Winchesterites and Clark Countians have a real gem in their midst.

Actually, there are a num­ber of gems here­abouts, includ­ing human gems, but this arti­cle choos­es to focus on one in par­tic­u­lar, our local pub­lic library.

Clark County Public Library
Clark County Public Library

And to be more par­tic­u­lar­ly accu­rate, there are a num­ber of gems with­in the facil­i­ty itself, the peo­ple who work there and serve the pub­lic every day.

There are still some peo­ple around in this com­mu­ni­ty who can recall the very ear­ly pub­lic library, a sin­gle room locat­ed on the upper floor of the cour­t­house, where school­child­ren were occa­sion­al­ly escort­ed because it was a time when ele­men­tary schools may not have had their own in-house libraries.

In the ear­ly 50s, the library moved into a Pullman car that was parked behind the city hall, fac­ing onto Maple Street.  At that time, the city hall con­tained the Winchester Fire Department — with trucks parked on a wood­en floor sup­port­ed by a for­est of wood columns in the unoc­cu­pied base­ment — and the Winchester Police Department.  The library remained there from 1952 until 1958, ably run by Mrs. Lynne Boxley.

From there, the library moved into the build­ing on South Main Street that had been occu­pied by the Winchester Church of Christ and became a real icon of down­town Winchester.  In 1976 an addi­tion was made to the build­ing that includ­ed an upstairs meet­ing room.  For the first time since the incep­tion of a local pub­lic library, the addi­tion afford­ed a way for phys­i­cal­ly chal­lenged indi­vid­u­als to access the building.

Now our local gem resides in a build­ing com­plet­ed in 1997 and added to in 2008, pro­vid­ing thou­sands of books and visu­al media as well as hun­dreds of pub­li­ca­tions and his­tor­i­cal items, activ­i­ties, doc­u­ments, and access to a vast repos­i­to­ry of past local news­pa­per edi­tions and records that can be found nowhere else.

I had the hon­or and priv­i­lege of serv­ing as a trustee on the library Board of Directors for four years, serv­ing with a ded­i­cat­ed, unpaid, tal­ent­ed group of four oth­er indi­vid­u­als whose sole pur­pose was to pro­vide for the com­mu­ni­ty and improve an already superb facil­i­ty, its col­lec­tions, and its val­ue to the public.

I recent­ly had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to request an inter-library loan for a book that was not on the local shelves.  It was so easy to sim­ply call the library and pro­vide the title and author of the book I sought.  The very pleas­ant staff mem­ber with whom I spoke effi­cient­ly took the infor­ma­tion and let me know that I would be con­tact­ed when the book arrived.

Less than a week lat­er, when I went to col­lect the book, I inquired about the process of request­ing an inter-library loan.  I was told of the exten­sive net­work avail­able to libraries in which such requests are cir­cu­lat­ed far and wide and that many offers may come to pro­vide the request­ed item. I was also told that books have come from as far away as Alaska.

The ser­vices avail­able here far exceed what most even real­ize, and the staff here, led by Julie Maruskin, is effi­cient, knowl­edge­able, and eager to help all patrons.  Use them.  Get to know them.  You’ll nev­er regret it — and you’ll find more in our library than you ever imagined.

Our library has been serv­ing the com­mu­ni­ty for sev­en­ty years due to the efforts of a small group of local women who saw the need in the ear­ly 50s and rose to meet it.

The library is a vital part of this com­mu­ni­ty, indeed of any com­mu­ni­ty.  Encourage it.  Protect it.

While the means of dis­sem­i­nat­ing infor­ma­tion will undoubt­ed­ly change over the com­ing decades, our library will also change and remain a valu­able asset to every­one here.  A real gem.

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.