Waimea Public Library celebrates 70th anniversary

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Waimea Public Library Librarian and Branch Manager Michelle Young shows off the artwork commissioned by Marionette Taboniar in the keiki room that features new keiki furniture, Friday at the library’s 70th anniversary.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    A 70th-anniversary sign announces the milestone at the Waimea Public Library on Kaumuali‘i Highway Friday.

WAIMEA — The Friends of the Waimea Public Library wanted to have a party to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the library, but with operating guidelines based on COVID-19 could just offer rolls of Smarties to patrons.

“The anniversary is Aug. 1,” said Michelle Young, the Waimea Public Library’s librarian and branch manager. “We have the photos and articles of the grand opening on Aug. 1, 1950. There’re also photos of all the people involved.”

Instead, Young showed off a piece the library commissioned from Waimea artist Marionette Taboniar, who maintains a studio, classroom and gallery less than a block away from the library, and has had work featured on television series produced in Hawai‘i.

The finished artwork is a rendering of the library in its current setting, 70 years following the opening of its doors, and, with approval from Taboniar, will be used to produce a series of commemorative pieces scheduled to arrive around Monday, Aug. 10, Young said.

“A most-appreciative crowd of several hundred people attended the long-awaited opening of the beautiful new public library at Waimea on July 31,” states an account published in the Kaua‘i News on Aug. 1, 1950. “Guests were greeted by the local library committee members and by the Kaua‘i library staff headed by Mrs. Thelma Hadley. Miss Nathalie Otis is librarian for Waimea, and Miss Aletha Goodwin is her assistant.”

Fast-forward 70 years, and library patrons are greeted by a security guard who directs people to the back entrance for service that includes pickup and return of books on a curbside basis based on the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you need to use the computer, they must let you in,” the guard says politely. “Everything is at the back entrance.”

According to the 1950 news account, “the library begins service with 4,500 books and a carefully-chosen selection of national magazines. More books for the basic library are on order or being processed. Work on processing the film collection, the first on Kaua‘i, has not been completed.”

Today, the Friends of the Public Library describes the Waimea Public Library, designed by architect Guy Rothwell at 3,724 square feet, as “one of the smallest libraries in the state library system” that supports a diverse and ever-changing community with eight computers, 11 magazine titles, two newspapers, WiFi, a friends’ book store, free computer classses, the meeting room, photocopying service and test-proctoring services.

“This is what we wanted to show,” Young said, flipping the lights on in a keiki room with keiki work stations surrounded by shelves of keiki titles. “This is still a work in progress, but is new. The furniture is new and we’re still working on it.”

The Waimea Public Library is operating on temporary hours dictated by the ongoing pandemic. It is closed on Saturday and Sunday, although there is a drop-off box for returns at the front entrance. Monday and Wednesday are late nights, with the library opening from noon until 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Friday hours are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“Happy 70th Birthday, Waimea Public Library,” read a greeting poem penned at the welcoming table. “We wanted a party to celebrate; But birthday plans just have to wait; With COVID, masks and social distance, Full service is not a possible circumstance; But thank you, you’re such a ‘Smartie’ For using the Waimea Public Library.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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