Lopez Island Library has evolved over a period of sixty years. The story begins at the close of WWII, when Otis and Nan Perkins created Lopez Island Memorial Library in their home to honor their son, Warren, who died in the war. Later the books were lodged in the basement of Glen and Jean Boushey’s home, followed by a sojourn in the Legion Hall annex. In 1975 a group of citizens formed the Lopez Library League. Tax monies were not available to island libraries at that time, but the Josephine Stedham Scripps Foundation offered $10,000 in matching monies and fund raising efforts began early in 1976.
The Library League next looked for a suitable building. The fire station was then housed in a seventy-year-old building known as the Little Red Schoolhouse. Construction of a new fire station next door would begin shortly. The Library League arranged to lease the Schoolhouse as soon as it became available; after serving as a school, restaurant and fire station, the little building’s adventures were not yet over.
Local architect Howard “Pete” Petersen donated his time to draft a two-phase remodel plan. Materials were donated by local contractors and community volunteers supplied labor. Thousands of books were given by local residents, nearby colleges, and other libraries, as were furnishings.
In March of 1977 Lopez Island Library began receiving patrons in its new home, staffed by its first trained librarian, Sandra Schugren (who also served as librarian for the Lopez School District). The first LaPorte Chamber Music Concert, sponsored by island residents Lucien and Mary LaPorte, was held in 1979. These popular, financially sustaining events benefited the library until the mid ’90s. Also in 1979, the Friends of Lopez Library was formed.
In 1982, largely due to the efforts of Doris Nason, the Lopez Library District was established, making the Library a tax-supported institution. Aided by her attorney husband, Jack, Doris worked and lobbied until the state legislature passed a unique law which allowed an individual island to become a taxing district.
Early 1983, the Lopez Fire District decided to expand their facility again. They transferred ownership of the Little Red Schoolhouse to the Lopez Library District, on condition that the structure would be moved within six years. The library Board of Trustees selected a new location across the street at the corner of Hummel Lake and Fisherman Bay roads. Pete Petersen was again chosen as the architect, and library activities were temporarily transferred to the fire hall basement. The Schoolhouse was moved to the new location where it was given three new wings. The new facility opened on April 6, 1986.
Sandra Schugren left the island later that same year. Retired librarian Alie Smaalders agreed to take the helm for one year. Shirley Hake took over as librarian in 1987 and remained in that position until 1994, when Aimee Hirschel became Lopez Library’s fourth professional librarian. In 2000 Aimee supervised a $1.1 million library remodel, which doubled the floor space and added a much needed computer area. In the fall of 2003, the Library made national news when Director Hirschel received the New York Time’s Librarian Award, in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the Library. Aimee Hirschel left the island in 2007 and Lou Pray took over as Library Director and fifth professional librarian for Lopez Island. Since 2007, the library’s annual circulation statistics have skyrocketed and the library has been featured in the Library Journal as a “star library” in Washington State, four years in a row and the New York Times declared our library an innovator, in the 2014 article, “Breaking out of the library mold.” A new patron space was created out of an under-used pation area in 2011 and dubbed the “Reading Room.” Designated as a quiet area, this airy, light- and plant- filled room has added plenty of seating and studying options for our patrons and with its ceiling fan and big, south-facing windows has become a destination with many Lopezian readers.
The next time you visit Lopez Library, reflect a moment. You’ll enter through a doorway modified from the Little Red Schoolhouse: the first four windows on your left were part of the original structure, and overhead is the original second story, complete with its jaunty cupola – hallmark of days past blended with the present. And all around you feel the love and devotion of countless island residents — many still living, some now gone — whose legacy is our library.
— Story adapted from an article by Ann Behan.
Lopez Island Library 1949-2009: Sixty Years of History by Lorrie Harrison
This book was commissioned by the Friends of Lopez Island Library and tells the story of how the visions of many resulted in the beautiful jewel that is how Lopez Island Library. Amazing stories and photography. Available in print or e-book from our catalog
Early Lopez Photo Collection
Lopez Island Heritage is part of Washington Rural Heritage, an online collection of items from small and rural communities in Washington State.This photo of the Hodgson-Graham store, Richardson, circa 1908 is a sample of what you’ll find at Washington Rural Heritage includes images, documents, paintings, and more that document the history of rural communities throughout the State of Washington.
- Aggregated Website featuring Lopez Island History Links
- Lopez Island Historical Society & Museum
- Historic Barns of the San Juan Islands
- Historical Forest Information from San Juan Islands
- Washington Historical Newspapers
- Washington History Online
- Washington Place Names
- Washington Rural Heritage
- Washington Rural Heritage Blog
- Best of U.S. History Sites
- HistoryLink.org is the first and largest encyclopedia of community history created expressly for the Internet. HistoryLink.org is an evolving online encyclopedia of Washington state and local history. It provides a free, authoritative, and easily accessible history reference for the benefit of students, teachers, journalists, scholars, researchers, and the general public. With a few noted exceptions, all essays and features on this site are original works prepared exclusively for HistoryLink.org by staff historians, contract writers, volunteers, and consulting experts. All essays and features are vetted by professional staff.
- Ancestry.com – find out about your ancestors and history of your hometowns