Ninety years ago, when the Washougal Women’s Club opened the first library in downtown Camas, they may not have known the impact they would be making on future generations of Camasonians.
That first library was housed in Arthur Thayer’s drug store, located across the street from the paper mill’s offices. The facility loaned out books donated by local residents, and the state’s traveling library.
Since that time, the library has gone through a number of transformations. Among the most significant was in 1939, when voters in the small town of Camas approved a bond to build the original library/city hall facility on Northeast Fourth Avenue. It was constructed as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. Then, nearly 60 years later, the city’s voters again approved a bond to fund the construction of a the new 30,000 square foot library facility that exists today.
As Camas has grown, so has its library. And the city’s residents have continued to demonstrate that it’s an important part of their community.
Why do libraries remain popular? The answer is both complex and simple. Libraries have adapted a great deal over the years — keeping up with changes in technology and demographics. But in general, libraries have remained true to a core mission of serving a variety of ages and interests. Libraries are places where people connect.
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center supports this notion.
The survey reported that 91 percent of Americans ages 16 and older say public libraries are important to their communities; and 76 percent say libraries are important to them and their families. And, the survey said, libraries are “touchpoints” in their communities: 84 percent of Americans ages 16 and older have been to a library or bookmobile at some point in their lives.
In April and May, the Camas Public Library will be celebrating its 90th birthday. It will be a time to appreciate the positive impacts the library has had on the community, and will continue to have in the years to come.