On February 24, 2021, the Yuma County Library District celebrated 100 years of public library service. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, YCLD offered virtual programs, displays, historical photos and trivia for the community to enjoy!
A History of Yuma County Libraries
“A few of the public spirited ladies of Yuma have started the ball rolling for a free reading room and library in Yuma, and the SENTINEL is more than pleased to note the fact that they are making splendid progress. They are after a slice of the Carnegie library fund, which that famous philanthropist has promised, and the chances are very good for their securing it.
There are certain conditions that Mr. Carnegie requires before he unloosens his purse strings, and the ladies are straining every nerve to reach the goal. They are not making public all of their plans just yet, but one thing they are trying for first is to raise the money to buy a lot next to the Wupperman building on Second Street, on which a library building will be erected.
As a starter toward the goal, a fair, or Bazaar, will be held at the Elks’ hall on Tuesday evening, Oct. 13, and it should be liberally patronized. Admission, 25 cents. The ladies in charge request that those who attend will dress in costume emblematic of some particular book.” -Arizona Sentinel, October 7, 1903
The public spirited ladies, who later formed the Yuma City Club, continued their efforts through the 1900’s and 1910’s. They hosted fundraising events and solicited funds from local businessmen. In 1915, a reading room was established in the Polhamus home on Madison Avenue and Second Street. In 1917, the Yuma City Council formally applied to the Carnegie Foundation for a grant and was advised that $10,000 could be made available for a library building if 1) the city could provide a suitable location, and 2) they would provide a maintenance fee of 10% of the cost per year.
In response, the City Council designated Block 113 of the City of Yuma (then known as Sunset Park) as the location for the library, and passed several resolutions to cover the annual maintenance costs and employee salaries. Construction of the library began in 1920, and the City hired Addie Ingalls Kline, daughter of the last Yuma Territorial Prison Superintendent, Captain Frank Ingalls, as Head Librarian. (Her mother, Madora Ingalls, was instrumental in revolutionizing the library at the prison in 1885.) On February 24, 1921, the Yuma Carnegie Library opened to the public with 1,053 volumes and seating for 20 people. 17 library cards were issued, and 13 books were checked out.
Renovations & Expansions
From 1920 to 1940, due to increases in the agricultural and military industries, the population of Yuma County grew from 14,904 to 19,326. Between purchases and donations, the library’s collections also increased, filling every available surface in the building. Due to the effects of the Great Depression, operating budgets and open hours waxed and waned, but the library remained open to the public.
1948 – 1950 Plans to enlarge and improve the now 21-year-old building began in 1942. In 1948, Library Board partnered with the City Recreation Commission to expand library and recreational facilities. A $93,000 Bond Election was passed by Yuma voters to enlarge and remodel the original Yuma Carnegie Library building. The result was a transformation of one large, all-purpose room into two levels with an addition of 2,800 square feet. When the project was completed in 1950, the main floor was used as the Yuma City Library and the lower floor was leased to the Elementary School Board of Yuma for a school library. In 1956, the lease with the city schools was allowed to expire so the Children’s Department could move to the lower level.
1965 – 1966 By 1960, the population of Yuma County had grown to 46,235. In 1965, voters passed another City of Yuma Bond for $165,000 that was matched by federal funds. The bond monies were used to completely remodel the library, bringing the footprint to 22,605 square feet (approximately 3 times larger than the original building). Construction was completed in October 1966. Other than maintenance repairs to the roof, and the addition of automated doors and a steel shade structure, the building remained essentially unchanged for the next 40 years.
In 1987, Yuma County Board of Supervisors established a secondary tax district to support libraries in July. The library system was officially changed to Yuma County Free Library District.
In 1988, an Anti-District initiative petition placed the Library District on November ballot. An intensive political campaign to continue the Library District was launched by the Yuma County Friends of the Library. The Library District Ballot Proposition passed resoundingly with a 77% yes vote to support the continuation of the District. Each of the cities and towns entered into intergovernmental agreements for the District to provide library services.
2005 – 2010 By the turn of the century, the population of Yuma County had increased to 195,750. With the introduction of the World Wide Web in the 1990’s, library services had expanded to include access to the Internet and public computers. New technology coupled with old infrastructure made it obvious that the library needed updating. A consultant hired to assess facility needs noted the overcrowded building, inadequate parking, and inability to expand on the current site. In a formal presentation to the Yuma County Board of Supervisors, the consultant recommended building a new Main Library and renovating and rebuilding branch libraries. In 2005, Yuma voters approved a $53.7 million dollar bond to build four new libraries (including a new Main Library), expand two libraries, and add technological enhancements.
In 1958, a formal contract was signed between the City of Yuma and Yuma County for county library services within Yuma County. The Carnegie Library’s name was changed to Yuma City-County Library.
In 1959, bookmobile service was started with three-month loan of a bookmobile from the Library Extension Service, Arizona State Library. The library purchased its first official bookmobile, named the Roadrunner, in 1961.
In 1959, the Somerton Branch Library opened in April in the fire hall with following agreement: the library would supply the books and materials, and the City of Somerton would provide the library attendant and fixtures. In 1990, the Somerton Branch moved from O.L. Carlisle School to the old Entre Nous building, furnished by City of Somerton. In 2002, Somerton Branch Library opened at 240 Canal Street, built with City of Somerton funds and County CDBG funding. A groundbreaking for the expansion of the Somerton Library was held on April 14, 2008. The newly expanded library opened on March 19, 2009.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the library operated several branches in the region that is now La Paz County. In 1960, branches in Parker and Salome opened. Service to Quartzsite was first provided by bookmobile, but due to high usage, a branch library was established in a room inside the Quartzsite Civic Center in 1968. The Quartzsite branch operated until 1976, when the Quartzsite Improvement Association closed it in protest to Yuma County revoking their tax-exempt status, and bookmobile service resumed once again. The Salome Branch Library closed in 1970, and a branch library in Wenden opened in 1971. When La Paz County was officially established on January 1, 1983, Parker, Salome, Quartzsite, and Wenden separated from Yuma County’s libraries.
In 1960, the Wellton Town Library opened in a classroom staffed by volunteers in Wellton Elementary School. Later that year, the Wellton Library moved into the old school building. In 1988, Wellton’s town library became a branch of the Yuma County Library District. In February 1990, the Wellton Branch moved to 30101 Highway 80. On August 21, 2001, a new Wellton Branch Library built with Town funds, County CDBG funds, and Wellton School funds opened at 10425 William Street. On July 18, 2007, a groundbreaking on land donated by the Town of Wellton was held. The new Wellton Branch Library, located at 28790 San Jose Avenue, opened May 17, 2008.
In response to bookmobile budgeting cuts, the library, along with local businesses and individual community members, opened the Ted Hollin Children’s Library on 14th Avenue in the Carver neighborhood of Yuma in 1968. The small branch library was only open on certain days, and allowed neighborhood families an opportunity to check out reading materials close to home. The library was named for the late James “Ted” Hollin, who had served as president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, president of the Carver School Parent-Teacher Association, and chairman of the Red Cross. In 1973, the library was moved into Carver School and became the school’s library.
In 1984, a Foothills Mini Branch opened on front porch of Foothills Clubhouse in an 8’ x 20’ space with 1,500 paperbacks and an all-volunteer staff. In 1990, the branch moved into a mobile home at 11737 Foothills Boulevard. On February 13, 1995, the Foothills Branch Library opened at 11279 S. Glenwood Ave, Suite 2. When a new landlord took over the building in 2002, the branch moved over to 11299 S. Glenwood Avenue. A groundbreaking ceremony for the new Foothills Library was held on September 26, 2007. The new Foothills Branch Library opened at 13226 E South Frontage Road on September 20, 2008.
In 1985, the City of San Luis’ Library, named after Arnold Cordova Jr., was dedicated on July 27. The City of San Luis built their library as a part of the city municipal center with Library Services and Construction Act federal funds and matching City of San Luis funds. In 1988, San Luis’ Arnold Cordova Jr. City Library became a branch of the Yuma County Library District. In 1999, San Luis Branch Library was remodeled and expanded by City of San Luis, with the grand opening on July 8. In 2006, the Library District acquired land from the Bureau of Land Management for a new library. A groundbreaking ceremony for the new San Luis Library was held on June 24, 2008. The new San Luis Branch Library opened at 1075 N 6th Avenue on August 22, 2009.
In July 1987, the Yuma County Board of Supervisors established a secondary tax district to support libraries, and the library system was officially named the Yuma County Free Library District.
In 1990, an old bookmobile was converted into Mini Branch at Mohawk Valley school, operating two half days per week. In 1996, the Roll Branch Library became a full-service branch within Mohawk Elementary School Library. In 1999, the Dateland Branch Library opened in February at Dateland Elementary School.
In 2006, staff and volunteers moved the collection from the Main Library, 350 Third Avenue, into temporary locations on Main Street so the building could be renovated. For approximately 18 months, the library operated out of “Vibes” (a former nightclub) providing access to collections and computers, and continuing to offer programs like storytime and summer reading. In summer 2008, staff and volunteers moved everything back to the newly renovated building on Third Avenue. The newly christened Heritage Branch Library (formerly Main) opened to the public on August 14, 2008.
In 2006, 10 acres of land at 21st Drive and 30th Street was purchased for a new Main Library. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on February 4, 2008. At 80,000 square feet, the new Main Library would be approximately 3 times larger than the Heritage Branch Library, and 6 times larger than the original Carnegie Library. Amenities included a Friends of the Library store, a café, meeting and study rooms, a Teen Room, an Arizona Room for special collections, a Nonprofit Resource Center, and a pick up window.
For the third time in four years, staff and volunteers moved books and other materials to a new location in early 2009. An Opening Day Collection was also ordered, processed and shelved, bringing the Main Library’s collection to 600,000 items. The new Main Library opened at 2951 S 21st Drive on May 21, 2009. A new District website was launched the same day.
In 2014, the Library District entered an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Arizona Historical Society to house the Rio Colorado Library and Archives Collections in the lower level of the Heritage Library. The Archives contain manuscripts, oral histories and photograph collections that pertain to historical people, places and events of Yuma, Arizona. In 2018, the Arizona Historical Society transferred ownership of the Archives to YCLD.
Yuma County Library District Today
The Library District is a department of Yuma County, which is governed by the Board of Supervisors. The Library Board of Trustees recommends library policy and promotes the development and improvement of library services. The Library District is funded by Yuma County, secondary property taxes, and donations from the Yuma Library Foundation and Friends of Yuma County Libraries, Inc.
The eight branches of the Yuma County Library District provide public library services to visitors and residents of Yuma County as “your center for information, community enrichment, recreational reading, and lifelong learning.” Each library features books, magazines, newspapers, reference materials, CDs, DVDs, Internet access and wireless service. Programs and classes for all ages are offered throughout the year, including storytimes, summer reading, technology training and assistance, and topics of local interest.
We wish to recognize the dedication and expertise of our staff, the time and talents of our volunteers, the advocacy and fundraising efforts of our support groups, the guidance of our Board of Trustees, and the contributions and gifts that many library-minded individuals and groups have so generously given over the years.
Finally, one hundred years of public library service would not have been possible without public spirited citizens, from those who spearheaded the efforts to establish a library in the 1900’s to those who visit and support the library today. Thank you for your patronage!
Allen, M. (1968, November 26). Quartzsite Will Soon Have Yuma County Regional Library. Yuma Sun. Retrieved from https://newspaperarchive.com/other-articles-clipping-nov-26-1968-1679267
Bonfanti, P.G. (1996) A History of the Yuma Territorial Prison Library and Yuma Carnegie Libraries, 1876 – 1958 with special emphasis on Madora Ingalls and Addie Ingalls Kline [Unpublished master’s thesis] University of Arizona
Carnegie Library Is Very Popular (1922, February 28). Yuma Morning Sun. Retrieved from Yuma County Library District Vertical File.
Check It Out! (The new library, that is) (2009, May 21). Yuma Sun. Retrieved from yumasun.com
Fenger, D. (2009, May 26). Yuma Library District Pumps Up Its Website. Yuma Sun. Retrieved from yumasun.com
Library’s 51st Birthday Recalls Beginning 1914 – 1921. (1972, February 20). Yuma Sun. Retrieved from https://newspaperarchive.com/yuma-sun-feb-20-1972-p-38
A Public Library. (1903, October 7). Arizona Sentinel. Retrieved from Yuma County Library District Vertical File.
Public Library Is Next Important Move For Yuma. (1913, June 12). Arizona Sentinel. Retrieved from Yuma County Library District Vertical File.
Quartzsite Group Closes Library To Protest Losing Tax Exemption. (1976, January 12). Yuma Sun. Retrieved from https://newspaperarchive.com/other-articles-clipping-jan-12-1976-1680448
Soucy, S. (2008, February 25). Local black history in the books. Yuma Sun. Retrieved from https://newspaperarchive.com/other-articles-clipping-feb-25-2008-1679165
Ted Hollin Library Will Open Tomorrow. (1968, August 6). Yuma Sun. Retrieved from https://newspaperarchive.com/other-articles-clipping-aug-06-1968-1678738
Wilken, S. (2009, May 17). Sneak Peek at new Yuma Main Library. Yuma Sun. Retrieved from yumasun.com
Yuma Free Reading and Rest Rooms Making Progress. (1915, February 18). Arizona Sentinel. Retrieved from Yuma County Library District Vertical File.
Yuma County Library District records, reports, and statistics.