Mission & History
Mission Statement: Washington County Library System
“The Washington County Library System provides staff, collections, physical and virtual spaces that promote ideas, inspire lifelong learning, and strengthen communities.”
Policy approved by the Library Board of Trustees Feb. 26, 2013
Principles of service:
Provide open, non-judgmental access to collections and services without regard to race, citizenship, age, educational level, economic status, religion, or any other qualifications or conditions.
The library is to serve the total community by providing free and open access to the ideas and information available on all subjects and in all formats.
The library shall select and make available materials for the enlightenment, cultural enrichment and enjoyment of its public of all ages, levels of abilities and interest.
Advocate and support the First Amendment Rights and the Library Bill of Rights, and protect library materials from censorship.
- Provide collections and services to meet community needs and interests.
- Promote the Washington County Library System, the Utah State Library, and all library services available in the state.
- Promote the awareness and use of library resources, services, and programs.
- Develop and maintain working relationships with other libraries and with cultural, educational, social, and informational agencies.
- Attract and develop a high-quality staff with special skills, knowledge, and abilities to help library users.
- Create an environment which motivates staff to achieve high levels of performance, productivity, and professional development.
- Exercise prudence in the utilization of human, financial, and physical resources.
- Utilize appropriate technologies to maintain and improve library operations and services.
- Provide and maintain clean, open, and welcoming facilities.
- Patron-driven customer service
- Community responsiveness
- Up-to-date technology
- Community presence as close to you as possible
History of the Washington County Library
St. George had one of the first libraries in the State. Almost before the people were settled and before they had any certain assurance of livelihood, they began to look for material for self-improvement.
In 1864 the Utah Territorial Assembly passed an Act to incorporate the St. George Library Association. This Act named Orson Pratt, Sr., Erastus Snow, F.D. Wooley, A.M. Cannon, Jacob Gates, Orson Pratt, Jr., and James G. Bleak and their associates and successors in office as a body corporate, to be known and styled as the St. George Library Association, with all authority necessary to build and maintain or purchase for the library.
That the pioneers believed in laying the right kind of foundation for whatever they undertook is very evident. Here in the desert, far removed from the world of education, while enduring every hardship and without comforts or conveniences, almost without the necessities of life and with little assurance that they could make a success of their venture in this desolate and unattractive land, they began planning for a library through legal methods to insure their efforts a permanency that might not otherwise be achieved.
Legend tells us that these pioneers raised funds for the purchase of books through produce which was collected as tickets for parties of various kinds. One quart of molasses was required as a ticket of admittance. This quart was placed in a sixty-gallon barrel until the barrel was filled, and when six of the sixty-gallon barrels were thus filled, this, with other valuable produce similarly acquired, was taken to Salt Lake City and sold or exchanged for books and other reading material. In those days a trip to Salt Lake City required one full month or longer.
The books thus purchased, together with others in the town owned by the people for Sunday School, the Mutual Improvement Association, and the Relief Society, were housed in the Lyceum where the Mutual and Relief Society had their gatherings.
During the building of the Tabernacle and the St. George Temple, the Church built a bakery to help take care of the workmen who had been called to assist in the erection of these buildings. After the completion of these buildings the bakery was no longer needed, and the building was renovated and turned over to the organizations of the Church for their programs. Unpretentious as it then was, historically it is of interest to the older people of Dixie and full of pleasant memories of those times. It is said the boys sat on the south side of the aisle and the girls on the north, and no matter how crowded the girls were, not one of them was ever so bold as to move over and sit with the boys. Such behavior was most unheard of. If only we knew some of those personal stories or the lists of books available to the people through their struggles for reading, with what gusto we would enjoy them.
In 1907 the State Legislature passed an Act providing that cities of the third class “may establish and maintain a public library and gymnasium and assess a mill levy for the same.” George F. Whitehead was the Mayor who, with the City Council, established the present library and appointed the Board of Directors. The St. George Stake Academy (now Dixie College) was established about this time and the [library] books were housed in the new building. Ida Miles was appointed the first librarian in the year 1912, shortly after the new Church school was opened.
In 1912 the City Commission, with Thomas Judd as Mayor, made application to the Carnegie Foundation for a grant for a library building. The first request was for $5000, with a guarantee of $500 annually from the City of St. George for maintenance. After a more thorough consideration of the needs of the community for a building that would be adequate for a long time, and one that would stand the test of time and weather the years well, the Commission sent a second request to the Carnegie Foundation, offering to furnish $800 annually for maintenance if the grant could be increased to $8000. This grant they received in 1915. To it was added another $4000 from the city, making a total of $12,000 for the structure. The building was completed in 1916 during the administration of John T. Woodbury, Sr. Albert E. Miller had charge of the construction, and that it was well built is evident, for today it is in excellent condition and will be an excellent building for many years to come. How very proud those men could be today to see the results of their work and the service that has come to the people because of their sacrifices.
In 1919 the State Legislature made it possible for the counties to levy a tax for library purposes. Washington County’s only possibility of such a service was through the St. George Public Library. From the minutes of the Library Board Meeting of June 14, 1919, page 31 of the record book, we read the following, which of course made me happy: “Present were Mayor Miller, A.K. Hafen, E.H. Snow, H.T. Atkin, I.C. Macfarlane, and Thomas P. Cottam. President E. S. Romney of the Dixie College asked that the Library be made a County Library and read H.B. No. 97 relative to establishing county libraries. The question was thoroughly discussed with a motion by President E. H. Snow to the effect that “it be the consensus of this Board to discuss with the City Council the features of the new law.”
The minutes of June 17, 1919, tell us that “ an agreement was reached whereby St. George tendered the St. George Library building, books, etc., to the Washington County Commissioners as a County Library, but St. George was to retain the title to the property for the City. They agreed to pay the water and lights for the building and grounds. The County agreed to levy one mill annually to maintain the library.”
Ione Bleak was librarian at this time, but she resigned in June, 1920. Miss Clara Farnsworth was appointed as librarian in September, 1920, and held the position until June, 1923. In August of that same year Mrs. Roxey S. Romney became librarian, and she has served continuously in that capacity to the present time.
People were ready and anxious for book service. There was a circulation of 8675 books during the year 1920, and up to 1923 there was a steady increase which reached more than 25,000 in the latter year. The figure for 1928 was 28,175; by 1930 the circulation reached over 42,000 books, magazines, and pictures. But the highest record was made in the year 1936 when the Library had some WPA workers who helped to distribute and collect books. The County was covered regularly, and the circulation reached 51,845, a record which we have not reached since, even though we have more books and better facilities.
Until 1928 all the library books and service was in the adult department. At that time the Board felt that they should divide the books and the work, and so the children’s books up to the seventh grade were placed in the basement, with Mrs. Jennie Brown as librarian. The budget was so small and the needs so many that the small amount paid to Mrs. Brown was hardly a recognition of her work. Yet it was more than Ida Miles, the first librarian, had been paid. Helen Starr followed Mrs. Brown in this department, and she was succeeded by Eliza Carpenter.
While the Board made this change with a question as to how they could meet it, it has proved to be one of the finest things for the Library and for the Children’s Department. Today it is a beautiful room, and although it is used in the mornings by the schools, the Library holds it for the children in the afternoon and evening. It now has a new asphalt tile floor in green and gray, with green walls to match. It is equipped with a new Victrola and numerous records, some 6,000 books for children, and a picture collection. It has taken many years to build this department, but it is now there for those who care to enjoy it.
With a mill levy the budget was small, and, even then, some years the commissioners felt it their right to take some of the money levied for library purposes for other uses. So meager were the funds in all the departments that it was quite impossible to give the services required on the small amount available. For years the budget was so small that it was quite impossible to buy new books for the needs of the County. Our books became almost threadbare, and yet the budget was not sufficient to buy more. Wages have always been among the very lowest on the basis set up by the American Library Association. Indeed, the wages were far below any standard set.
To get the books to the county people has been a problem. Books are sent by mail to interested parties or lent individually to people who come to get them. Thousand of books go annually to the schools of the county. Teachers sent requests or come in person to select books, which are taken for two or three months or for shorter periods as requested, unless for some special books on the lists.
At Springdale a branch library has been established by the people through the leadership of Nancy C. Crawford. Had she lived, she would have continued to play a great part in that community, for she wanted her people to read, and she felt that they were missing some of the finer things of life without books; so she worked hard for years and gave her time to get books for the people.
At Enterprise a library is set up in the school where it offers library service to the community. Books are sent there from the County Library in large numbers, sometimes in hundred, upon the request of the people of that community.
Today our books number more than 18,000 volumes. Our building is an attractive place which has been renovated with air conditioning for summer and an oil furnace for winter. The old coal room partition has been removed, and with the room which was used by the city officers, it makes one room attractive and well lighted, cool or warm as desired, and well suited for the people of the community to meet in, in either small or large groups. A new roof has replaced the old. In the main room a beautiful desk, built by Heber C. Cottam, adds dignity to our building and convenience to our service. New cabinet work and shelving have been installed, and murals showing local scenery decorate the walls. New tables and chairs are presently being added. The service is efficient. All in all we feel that we have a library which can bring great benefit to the people if they but take advantage of what it offers.
History written by Roxey S. Romney (194?)
Washington County Library Head Librarians and Directors
Ione Bleak Stucki
Roxey S. Romney
Bertha W. McGregor
Sara G. Walker
Marva C. Brown
Eliza C. Jones
* “John Willie and Jerry Rasmussen explained the new organizational chart for the library. It indicates two directors –one over staff and one over fund raising, public relations and construction.” (Lloyd Reid was Library Director over staff and Larry Hortin was the Library Director over fund raising, public relations and construction –Effective 1 Jan. 2003 to 18 Dec. 2004)
† Appointed by Dean Cox as interim Library Director. (Effective May 17, 2012)
Minutes of Washington County Library Board, October 22, 2002, Washington County Library Archives