Library History

Early Years

Library service in Asotin County dates to 1902, when the Women's Guild of the Asotin Methodist Church began the Asotin City Library in the church building at 313 2nd Street. That same year a library was established in Clarkston at the Clarkston Episcopal Church on 7th St. (now a private residence). 

By 1915, the Asotin City Library had been moved to the American Legion Hall at 102 2nd Street (second floor of the present Masonic Building) where it remained until 1933 when it moved to the basement of the old Ayers Hotel (now the Asotin County Courthouse). Later, the library was housed in the Asotin City Hall, located in the old Bank of Asotin County Building at 130 2nd Street. 

Meanwhile, the library in Clarkston also outgrew its original location in the vestry of the Episcopal Church and was moved into the parsonage next door. In 1905, the Lewiston- Clarkston Improvement Company donated property on the southeast corner of 6th and Chestnut Streets to the City of Clarkston for the purpose of a library, and a small, one-room building was erected.

Asotin Methodist church

Asotin Methodist Church

Postcard of Asotin, WA with Asotin Methodist Church in center foreground, circa 1907.

Clarkston Episcopal Church

Clarkston Episcopal Church

Clarkston Episcopal Church

Carnegie Library

Carnegie Library

Carnegie Library Building, circa 1913-1918

That one-room library was soon outgrown, and a grant of $10,000 was obtained from the Carnegie Foundation to build a new library in the same location. The small building was moved to a location on 7th Street and is still in use as a private residence. On Sept. 13, 1913, the two-story brick building at the corner of 6th and Chestnut Streets was dedicated and remained in service for almost 80 years. The building is currently owned by the Clarkston School District.

Consolidation Into County-Wide Library District

In 1964, the desire to bring library service to the entire county led to the formation of the Asotin County Library District. Soon after, the Clarkston City Library was consolidated into the District, which was legally established as the Asotin County Rural Library District in 1965.  Service to Anatone began in March of 1966 in a library set up on the enclosed front porch of postmistress Gussie Owens.

As the population in the Heights grew, the small library that had been housed in the Asotin County Fire District Building on Appleside was no longer adequate. A large plot of land was purchased on the corner of 4th and Appleside for construction of a new building, which was opened to public service in September of 1980. There is enough space on the property to construct a larger building in the future. 

The Carnegie Library building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and, though it eventually became too small for the Asotin County Library purposes, it is still in use by the Clarkston School District. In recognition of the need for a larger building, a bond was approved by the voters to construct a new library at 417 Sycamore Street in Clarkston. The current Asotin County Library Building was designed by Robert F. Broyles, A.I.A. and constructed in 1992. The Friends of Asotin County Library were instrumental in raising the necessary funds for the new building, which was dedicated in February of 1993.

21st Century

Broyles anticipated that the needs of the Library would grow over time and the plans provided for the addition of a mezzanine at a later date. Construction of that mezzanine was begun in 2018 and it was dedicated in October 2018 as “Trina’s Mezzanine”, in honor of Trina Schlee, a former staff member who passed away unexpectedly at age 28. 

A second phase of remodeling was completed in 2020, resulting in the light-filled library we enjoy today. One of the unique features of the building is the service desk seen when entering the library. It was built by local craftsman Bill Funke from an oak supporting beam removed when the mezzanine was added.  

It remains a priority of the library district to have a physical presence in Asotin. In 2011, Asotin County Library opened a branch inside the Asotin High School Library; the branch was open to the public, giving access to library services even outside of school hours. A lasting legacy of the Asotin Branch is that high-speed internet fiber was brought to Asotin for the first time as part of the library project. This branch is not currently open because changes in student/faculty ratio caused there to be not enough space for the branch. 

Service Desk

Service Desk

Service desk built from an oak beam removed when the mezzanine was added in 2020

More Than Buildings

The history of the library goes beyond a series of buildings and locations. Among the tidbits discovered in the minutes of the library board of trustees for the Asotin City Library are these: at the meeting held at 8 PM on Saturday, January 2, 1926, the library had “a balance on hand of $46.28, $26.07 of this amount having been donated by the Narcissa Whitman Club for the purchase of books for the Library.” The minutes of that meeting also recorded that Lillian Clements Merchant was appointed as the first Librarian, the library having been operated strictly by volunteers up to that time. 

The Clarkston City Library’s early days had some interesting stories too. One account about the Carnegie Foundation’s $10,000 grant contains this story. The grant required the city to provide land and contribute 10% of the grant amount each year to maintain the building. In order to do that, the City of Clarkston had to obtain voter approval for a tax allocation. When it was discovered that one more volunteer was needed to staff the polls, Mrs. Harriette Saxton, an early librarian, recounted that in order to persuade that essential last volunteer to spend the afternoon at the polling place, she offered to go to the woman’s house and bake the next week’s household bread!

Carmen the Cat


Carmen, proudly posing in March, 2013 with her first library card

Four kittens on a book cart


The kittens on a book truck, ready to be shelved!