50th celebration stacks up with 1960s fun

Tigard Librarian Ann Hicks looks over books for the newly opened Tigard Public Library from 1965. The library is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a party next weekend.The 1960s were an important decade. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, Neil Armstrong made one giant leap for mankind, and the Tigard Public Library checked out its first book.

OK, that last one might not have been world-wide news, but the library — which turns 50 years old next week — has been a vitally important part of the community for decades and is throwing itself a 50th birthday bash.

On Sunday, Nov. 3, the library will be celebrating with a blast-from-the-past birthday party including a performance by Portland-based Johnny Limbo and the Lugnuts.

The library has had several homes in the past five decades.

Its original location was on Main Street, inside the then-City Hall, before moving to its own building in the 1970s.

In 1986, the library moved to the Tigard Civic Center — which stands where the current Tigard City Hall exists today — before moving to its current home on Hall Boulevard in 2004.

The library has also had a colorful history in some of its locations, to say the least.

Check it out

What: 50th anniversary party, with music, food

Where: 13500 S.W. Hall Blvd., in Tigard

When: Sunday, Nov. 3, from 2 to 4 p.m.

It’s second location at 12568 S.W. Main St., was a bit of an adventure, recalled longtime employee Amy Emery, who works in acquisitions.

“When you would turn on lights, you could see the mice scurry off,” Emery said. “The floors were all uneven.”

That’s not all. The ceiling fell in at one point, and the floors sunk.

But it was also a lot of fun, remembered Terri Smith, senior library assistant for youth services.

“The library used to have a pet hamster, and we would check it out to the kids to take home on weekends,” she said.

Speaking volumes

The library has been through a lot in its 50 years.

It saw the decline of card catalogs, and the rise of the Internet.

“There were raging debates about whether or not we should even have computers in the library,” said the library’s communication director, Paula Walker. “There was a lot of doom and gloom that they would be the end of libraries.”

Computers have become a popular commodity in the library. Many library patrons rely on the library’s computers for Internet access.

“We’ve seen it grow from an infant to a toddler to now a full-fledged adult,” Smith said.

The library was first approved by the City Council on Oct. 28, 1963.

The library was the work of the Tigard Women’s Club, who pushed for the library’s creation in 1963.

The group was joined by local organizations, who held book drives to collect the materials for the city’s first library.

Smith, who grew up in Tigard, helped collect books for the first library, asking for donations around her neighborhood.

“The city’s first librarian, Ann Hicks, was my neighbor,” Smith said, “We all got brown paper bags and went door-to-door and asked for books, and then stored them in her garage.”

When the first library opened, it had 1,011 books on its shelves, Walker said.

Those numbers have steadily grown over the years. Today, the Tigard Public Library boasts a quarter-of-a-million books, CDs and movies.

On average, the library serves more than 59,260 patrons a year.

In 2012, the library closed its doors one day a week due to city budget cuts. Those numbers have caused a dip in total numbers, but on average, the library sees more than 1,400 visitors each day. And those numbers continue to rise.

“Our usage keeps going up,” Walker said.

‘Checkout’ the party

Partygoers will have a chance to get into the spirit of the 1960s with Chex Mix and more.

The get-together will feature birthday cake, board games, craft projects for the kids and a concert by oldies revival Portland-based nostalgic rock band Johnny Limbo and the Lugnuts.

The band’s frontman, Johnny Limbo — whose real name is Jerry Hofmann — has lived in Metzger for decades.

There will also be a large timeline showcasing the library’s history. Patrons will be asked to mark their first visit to the library on the timeline.

“We will see how long people have been coming here,” Walker said. “Did a whole bunch of them show up in the 70s? How many people are coming for the first time at the party?”

After the party, things will just be getting warmed up. Plans are in the works for a yearlong list of events and activities celebrating literature and literacy, including the Oregon Reads tribute to poet William Stafford before culminating in August 2014 for another party, celebrating 10 years at its current location.

Smith said that after more than 20 years working in the library, she still loves coming to work.

“I am very proud of this place and grateful to be working with so many beautiful people,” she said. “Now our patrons are bringing their kids, and they are starting to bring their kids. That’s what makes us different. We care so much about them, and it’s those long-term relationships that build your community.”

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