A History of the Cottonwood Public Library
In the 1950's the Library Extension Service in Phoenix sent a bookmobile to Cottonwood once a week. The driver suggested that if interested readers could find a location, they would supply it with enough books to start a library.
Marge Sexton and Vivian Wilpitz approached the Civic Club and one of its charter members, Jennie Garrison, suggested donating space in the Civic Club Annex, a quonset hut behind the building.
So the Cottonwood Public Library began modestly. An advertisement for donations of books brought an enthusiastic response. The first shelves were 2" by 12" boards on bricks. The small front room contained children's books, adult fiction, and a tiny circulation desk. The even smaller back room housed the non-fiction books along the walls with a table for book processing in the center.
It was officially organized in 1959 as a library, complete with a board of trustees. Vivian Wilpitz was appointed head librarian, succeeded in 1969 by Marge Sexton. A loyal group of volunteers helped, beginning a tradition, which continues to this day.
The Yavapai County Library gave assistance, such as instruction in cataloging, library procedures, and training of volunteers. During the 1960's and early 70's the town council contributed financial aid--paying for utilities and providing a small budget for new books.
But the impetus for real growth came in 1970 when a meeting was called for persons interested in founding a friends-of-the-library group to help support the library. Erno Bertalan was elected the first chairman and the name Bookmarks was chosen. This group has thrived, helping the library mainly in financial ways. it still continues to the present time.
This first order of business for the bookmarks was a new library building. Neither the county, the state library, nor the town could afford such an expense. But the Bookmarks found that the federal government had a grant program for new library construction. The Garrison family donated a site at 401 E. Mingus Avenue.
The grant would provide matching funds, so it was up to the Bookmarks and the people of Cottonwood to raise $25,000, half of the estimated cost of $50,000. The town council had saved $10,000 towards building a new library, so the remaining $15,000 had to be met within a strict time limit, just a few months.
The Bookmarks held book sales, bake sales and sponsored a flea market at the fairgrounds. Members called on people for donations and sent out mailings. Local businesses and professional people helped as they could. Organizations and clubs sponsored sales and events to raise money. The schools helped also. The Cottonwood Elementary School sold "bricks" at 25 cents each and raised an astonishing $800.00! Many donations of one dollar were made, many $5.00 and $10.00 and a very few of $100.00. It was a giant struggle and at the end we were short $1,000.00. Jennie Garrison covered the shortfall.
Jennie was the appropriate person to make the dedication of the new library on October 13, 1973, in a two-day open house attended by state and county officials. The town was very proud of its new library.
Doris Thompson was the first librarian in the new building and the first with professional training. After two years, Ingrid Kitterman became librarian briefly, followed by Sarah Bouquet. Then came Joyce Hoffman, Martha Koestner and John O'Neill, who was our librarian from 1987 until 2011, when Vanessa Ward became our new Library Manager. Sharon Pfeffer was our first children's librarian, followed by Deborah Kearns.
Additions were made to the building twice, creating a separate children's room and workroom, plus the librarian's office. In 1980 discussions for a larger library began.
Discussions were carried on for years until the council decided to put the question of a new facility to Cottonwood voters. On January 7, 1992, 60% of those voting approved the one-fifth of one-cent sales tax increase to raise 1.8 million dollars for a new library of 15,440 square feet. Successful passage of the bond issue was largely the result of a group of library supporters under the chairmanship of Dede Ewald who worked for months enlisting community support.
The new library opened on June 20, 1994, and also heralded the beginning of a computerized system. By the 40th anniversary in 1999 over one million items had been checked out.
The citizens of this area have a lot to be proud of. On October 15th, 2008 the Cottonwood Public Library added 8,750 additional feet (at a cost of $2.7 million). The addition, devoted entirely to Youth Services was dedicated to long-time city manager and youth advocate Brian Mickelsen.