Teton County Library History
History of Teton County Library
The valley’s library tradition goes back as far as May 1915 when St. John’s Public Library opened its doors in St. John’s House in Jackson. With an initial membership of $1.00 and an annual fee of 50 cents, a paying patron could choose from a collection of more than 600 volumes.
Years later, the hard work and inspiration of three valley women sowed the seeds for the Teton County Library. Helen Benson, Edith Mercill and Stella Weston began selling subscriptions for a lending library in the 1930s, but they were soon overwhelmed by the needs of the community and petitioned the Board of County Commissioners for a public library. The BoCC voted to establish the Teton County Library and appointed the first Library Board, consisting of Benson, Mercill, Weston, as well as Hattie Erzinger and Charles Kratzer. The Library officially opened on January 8, 1938 in a room in the American Legion Hall on Cache Street (shown at right). The board also hired its first librarian, Juliane Tanner from Laramie, Wyoming.
The Huff Memorial Library
Around that time, beloved Jackson physician Dr. Charles Huff died. The community raised a substantial fund in his memory. First the money was to fund a fountain in the city park, but at the suggestion of Mildred Buchenroth, chairman of the fund, and with the agreement of the people, the money was allocated for construction of the Huff Memorial Library. Paul Colboron, a New York architect who summered in Jackson Hole, donated the plans and the log building was erected and dedicated in the summer of 1940 at the corner of Hansen Avenue and King Street. Early library services included Children’s Storytime – in existence at least as far back as 1960s (Bookworm Lady); adult programs and exhibits – also in existence since the 1960s (local art exhibits; speakers); the first public access computer was added in 1989; a dedicated information desk and dedicated public computer center were added in 2000.
The move to Virginian Lane
In the 1980’s the Library Board was aware of the growing need to expand the Library. In December of 1990, the Board hired professional library planners to conduct a “Space Needs Assessment” which recommended that a new library be planned that was 23,500 to 25,000 square feet with room for expansion. In April of 1991, the Library Board purchased 3.7 acres of land from Gene Brown. Private fund-raising supplied over $400,000 for the purchase of the land. The site was an excellent location for the new library, at the corner of Virginian Lane and Snow King Avenue.
In November of 1992, Will Bruder was chosen as the architect for the project. The Capital Facilities Tax, which would provide funding for the planning, construction, and equipping of the new 24,000 square foot library, was passed on August 16, 1994. The library at 125 Virginian Lane opened in September of 1997 with touches that recalled the old library (sections of log walls) and nods to nature (nine tree trunk pillars and a wild garden featuring native plants).
Meanwhile, Over in Alta
The Alta Branch Library resided for 40 years inside the Alta School, but its popularity eventually raised liability issues for the school district, and in 2008 it was relocated to a bookmobile in the school’s parking lot. Community fundraising began, land was purchased from St. Francis of the Tetons Episcopal Church, Gilday Architects and Humphries Poli Architects were commissioned with its design, and Shaw Construction began building in May, 2009. Seven months later, the sunny 2500-square-foot building opened its doors to the public.
Growing Pains on Virginian lane
By 2008, it was apparent that the community was outgrowing the building in Jackson. In August of that year, voters approved the library’s initial proposition on the Specific Purpose Excise Tax (SPET) ballot which asked for $1.5 million for the planning, design, engineering and initial construction costs of an addition to the main library facility at 125 Virginian Lane. Then in August 2010, voters approved the library’s second SPET proposition of $8.45 million for the actual construction of the addition and renovation.
The Library Addition & Renovation Project
The voter-approved library project included an 11,000-square-foot addition for a Youth Wing (which opened to the public in July 2012) and central lobby between the two wings, and renovation of the previous 24,000-square-foot building, parking lot and outdoor areas, completed in January 2013. The building project created more space for reading and study, computers and technology, community meeting rooms, and dedicated teen and children’s areas, which are separated from quieter library spaces. The library’s existing electrical, data and building systems were replaced, upgraded and modernized, initially achieving LEED silver certification. Architects on the project were local firm Gilday Architects with Humphries/Poli Architects, a regional firm with experience designing libraries.Construction was carried out by GE Johnson company.
The Teton County Library is a county agency whose board is appointed by the Teton County Commissioners. Primary funding for the library is through county property taxes. The Teton County Library Foundation provides supplemental funds through patron donations and grants. The Teton County Library Friends contribute a wide range of volunteer services in support of the library’s programs and operations.
Teton County Library Timeline
January 8, 1938: The Teton County Library opened in a room in the American Legion Hall after Helen Benson, Edith Mercill, and Stella Weston petitioned the County Commission about the need for a public library.
First Library Board: Helen Benson, Hattie Erzinger, Charles Kratzer, Edith Mercill, Stella Weston
First Librarian: Julianne Tanner
February 1940 TCL moved into the new Huff Memorial Library (which would later become known as "the old log cabin library") at the corner of Hansen Avenue and King Street.
1945 expansion added 160 sq. ft
1962 The first library branches opened in Alta and Moran
1971 expansion added 1885 sq. ft. Reading Room
December 1990: “Space Needs Assessment” recommends a 23,500 -25,000 sq ft library be planned.
April 1991: Library Board purchased 3.7 acres of land; Private fund-raising supplied $400,000 for the purchase
November 1992: Will Bruder was chosen as the architect for the project.
August 1994: The Capital Facilities Tax, provided funding for the planning, construction, and equipping of the new 24,000 square foot library.
September 1997: The library at 125 Virginian Lane was opened to the community, leaving the old log cabin library to serve as county office space.
August 2008: Voter approved the library’s initial proposition on the Specific Purpose Excise Tax (SPET) ballot which asked for $1.5 million for the planning, design, engineering and initial construction costs of an addition to the main library facility at 125 Virginian Lane, Jackson WY.
December 2008: Presentation by Humphries/Poli Architects on schematic design for the 2,400 sq ft Alta Branch Library at 50 Alta School Road, Alta WY.
February 2009: State Land Investment Board for Consensus Block Grant Funds approved to fund the Alta Branch Library construction.
May 2009: Groundbreaking for Alta Branch Library.
September 2009: Gilday Architects with Humphries/Poli Architects chosen for the main library facility in Jackson. December 2009: Opening of Alta Branch Library.
August 2010: Voters approved the library’s second Specific Purpose Excise Tax proposition of $8.45 million for the actual construction of the addition and renovation of the main library facility in Jackson.
March 2011: GE Johnson is selected as Construction Manager for the main library facility project.
July 2012: New Youth Wing opens with new Teen & Children's areas in the main library facility.
January 2013: Main Library Facility Library Addition and Renovation Project Complete. Main Wing renovation and Public Art installation complete.
March 2020: The spread of COVID-19, a global pandemic, led the County to close all public buildings viewed as non-essential. The Library closed for the first time in its history, shortly thereafter offering curbside pick up of materials and online programming. The use of digital materials surged to three times its normal rate. Wi-Fi coverage was extended around the perimeter of the building so folks could use it in the parking lot and at picnic tables around the building.
September 2020: The Library reopened with limited capacity and service dubbed "Browse, Borrow, and Boogie." Patrons were allowed to come in and get the materials they wanted, then leave within 45 minutes.
2021-present: In-person programming gradually returned to normal, though in many cases, Zoom was option for those who wished to attend programs remotely, and library hours were restored with unlimited browsing and working in the spaces,