Coupeville library celebrates half-century mark

The Coupeville Library of yesteryear on Front Street.  - Courtesy photo
The Coupeville Library of yesteryear on Front Street.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The Coupeville Library has hopped from building to building over the years, but one thing has been the same for the past half century: the library has always been a focal point for the Central Whidbey community.

The library will celebrate its 50th anniversary with the Sno-Isle Libraries rural district from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15 at the Coupeville Farmers Market in the field next to the library at 788 NW Alexander St.

Local residents are welcome to bring photos to the event to reminisce about the library’s first 50 years, share their stories of how the library has impacted their lives at an open mic, enjoy refreshments, music, a treasure hunt and a time capsule and learn the history of the library.

A library in Coupeville first took roots in 1883 when the Women’s Christian Temperance Union organized a reading room on Main Street. In 1916, the library was relocated to a building on Front Street that no longer exists. It moved to Coupeville Town Hall in 1958 and was incorporated with Sno-Isle in 1962.

“I started when we were in two rooms of the town hall and I was the only employee,” said Carol Dyer, the managing librarian from 1968 to 1998.

Housed with other town employees, it was a tight squeeze. If the bathroom was occupied, then the police couldn’t access their office. The bathroom also doubled as a storage room for back issues of magazines, Dyer said.

Leslie Franzen, current branch manager for the Coupeville Library, started there as a library page at age 16.

“I call myself the homegrown component of Sno-Isle. It definitely was a great job as a page in high school and throughout my entire library career,” Franzen said.

She later left the community for a time before returning to work at the library.

When the post office moved from the building that now houses Ciao restaurant, the library booked into its new quarters, which also housed the law library, in 1985. The library called that location home from 1985 to 1988 before moving to its current location but in a now remodeled building.

At the time, the location on Alexander Street was a hay field with no homes in sight.

“It was a huge effort on the part of the community to get the building built,” Franzen said, adding that the Coupeville Festival Association donated the land and the Friends of the Library did “everything from bake sales to parades” to raise money for the project.

Lew Naddy, then Coupeville mayor, spearheaded the project, and Margie Parker led the Friends of the Coupeville Library in raising $40,000 for interior furnishings – a huge amount of money back in 1987, Franzen said.

“This community has always been about community building and loving the library,” Franzen said. Ten years of working for Coupeville schools and the library at the same time yielded community connections that helped build the foundation for partnerships that exist today, Franzen said.

She attributes the community bonds to Dyer and her husband, Darrell, who was a Coupeville High School shop teacher. Darrell and his students built shelving for the library, among other projects.

“Through great customer service for 30 years she helped bring more people through the library doors to the love of reading,” Franzen said. “Carol and Darrell were very influential in teaching me the love of this community and what it means to provide great customer service from the heart.”

The library has always been connected to the community through educational classes. It has held Early Release Day programs for students for 15 years and expanded its programs for teenagers. Now, the library hosts a number of programs per week, which can be found at

The library’s current building, still on Alexander Street, was remodeled and built in 2010. Two bond measures needed to be passed on the August 2008 ballot in order to build the more expansive building.

“Never in my life did I think I would build a library,” Franzen laughed.

After months of community work through the Coupeville Farmers Market educational booth, parades and a variety of other events to educate the public, the ballot measures were approved.

Franzen attributed the success to the library’s ties to the community as more than 300 people were involved, including the Town of Coupeville, Sno-Isle Libraries, Friends of the Library and many Central Whidbey groups.

While building was in progress, the library made a temporary move to the Au Sable Institute, now called the Pacific Rim Institute, south of Coupeville. After being used to 2,600 square feet, all 580 square feet of the institute were well used during the eight months they were there, Franzen said. It was dubbed the “Little Library on the Prairie.”

“It kind of brought me back to what I started in,” Franzen laughed.

“The newly remodeled Coupeville Library building turned out ‘beyond our dreams,’ largely due to the planning of the Coupeville Library board, a Sno-Isle and community building committee and the magic of Lewis Architects & Stig Carlson Architecture,” Franzen said.

“We got something that’s benefiting the community by leaps and bounds.

“And we’ve got something that people from around the Northwest are coming to see. People walk through the front door and say, ‘Wow!’” she added.

In its early years, the Coupeville Library experience wasn’t quite the same as it is now. The first library cards weren’t used until 1985. Before that, librarians stamped the books and signed them out.

Getting a book from another Sno-Isle branch wasn’t so simple, either. Deliveries occurred once per month when Dyer started working for the library; now, deliveries are six days a week.

There were no card catalogs and the microfiche was always three months behind.

“It was marvelous because it was the first time patrons could see what was in the system,” Dyer said.

While in the old library building on Alexander Street, the library had two computers, one for the public and one for librarians.

“And that was the beginning of that era,” Franzen said. Now, 19 computers educate patrons every day, complete with wireless Internet service.

The library has seen a number of other changes throughout the years. Loaning videos brought in a different clientele when that service began in the mid-1980s.

Then the Internet in the late 1990s “opened up a whole new world of resources for the smaller libraries who didn’t have that,” Franzen said, adding that online databases to which the library subscribes for the public’s use later offered the community trustworthy resources.

Downloading books, movies and music for eReaders is the newest trend.

“Books are not going away. It’s a new option people are embracing and enjoying if they know how,” Franzen said, adding that the library offers classes and one-on-one instruction for downloading electronic media.

Offering self-checkout for library items made quite an impact.

“It’s huge to have people doing that for themselves,” Franzen said.

Regardless of the changes in technology, one thing has never changed: the library is here for the benefit of the community, Franzen said.

It’s all about the “spirit of assisting,” she added. “It can be anything from ‘I want a good book’ to legal help to downloading to a Kindle.”

From celebrating the good times to being an open ear in the not-so-good times, “it really is about being part of peoples’ lives,” Franzen said, adding that she sees families who grew up coming to the library and now bring their own children.

“I dried a lot of tears,” Dyer said of her time as a librarian.

“It’s that connection with people. To me, it’s very important we are connected with people because it’s the lifeblood of the library,” Franzen said. “We’re a community center at the heart of this community and it’s really about serving this community.”

Franzen would like to thank the community committee that put together the anniversary event, and sponsors Friends of the Coupeville Library, Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation and Coupeville Farmers Market.

Franzen asks that anyone who has been using the Coupeville Library for the past 50 years contact her either at the event or before by calling 678-4911.

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