, Friends and Foundation used book sale, several webinars, and a big celebration to close out festivities on Saturday, May 11.

To keep the “living room” feel of the library, when a bigger facility was planned 15 years ago, it was decided that it was worth the extra cost to keep it in a central downtown location.

Zavortink, who is in his 19th year as library director, describes the old facility as small and noisy.

“It was cramped, worn and not ready for the future,” he said.

Debbie Chevron, library associate of 30 years, recalls needing to regularly check the water level in the boiler room.

“When the boiler kicked in, the entire floor used to shake,” she said. “Staff doesn’t miss that.”

Despite the continuing changes technology brings, for the most part, library patrons’ needs and behaviors have remained the same, according to Zavortink, although the methods for getting information are different.

“As library staff have delved into the history, I think we’ve realized two things: libraries change, and libraries stay the same,” he said. “We do know that for the time being, people still want physical books, magazines and newspapers. Libraries have survived all the “threats” of the past, such as moving pictures, television, movies and video games. There is no reason to think that libraries will succumb to ebooks.”

“The library will remain a place to meet friends and socialize,” he continued. “It may become even more like a 17th century coffeehouse, and be a place where people can meet and share ideas and learn from each other.”

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