In 1914 several women started The Priscilla Club, a women’s group devoted to learning, which was the forerunner of Ridgefield’s first library. In 1994 the books were moved hand-to-hand by Ridgefield residents from the original building on South Main Street (see photo) to the citizen built Community Center where it is located today. When I joined The Friends of the Ridgefield Library (FOL) in 1995 it was run by less than a handful of volunteers led by Birgitta Stone. It was Birgitta who kept The Friends alive for several years. The Ridgefield FOL was so small that at the first meeting I went to I excused myself to go to the ladies’ room and when I returned I’d been elected vice president.
The FOL are the supportive arms of our libraries. We raise funds to help our librarians reach their goals of buying books and supplies and programs (all free to the public) to enhance the life experiences of both children and adults. In Ridgefield we’re the ones who have the book sale every year and have the book shelf in the entrance of the Community Center… with all the profits going right back into our community. We have been working extra hard since Sean McGill arrived as our librarian because Sean is a high energy advocate for every person who walks into or contacts the library regardless of interest or age. Ask our Police Chief about the Sean Effect on teen crime downtown! Sean’s biggest problem is our tiny facility which makes it so very difficult to fulfill his dreams and the dreams of our patrons.
Nancy Tessman, the director of Fort Vancouver Library District came to a meeting a few months ago and told us that we were deemed one of three libraries most in need of a new facility, and that they are going to give us $500,000.00 toward getting one. We must raise the remainder of the funding for the new structure. In our case that means approximately $4 to $5 million. Whew! Yes, we will apply for some grants, but first we must show that our city is willing to help raise funds to make this dream come true. We need your help. We need money, of course, but just as important are your ideas for and your participation in upcoming fund raising events. You can help by joining the Friends of the Library (applications are right on the library counter); giving a bit of your time; coming to or hosting events and spreading the word. Our meetings are at the library the second Wednesday of each month and open to all. Ridgefield has a wonderful history of community participation making the impossible possible! Please check here on the blog and at the library for more information about how you can help make our new library a reality.
Ilia Wilken, President of the Ridgefield Friends of the Library