Our History

From its earliest days the Coeur d’Alene Public Library has existed because of community, grassroots support. The library was born out a need recognized by a local club and contributions from the citizens of Coeur d’Alene.

  • Oct. 14, 1904: The Coeur d’Alene Woman’s club was established with Mrs. James Spalding as its first president. The club’s purpose was to sponsor a public library for the city of Coeur d’Alene. The membership of 48 women got the ball rolling.
  • Feb. 8, 1905: A reception was given by the Woman’s Club at Blackwell Park (now City Park) to collect books as the nucleus for the library. The event garnered 235 books, five magazine subscriptions and numerous back issues. History tells us a wheelbarrow was used to haul the donations away.
  • April 10, 1905: The Coeur d’Alene Public Library opened its doors in the store of E.B. Keller and Company two doors east of the intersection of Fourth Street and Sherman Avenue. Owners E.B. Keller and Charles Dittmore donated three shelves. Miss Anna Elderkin was in charge of the Library – open 2-4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
  • Nov. 18, 1905: The Woman’s Club began collecting “A Mile of Pennies” for a fund to establish a reading room and library. Donations by the measurement called for: 1 foot = 16 cents; 1 yard = 48 cents; 1 rod = $2.64; and one mile = $884.40.
  • Dec. 2, 1905: The library prepared to move into three rooms in the Exchange National Bank Building on the southwest corner of Fourth Street and Sherman Avenue. At this point the volume of books rose to 500 and new books were being added. The new space allowed for both a library and a reading room.
  • Dec. 3, 1907: Circulation for the library for the previous November was reported at 1,548, seventeen new books were added and 60 new patrons were registered.
  • Jan. 6, 1908: The Woman’s Club asked the public for its support and asked the City of Coeur d’Alene to take the library under its wings.
  • Sept. 10, 1908: The library quit lending books and asked that all patrons return their materials by Sept. 20. A lack of funding from the city forced the women to close the Library on Sept. 15.
  • Sept. 16, 1908: The Woman’s Club decided to try to keep the Library open during evening hours.
  • Sept. 28, 1908: The club began fund raising to equip and furnish the new Library once it moved to its new location at City Hall at the southwest corner of Fifth Street and Sherman Avenue. (By coincidence the Coeur d’Alene Public Library Foundation’s office was – until last month – also housed in the former City Hall.)
  • Feb. 24, 1909: The library moves into its new quarters where the room, lights and furnishings were provided by the city.
  • May 11, 1909: The City of Coeur d’Alene accepts the responsibility of maintaining the library from the Coeur d’Alene Woman’s Club.
  • Oct. 27, 1927: Library records indicate it has 15,550 patrons; 50,000 circulation and about 20,000 users at the reading room.
  • April 16, 1945: The City of Coeur d’Alene accepts the deed to three lots and a large brick building at 703 Lakeside Ave. to be used as the City Library donated by Ralph S. and Jeanette Nelson. (The Ralph and Jeanette Nelson Memorial Room remains a feature in the new Library.)
  • Oct. 6, 1945: An informal open house gives North Idaho residents a chance to take a look at the new Coeur d’Alene Public Library. The official opening date for the new site was Monday, Oct. 8, 1945.
  • Oct. 27, 1945: The first story hour for children was offered 1-2 p.m. Mrs. Elmer Sellers, Children’s Librarian, read and told stories to the children.
  • March 14, 1983: The Coeur d’Alene Public Library along with other City Departments faced a hard financial year.
  • Aug. 16, 1983: By careful budgeting and donations from citizens, the library remained open.
  • Jan. 2, 1986: Dedication ceremonies were held for the new library at 201 E. Harrison Ave. – the former offices of Louisiana Pacific and GTE.
  • Feb. 1, 1987: An addition to the north side of the building – including a wheelchair access ramp to the Children’s and Young Adult libraries – was dedicated. The addition was funded through community contributions.
  • July 1987: The Library’s Human Rights Collection is established through funds from the Raoul Wallenberg Civic Award.
  • June 1989: Friends of Libraries USA awards the Coeur d’Alene Public Library a national First Place for libraries serving cities up to 300,000 people.
  • Sept. 26 – Oct. 2, 1994: The Coeur d’Alene Public Library celebrates its 90th birthday with a week of activities.
  • Nov. 1, 1995: The Coeur d’Alene Public Library Foundation, Inc., is created to raise funds to build a new library. Professional and businesspeople committed to the value of a library for the city accepted positions as the Foundation Board.
  • Aug. 15, 2000: The Coeur d’Alene City Council unanimously approves locating the library on city-owned property north of City Hall and east of McEuen Field. The Council agrees to continue funding maintenance and operation of the Library.
  • April 2001: The Library Foundation in cooperation with the Lake City Development Corporation – the city’s urban renewal agency – purchases property bordered by Front and Mullan avenues and Seventh and Eighth streets adjacent to the site approved by the Council. Plans call for the needed land for parking to be shared between the library and City Hall.
  • Aug. 22, 2001: The Coeur d’Alene City Council approved the overall “footprint” for the civic corridor including City Hall and the new Library. The plan includes traffic patterns, pedestrian paths and green space to provide access to the adjacent McEuen Playfield.
  • Feb. 6, 2002: The Library Foundation selects Architects West of Coeur d’Alene to design the new library based on the previously completed programming design by DeBartolo Architects.
  • Oct. 25, 2002: At a meeting of the Coeur d’Alene Rotary Club, Kevin Jester of Architects West unveiled the design for the new library. This 54,000 square-feet design is a three-story brick and stone building in with a classic Northwest Lodge look.
  • June 6, 2004: Then Library celebrates 100 years of service to the community with a birthday party at City Hall hosted by the Library staff, the Library Board of Trustees, the Friends of the Library, the Library Foundation and the Coeur d’Alene Woman’s Club – still going strong after a century and still supporting the Coeur d’Alene Public Library.
  • Oct. 5, 2004: The Coeur d’Alene City Council unanimously approved sending a $3 million library bond issue to city voters – along with a $7 million public safety bond – on Feb. 1, 2005. Based on community surveys, the Library Foundation decided to seek a public vote in support of a more compact two-story building design. The foundation kicks off a bond campaign with the slogan “The Library is Overdue.”
  • Feb. 1, 2005: A supermajority of Coeur d’Alene voters, 68.2 percent of the voters, approved the $3 million library bond. The Library Foundation continues its capital campaign to raise the additional $3.6 million needed for the building.
  • May 18, 2005: The City Council approves vacating portions of two streets, Seventh Street and Mullan Avenue, near City Hall to consolidate the property to be used by the new library and its parking lot. The Library Foundation continues its campaign urging contributors to “Leave a Legacy at the Library,” with naming opportunities in the new facility.
  • Feb. 25, 2006: the Library Foundation is selected to receive a $100,000 challenge grant from the Paul Allen Family Foundation. The Library Foundation had raised about $600,000 of its $1.4 million goal to begin construction. Soon after the project receives $100,000 from John and Ann Beutler and $200,000 from Coeur d’Alene Mines.
  • April 5, 2006: City of Coeur d’Alene crews begin site preparations for the new building. Trees and bushes are removed and sewer and water lines extended to accommodate the structure. Architects West has scaled the planned building back to 38,500 square feet.
  • May 16, 2006: Leone and Keeble Construction of Spokane are approved as the primary contractor for the construction.
  • June 2, 2006: Groundbreaking ceremonies are held for the new library project. During the ceremony it is announced Coeur d’Alene car dealership owner Doug Parker is contributing $330,000 to the building fund in memory of his late wife Shirley. The Parker family had previously donated $75,000 to the project to establish the Shirley Parker Children’s Theater in the library for total donations from the family of $405,000. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe also announced a donation of $25,000.
  • Jan. 26, 2007: The library goes online as a fully integrated partner of the Cooperative Information Network. The consortium of North Idaho and Eastern Washington libraries shares a single library card and a catalog of nearly 500,000 items. CIN patrons can access their accounts to place holds on items and to request materials be delivered to their home library from other CIN libraries.
  • Aug. 26, 2007: Public operations end at the Harrison Avenue building. The library is closed for two weeks as the collection and furnishings are moved to the new library on Front Avenue and operations there are set up.
  • Sept. 9, 2007: The public dedication of the new Coeur d’Alene Public Library is held. The first full day of public operations in the new building will be Sept. 10.

This history of the Coeur d’Alene Public Library is based in part on information compiled by Suzanne Podrabsky, Library Administrative Assistant, and David Townsend, Library Communications Coordinator.