CV Library has always been a community project

VVN/Steve Ayers

THE 23-by-25-foot stone jail served as Camp Verde's library from 1962 to 1975.

Whether the first books began to trickle onto shelves in 1955 or 1958 is probably of little importance. For the record, research shows both dates.

An article published in the mid-1980s by longtime resident Bea Richmond places the date as 1955.

"Nineteen Fifty-eight sounds a little late to me," Richmond said.

The recollections of longtime assistant librarian Terry Ellison place the date as 1958, as does an article from the Verde Independent from the early 1970s.

However, Ellison's recollections and the article from the early '70s differ as to where the first library was located. Ellison states it was started on three shelves in the old Wingfield Store. The '70s article places its beginnings at the Village Belle Dress Shop across the street.

Both recollections agree that at some time or other the library was located in both spots and eventually settled into a room on the north side of the White Hills Stage Stop Building currently being renovated by Mayor Mitch Dickinson.

The library outgrew the White Hills room and eventually moved in 1962 into the stone building across from the community center that used to be the Camp Verde Jail.

The stone building had become available when the county built a new jail facility in 1960 where the Marshal's office is now located.

The library's primary benefactor at the time was a group was a group of local women known as the Good Will Circle. The women raised about $500 through dinners, bake sales and what ever else they could dream up. With the money they remodeled the jail, built shelves and furnished the new home.

By the mid '70s, the little community library was about to bust out of the jail building. The collection of books had grown to 3,700 and the librarians were joking that they would have to start hanging them from the ceilings.

The Good Will Circle and some other committed citizens, once again, began in earnest to raise funds to build a more permanent library building.

That dream took on new life when the town was told on March 15, 1975 that it could receive $37,000 in a federal grant for the construction project. The catch was that the town had to match the $37,000 and it had 60 days to do it.

For several years, the town had been saving money from the proceeds of the Fort Verde Days celebration. The town made $25,000 from that fund available for the matching funds, which left the library $12,000 short.

In short, the Camp Verde Public Library Association raised the $12,000, plus some extra, within the 60-day period. They did it by holding community Bingo games, dances, dinners, walk-a-thons, auctions, raffles, barbecues, block parties, a slave auction, a gymkhana and the sale of a Camp Verde Community Cookbook.

The fund-raising project was really a total community effort and by June the library board announced it had raised over $20,000.

For all of its efforts, the Arizona State Library Association awarded a special plaque, recognizing it as the state's outstanding library board in September of 1974.

Ground was broken on Jan. 20, 1975, and the library moved into its current facility in June.

Once again though, the library finds itself like a teenager trying to fit into last year's school clothes.

And once again the library has found a community that has been willing to step up and throw itself behind the project.

Last year former teacher and longtime lover of the Camp Verde Library Mary Lyons left the library a $129,000 annuity upon her death. That money is to be set aside to purchase land or help with construction.

The Town of Camp Verde also received a donation of five acres as part of a development agreement with the developers of the Cliffs.

The town has now donated a site for a new library to be located in the Town's master facility on the site of the current town offices and is planning to auction off the five-acre parcel in the Cliff and designating the proceeds towards the building fund.

The construction of a proposed 25-35,000 square foot facility is now at the top of the town's list of capital improvement projects and once again the community fundraising is gathering momentum.

Part of that fundraising efforts include the Denim and Lace Dinner and Auction on April 2 at the Cliff Castle Lodge.

Anyone interested in joining the next community library effort can stop in at the Camp Verde Library or the Chamber of Commerce and purchase a ticket the annual fundraiser or by calling (928) 567-6362 or 567-3921.

Tickets are $25 per person and include a buffet dinner, a live auction, and entertainment.

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