The town of Clarkdale and the Yavapai County Free Library District commemorated the reopening of Clark Memorial Library, celebrating a community effort to keep the doors of the 90-year-old institution open, Thursday, Oct. 19 at Clark Memorial Clubhouse.
In May, Clarkdale Town Council voted not to renew its contract with the library district — an act that not only resulted in the library’s closure June 30, but spurred immediate efforts to reopen the library. Clarkdale Post Office Postmaster James Salmon and others formed the Friends of the Clark Memorial Library.
Salmon became the president of the group, leading efforts to raise funds and increase community investment in the library. The efforts paid off: In September, town council unanimously approved a new intergovernmental agreement with the library district.
The agreement stipulated that the library district would operate the library and the town would provide the facility rent free. The Friends of Clark Memorial Library pledged to continue fundraising efforts to provide books and other materials for patrons.
“When call to action was required, the community stepped up,” Yavapai County Free Library District Director Corey Christians said. “Their efforts proved more fruitful than anyone could have imagined .... The public demand to reinstate library services played a pivotal role in reinvigorating this community landmark of 90 years. The community of Clarkdale should be proud of their civic commitment and participation.”
Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig, who described the decision to close the library as necessary due to lack of funds but still “one of the most difficult things the town council has ever done,” said the Friends of the Clark Memorial Library “erupted out of almost nowhere” and deserve the lion’s share of credit for the library’s reopening.
Von Gausig said that the library’s new challenge is to provide services that “remain relevant to the times we live in.” Vice Mayor Richard Dehnert, perhaps the library’s most vocal supporter on the town council, said closing the library was the most painful decision he had made during his nine-year tenure on the council.
He agreed with Von Gausig about the necessity of closure at the time, saying that “the town of Clarkdale has struggled mightily with the economic challenge [of the recession in 2008].”
Dehnert praised community members for stepping up, raising funds and posting notices on doors to keep an institution and community service accessible.
“Even people who’d never set foot in the library didn’t want it closed,” he said. “Here in Clarkdale, we now know what it’s like when it’s gone.” “It’s a great culmination,” Salmon said of the reopening. “We’ll do everything we can to make it as vibrant as possible.” Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor Randy Garrison, who Christians said played a key role in the library’s reopening, spoke of growing up in Cottonwood with little access to entertainment.
The Cottonwood library, then a small “car-sized” building behind the Cottonwood Civic Center in Old Town, provided a means of education and escape. Garrison described the life-changing moment when he signed up for a library card.
“I was an official member of a system I didn’t know existed until that moment,” he said. Jeff King, a former archaeologist and nonprofit director, will act as the library’s new coordinator. “Please come and see me and our library,” King said.
Clark Memorial Library is at 39 N. Ninth St. in Clarkdale. Hours of operation are 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to noon Friday. Call 634-5423.