Bainbridge Public Library turns 50

Voracious reader Elsa Knowlton emerges from the Bainbridge Public Library with a stack of books and other media. The library kicks off a year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary with a community event March 17.  - Joel Sackett / Courtesy Photo
Voracious reader Elsa Knowlton emerges from the Bainbridge Public Library with a stack of books and other media. The library kicks off a year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary with a community event March 17.
— image credit: Joel Sackett / Courtesy Photo

Bainbridge Public Library 50th anniversary Open House

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 17 at the Bainbridge Public Library, 1270 Madison Ave.

10:30 a.m. Jell-O Art Contest

Make a creative piece of art made only out of Jell-O and Jell-O boxes. Jell-O art with a literary theme is encouraged, but not mandatory. Bring your creation to the library between 9 and 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 17. Judging starts at 11 a.m.

1 p.m. Student Bookmark Contest Awards. Celebrate the art and haiku entries of Bainbridge students grades K-8 with awards and refreshments. Library Meeting Room.

2 p.m. Book talk by Martha Bayley: Best Books of the Last 50 Years. Library Meeting Room.

3 p.m. 50th Anniversary Birthday Cake. Join us for cake and a community photo with photographer Joel Sackett. Main Library.

7:30 p.m. Island Theatre will produce Edward Albee’s 1962 play, “Everything in the Garden” in the Meeting Room.


Throughout the day in the Library:

Create the Future (2062): What do you think the library will look like in 2062? Share your thoughts and visions.

Share the Present (2012): Joel Sackett photography exhibit: “A Look at the Library on its 50th Year.”

Celebrate the Past (1962): Fashions, photos, artifacts, books, music, trivia. Take a picture in our old-style photo booth.

In the Chidren’s Room: Children’s Librarian Carmen Rau has planned fun-packed activities including crafts and displays.



Library turns 50

Bainbridge photographer and Island Treasure Joel Sackett said he’s been “working in two time zones” these last six weeks.

Contracted to document activity at the Bainbridge Public Library in preparation for its 50th anniversary, he wandered the aisles with an eye on the present and the future.

“What I’m really asking is ‘What is this going to look like 50 years from now?’” he said Tuesday in the library’s meeting room.

If pictures are worth a thousand words, the

40 black-and-white images he has assembled will tell volumes about the community and its relationship to the library.

“I take my cues from historic photos,” he said. “I’m distilling from the present so that it reads well. I’m thinking about how something’s going to look to future generations.”

Visitors to the library’s full-day celebration Saturday, March 17 will get to see an exhibit of the photos displayed on the bookshelves throughout the nonfiction section.

Not a regular patron, Sackett was surprised at “how important the place was, how central it is to the community.”

“It’s kind of a hub,” he said.

Sackett also will take a community photo at 3 p.m. the day of the event.

Board treasurer and historian Charles Browne has been working in two time zones lately, too — the past past and the present. Browne led a mission to acquire artifacts from throughout the library’s history, poring over photographs and memorabilia from 50 years ago to the present, in preparation for the party. The collection includes news clippings, posters from events, a library card from 1968, an old-time card catalog and a program from the library’s opening day ceremony, which features a sketch of the original library.



Bainbridge Public Library branch manager Rebecca Judd has been living in three time zones – the past, present and future, and the anniversary celebration reflects that. Activities cover a 100-year timeline, from taking a peek at archives and memorabilia, to viewing Sackett’s visual interpretation of the library today, to asking visitors what they think the library will be like in 2062.

She was pleasantly surprised this week when the son of the library’s original architect, John Rudolph, stopped by with a gift. He’d found his father’s original artistic rendering of the library that appeared on the opening day brochure.

“He popped in right when we were ready to understand the significance of it,” Judd said.

The organizing committee has commandeered a 1962 Ford Falcon that will be parked in the same spot in which one appeared in a photograph 50 years ago. They are still hoping to find an electric car to pair with it for a dramatic juxtaposition.

“People have been super in putting this together,” she said of the committee who has worked for a year on the milestone celebration. Community groups such as KiDiMu, Bainbridge Arts and Crafts and Eagle Harbor Book Co. will have library-themed events throughout the year.



Board president Pat Miller credits the community for making the library what it is today.

“The people of Bainbridge Island continue to donate the funds and expertise needed to maintain the library and the grounds,” she said. “Without their support, there would be no library.”

Technically, she’s right.

In an interesting civic and community partnership, the Bainbridge Public Library is a nonprofit organization that owns and manages the building and library grounds.

The inner workings – books, library staff and administration – are paid for through Kitsap Regional Library, which is supported through property taxes.

The community checked out a total of 197,104 items from the Bainbridge branch in 2011, with 258,048 visits.

“I can think of no single institution on the island that provides the access to community, information and sheer wonder that Bainbridge Public Library offers,” said George Shannon, a children’s book author who is director of communications and fundraising for the library’s board of directors, and also a recipient of the 2012 Island Treasure Award.

The Bainbridge Island Friends of the Library formed in 1970 to support the library, the board and branch manager. It holds three book sales a month in addition to having two ongoing self-serve book sale areas in the library.

As a Friends volunteer, Browne also helps with the book sales.

“You’d be surprised at the number of books that have our used book price tag on it when it’s donated again,” he said.

He calls it “virtuous recycling.”


With gifts from both the Bainbridge Island Rotary Club and donations from the Friends book sales, the library purchased adjoining property in 1977, then built an addition in 1982, which served the community for more than a decade.

With an influx of residents to the island in the 1990s, the library board decided to embark on a remodel in 1997.

Artist and 2012 Island Treasure recipient Michele Van Slyke spearheaded a drive to include art in the library’s remodel. Amy Chamberlain designed the glass, copper and wood door that now graces the library’s main entrance.

Molly Griest has five pieces of art at the library, including three in honor of former librarians. Old Birch, the carved stone behind the library, is dedicated to Cindy Harrison, past manager of Bainbridge Library.

“The biggest highlight was when the board very courageously did fundraising for the remodel in the late ’90s,” Harrison said.

“The branch doubled in size. It was obvious to all that it was a community that needed more space, as a center for life-long learning.”



That learning continues today, although the form that media takes continues to evolve.

In addition to volunteering for Friends, serving as treasurer and historian, Browne also teaches the library’s popular “Click!” class which helps participants navigate the waters of eReaders and digital downloading.

Browne said his reading is 70 to 80 percent on an eReader these days.

“If you had asked me a year ago, I’d given a completely different answer,” he said.

The library will continue to adapt and change, he said.

Looking ahead to the future, Judd agrees.

“The future looks good,” she said. “The future’s bright. We’ll always need stories.”



Garden know-how

Once the dust had settled after the library remodel in 1997, the grounds of the library looked sparse. The late Junkoh Harui, owner of Bainbridge Gardens, and the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community donated a splendid Japanese garden to the library and community.  “Haiku no Niwa,” (Haiku Garden) with its haiku poems carved into granite, was dedicated to the Issei, or first-generation Japanese Americans.

Author and Island Treasure Ann Lovejoy remembers the muddy mess that was left after construction. A nationally recognized expert in organic gardening, Lovejoy designed perennial gardens along Madison Avenue and enlisted a team of volunteers to help maintain it. Still going strong, the Friday Tidies as they are called, can be seen – yup, every Friday, rain or shine – pulling, planting, trimming, weeding as well as composting and enjoying a bit of tea and treats afterward.

In 2000, the American Library Association awarded the Bainbridge Public Library Gardens its Best Library Garden award.

Branch manager Rebecca Judd rattled off a list of names of local horticulturists whose green thumbs keep the gardens in tip-top shape: John van den Meerendonk and his crew (fern garden), Betsey Wittick and Ian Bentryn (pruning), Wayne Nakata and Doug Tanaka (Japanese garden), Ann Lovejoy, John Barutt and all the Friday Tidies.

“The people who tend the gardens meet once a year,” Judd said. “The garden know-how in that room is impressive.”

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