History in Focus: The library’s past (and future)
This November, we will vote on an important mill levy question to create secure funding for both Moffat County Libraries and the Museum of Northwest Colorado. Of the two, the history of our library stretches back to the earliest days of Craig and was the result of years of hard work by community members and their belief that a library is instrumental to the vitality of a small town.
The very existence of our library is due to the vision and hard work of Rosetta Webb. She and her husband arrived from Longmont in 1900. She was the proprietor of the Webb Hotel, situated on the northeast corner of Victory Way and Yampa Avenue, currently a parking lot.
In 1908, the year Craig was incorporated, Rosetta started Craig’s first library in the lobby of her hotel. Through the Traveling Library Association, a rotation of books kept citizens supplied with a fresh selection of reading material. In January 1912, the Moffat County Courier stated Rosetta had “… kindly consented to the use of the hotel as a public reading room.” Soon, the lobby-turned-library housed a permanent collection of 315 books. But this was only the beginning of Webb’s determined efforts.
In May 1911, the Craig Empire reported Webb was spearheading the formation of the Craig Library Association. In 1914, the group purchased two lots at what is now 651 North Yampa Avenue with the long-term goal of building a permanent library.
By 1918, the city had taken the reins of the library from the citizen association, and as the library grew, it moved to various temporary locations. In 1923, it settled in at the Evans Building, which was directly east of today’s courthouse. Today, it is also currently a parking lot. To avoid rental of the Evans Building, the city searched for a more permanent structure.
In 1925, St. Michael’s Catholic Church completed construction of a new church. The old church building, previously an overflow classroom at the Breeze School, was fortuitously available. For the bargain price of $600, it was quickly hustled down Seventh Street and south to 651 Yampa Avenue. \After a quick remodeling, the thrice repurposed building served capably as Craig’s library for 27 years.
By 1952 it was clear the growing city required a modern library. Now under the combined direction of the city and county governments, a new library was finally built on the ground purchased back in 1914. With reference and fiction sections, a reading room, and children’s areas, Rosetta’s dream was finally a reality.
The Oct. 7 Craig Empire-Courier remarked, “The new building marks the culmination of over 42 years of effort by many civic minded people. … Through the years, these people have kept alive the dream of a building such as is now completed … which can continue to grow through the years to come.”
In 1966, an addition was completed. Today, this building is now the UC Health Medical Building, just north of Grant Mortuary.
By the late 1970s, a new facility was needed to accommodate expansion from the energy boom. In 1980, 10 lots at 570 Green Street were purchased from Faith Lutheran Church for $120,000. Groundbreaking took place in April 1982, and construction was completed at a cost of $432,000.
At the dedication ceremony on Jan. 10, 1983, library board president Calista Hamil proudly remarked, “As Craig has grown for 75 years, so has the library.”
Speaking to the people of Craig, she continued, “May you enjoy it to the fullest.”
This November’s crucial mill levy question offers all of us the chance to take up the mantle of the vision of Rosetta Webb and many others who believed Craig deserved and required strong and vibrant institutions, such as a public library. Both the Museum of Northwest Colorado and the library serve vital roles in teaching us our glorious past and, in turn, forging a vibrant future.
Imagine that there’s a town next to a raging river, with a waterfall just five minutes downstream. One day, the residents of this town notice people caught in the river and many are going right over the waterfall’s edge. What can the townspeople do to save these people?