Learn how the Library has been serving you since 1946.

The Pierce County Library System has been serving customers since 1946. The Library System has changed a lot in that time.

In 1946 seven libraries served 55,000 people. Today, Pierce County Library is the state’s fourth-largest library system with 19 libraries serving 671,000 people.

In 1946 Pierce County Library offered 6,385 books and 6,800 from Tacoma Public Library. Today Pierce County Library System offers more than 1 million books, CDs, DVDs, e-books, audiobooks and more. It also offers computers with high-speed Internet access and Wi-Fi.

History

2022

  • New Executive Director
    • The Board of Trustees appointed Gretchen Caserotti as the Library’s fifth executive director in March 2022. Previously, Caserotti was the library director with the Meridian Library District in Meridian, Idaho, where she served since 2013.
  • Digital Materials
    • The Library System surpassed 2 million digital book checkouts—the most ever!—in 2022. Pierce County Library System was one of just 25 libraries worldwide to exceed 2 million digital checkouts.
  • Lakewood Pierce County Library
    • The Lakewood Pierce County Library closed in June due to critical safety concerns and extensive repair needs. Despite the closure, the Library System continued to serve the Lakewood community through pop-up libraries and collaborative city events, while also progressing towards establishing a modern interim facility.
  • New Sumner Pierce County Library
    • The Library System restarted funding discussions for a new Sumner Pierce County Library, necessitated by the current library’s costly repair needs, insufficient size for the population and accessibility challenges at its city-owned location.
  • Community Engagement
    • Library staff returned to engaging with communities outside of library buildings, delivering services for children, teens and adults by participating in more than 100 parades, festivals, fairs and community and school events.
  • Technology Improvement
    • The Library System updated interior Wi-Fi equipment at locations for better connectivity. It also replaced core networking switches, routers and storage that support the Library’s network and data infrastructure.
  • Community Partner of the Year
    • Tacomaprobono awarded the Library System their Community Partner of the Year Award for partnering with the nonprofit legal aid organization and Pierce County Human Services to provide drop-in clinics at libraries to help people with housing.

2021

  • Expanding Access
    • The Pierce County Library System continued to serve Pierce County during the COVID-19 pandemic and expanded access to libraries and resources. The Pierce County Library continued to reimagine and evolve services during the pandemic and provide valuable innovations and services people need and value.
  • Digital Literacy
    • In 2021, the Library System debuted Northstar Digital Literacy, a self-paced online learning platform where people may learn computer
      and internet basics including Microsoft Word and Excel, and social media
  • Online Videos
    • In 2021, the Library System added videos to its offering of online e-books, audiobooks, and magazines. People can stream shows and movies from computers, tablets, or mobile devices with internet access.
  • 75th Anniversary
    • The Library System celebrated 75 years with StoryWalks in English and Spanish throughout the community, featuring the book “The Big Umbrella” by Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates.
  • Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Strategy
    • Continued progress on a multi-year, strategic framework and implementation plan to embed equity, diversity, and inclusion core concepts into
      daily work, library services, and community interactions.
  • Pop-up Libraries
    • Brought library services into the community to provide books and materials as well as technology and network resources where people need them most.

2020

  • Digital Materials
    • Added more e-books and audiobooks in response to the significant demand while library buildings were closed to help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, resulting in a 29% increase in online checkouts. Reached a record-breaking 1.9 million digital book checkouts in 2020. The Pierce County Library was one of 102 public library systems worldwide that surpassed one million checkouts.
  • Virtual Services
    • Microsoft certification, Summer Reading, Pierce County READS, story time and adult events and classes all went virtual to keep people connected to the Library even when they couldn’t visit it during the pandemic. Additionally, teens earned volunteer service hours virtually, working on resumes, learning job skills, and building leadership skills.
  • The Library at Home
    • Activated technology for elementary students with coding backpacks available with the Library’s Science to Go service. Created grab bags for curbside pickup with books or movies based upon an individual’s reading or viewing interests.
  • Move to Learn
    • With singing, dancing, jumping and stretching, Move to Learn supports mathematical concepts, creating a strong math foundation for children ages 0-5. This is a collaborative project with Pierce County’s early learning initiative, Project Child Success, and a grant from The Boeing Company helps fund the program.
  • Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Strategy
    • Began developing the Library’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion change framework.
  • Serving Asset Limited Families/Individuals: Studied Services to Support
    • Studied services to help support individuals and families who are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed (ALICE). These community members are often employed, however living paycheck to paycheck. United Way of the Pacific Northwest’s 2020 report showed 12% (36,274 households) lived in poverty and 22% (66,503 households) were ALICE. These numbers include Tacoma and Pierce County.
  • Card Design Contest
    • Nearly 300 students living or attending school in Pierce County submitted designs in the Library’s Card Design contest. Via a public vote, residents selected designs by Logan Wilcox, from Puyallup, and Eliana Parks, from Gig Harbor. Their card designs are now available to choose as new library cards.
  • Census
    • Collaborated with Tacoma and Puyallup Public Libraries and the Pierce County Auditor to support countywide efforts to get people counted in the 2020 Census.

2019

  • Our Community Adventure 
    • The Library inspired civic engagement for families through Our Community Adventure’s activities for young children. In this community scavenger hunt, families learned together through an interactive game board and activities. Puyallup Public Library and Tacoma Public Library collaborated with Pierce County Library to provide this learning opportunity, and the Pierce County Library Foundation sponsored the service.
  • Check Out Washington
    • With local State Park maps, field guides, binoculars, and a Discover Pass to Washington State Parks, the Check Out Washington backpack helped Pierce County residents explore state parks. The Library offered the service in partnership with Washington State Parks, Washington State Parks Foundation, and Washington State Library.
  • KBTC Public Television’s Journey to Jobs
    • KBTC and PBS selected the Pierce County Library’s Job + Business Center as a featured story in a nationally televised series “Journey to Jobs.” The public television stations highlighted the Library System’s services for job seekers and small business owners/want-to-be owners along with other organizations offering similar services throughout the U.S.
  • Voter Points of Assistance
    • The 27 Pierce County Library, Tacoma Public Library, and Puyallup Public Library locations volunteered to be Points of Assistance on Election Days as part of a pilot program with the Pierce
      County Auditor’s Office. Under the new Points of Assistance service, people may get help at a Pierce County Library on Election Day and register to vote, update voter registration, get a ballot and vote, and replace ballots that have been lost. The successful pilot is moving to full operations in 2020 and serving communities during five elections.
  • Mobile app
    • Pierce County Library launched a convenient mobile app, giving people quicker and easier access to services such as finding books, materials, and events; accessing and using the online catalog; viewing e-books, audiobooks, and online magazines, as well as using online e-sources
  • Mobile printing
    • The Library System has long offered printing from shared library computers, and in 2019 it launched mobile printing from individuals’ personal computers and devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Now, people may print remotely and pick up their printed items when they arrive at the library.

2018       

  • Restored levy
    • 2018 marked the second time in the history of the Pierce County Library System that voters were asked to restore the Library’s funding with a levy lid lift. Voters approved the levy lid lift to restore levy funding and maintain library services and returns the Library’s levy rate to its full legal amount of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
  • 3D Printing
    • People of all ages got hands-on experience using a 3D printer at nearly every Pierce County Library. The free print shop sessions gave people the opportunity to use the 3D printers to create items, get quick design lessons, and learn the 3D printing process.
  • Law Library at Gig Harbor Pierce County Library 
    • In partnership with Pierce County Law Library, the Library System opened a law library kiosk inside Gig Harbor Library giving access to legal resources to residents on the west side of the Narrows Bridge. The legal literacy includes free access to online and print resources for use in criminal and civil litigation and materials to help with common personal and business needs.
  • E-book and Online Audiobook Checkouts Soared
    • For the second consecutive year, Pierce County Library was one of 65 public library systems worldwide to make the 1 million digital checkout list. Pierce County residents checked out 1.3 million e-books and online audiobooks, which averaged more than 3,431 checkouts a day! This was 10 percent more checkouts than in 2017.
  • Pierce County READS’ Living History 
    • Local Civil Rights leaders inspired approximately 300 people in personal conversations about the Civil Rights Movement. Speakers included Jim Walton, Tacoma’s first African-American City Manager; Lyle Quasim, the first African-American Department of Social and Health Services Director; Rosa Franklin, the first African-American woman elected to the Washington State Senate and other dignitaries.
  • MakerFest 
    • A record 2,500 people participated in MakerFest featuring nearly 50 exhibitors including arts and crafts, technology, robotics and homesteading. DIY-ers and Makers presented hands-on activities to help people of all ages learn do-it-yourself (DIY) processes and join in STEAM activities— science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.
  • Fife Pierce County Library Upgraded
    • Staff rearranged books, movies, and other materials at the Fife Library, so people can more easily browse and find materials. The Library System converted the Fife Library to a Dewey Decimal System, which aligns with all 20 Pierce County Libraries. Also, staff added more nonfiction book choices based upon the community’s interests.

2017       

  • Boosted STEM skills
    • More than 4,000 people attended events to learn more about the celestial event of the century—the solar eclipse.
  • Helped people get jobs
    • Job+Business Centers with computers, expert assistance and resources as well as 118 workshops and 1:1 support helped improve job skills for 1,470 people.
  • Motivated summer readers
    • With books, e-books and events, thousands of children, teens and adults were motivated to read in the Summer Reading program.
  • Instilled the love of reading
    • Babies and toddlers made 48,000 visits to the Library’s 2,000 story times and early learning classes.
  • Connected community
    • A total of 1,400 builders, engineers, and all makers and do-it-your-selfers explored, built, created, and coded through displays and hands-on activities at MakerFest.

2016

  • Strategic Planning
    • The Library gathers information from the public, cardholders, stakeholders, community leaders and friends about what’s important to them and how the library fits into their lives.
  • Pierce County Reads
    • Sherman Alexie is the featured author, highlighting five of his books. More than 1,000 attend the author talk.
  • Awards
    • Family Prime Time Reading grant brings dozens of at-risk children and their families to the library for two sessions of six-weeks each.
    • Block Play was designated a Bright Idea by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.
    • Honorable mention by ULC Innovations in the Positioning the Library category for “Open Lab @ RP/6: Success In Civilian Life.”
  • New Programs & Events
    • Sound Outreach and Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors join with the library to offer a series of classes called All Things Medicare throughout the system.
    • The Library partners with the Small Business Association to offer a series of workshops for small-business owners and entrepreneurs.
  • Board of Trustees
    • Chair Rob Allen re-appointed to a second five-year term.

2015

  • Awards
    • Block Play was designated a Bright Idea by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.
    • CFO Cliff Jo was awarded 2015 Government Financial Executive of the Year from The Business Examiner Media Group.
  • New Programs & Events
    • First Mini Fan-Con event featuring authors, a fan art exhibit, costume parade and more.
    • Science to Go extends program to preschoolers.
    • Get Hired program helps 2,316 people gain critical job skills through a partnership with WorkForce Central and WorkSource.
    • JobFair draws a crowd to meet employers.
  • New Location
    • Administrative Center lobby opens a small library in its lobby, making it the system’s 20th location
  • New Services
    • Florence Davis Reading Lounge Dedication at South Hill Library.
    • Kenneth B. DeRoche Reading Corner Dedication at University Place Library.
    • Began offering laptops to check out in the Key Center, Parkland/Spanaway, South Hill, Sumner and Tillicum libraries.
  • Pierce County Reads
    • More than 1,000 people hear author Daniel James Brown talk about “The Boys in the Boat.”
  • Board of Trustees
    • Monica Butler appointed.

2014

  • Awards
    • Received Emergency Food Network Silver Spoon Award.
    • Honored with Tacoma Community House Partnership Award.
    • Block Play was designated a Bright Idea by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.
  • Leadership
    • Library’s fourth director, Georgia Lomax, comes on board.
    • Neel Parikh retires after serving 20 years as executive director.
  • New Programs & Events
    • First-ever DIY fest with local authors, hands-on activities, kitchen demos, food trucks and a DIY bookmobile.
    • Started a new learning program, Science to Go.
    • Launched Scout, an interactive online library experience.
  • New Services
    • Began new download services: Zinio for magazines and Hoopla for music, movies, TV shows and audiobooks.

2013

  • Received a Paul Allen Foundation Creative Leadership Award which comes with a $50,000 cash award, for fiscally responsible materials budget that supports the community’s reading, listening and viewing experience.
  • Joined statewide rollout of Microsoft IT Academy led by Microsoft and the Washington State Library, to help people expand their use of technology, develop computer skills, become proficient in Microsoft software and learn about web development.
  • In partnership with the Tacoma Pierce-County Health Department, provided resources and in-person assisters for uninsured Pierce County residents to learn about their options under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Lakewood Library celebrated 50 years of serving the community from its location at 3600 Wildaire Road S.W.
  • Received the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, presented by First Lady Michelle Obama in a White House ceremony.
  • Honorable mention by ULC Innovations in the operations category for “How to cut a million–the “Collection Budget Crew’s” material budgeting process.”

2012

  • Became tobacco-free, to increase the Library’s comfortable, accessible and welcoming environment for all people.
  • Teen summer reading went online with gamification, and 653 teenagers participated in the successful Teen Summer Challenge.
  • Created a website for military personnel and their families.
  • During the annual library card drive, the Library System piloted a partnership program with Franklin Pierce Schools, resulting in 5,278 students having new cards.
  • Earned national Distinguished Budget Presentation Award with the highest rating of “outstanding” for its 2012 budget.

2011

  • Moved Milton/Edgewood Library to a high-traffic, central location. 1,300 people attended the grand opening.
  • Opened University Place Library in new location, in collaboration with the City of University Place’s town center. 4,541 people participated in the grand opening.
  • Opened Fife Pierce County Library, the first-ever library in the City of Fife. 780 people attended the grand opening.
  • Awarded ULC Innovations Top Innovator award in the literacy category for “Our Children are Ready for Reading,” part of the Library’s early reading program.

2010

  • Fife residents started library service with the bookmobile.
  • Job and Business Centers opened.

2009

  • Fife citizens voted with a 69% approval to annex to the Library System.

2008

  • Downloadable e-books are offered.
  • Hours children and teenagers read during summer reading increased by 44%.
  • Three early literacy stations with computers to help children prepare to read were added.
  • Added 64 computers with high-speed Internet.
  • Pierce County READS involved thousands of people.
  • Pierce County Library 2030 planned for library services and buildings to meet future community needs.

2007

  • Playaways and online school reading lists offered.
  • Open hours increased by 20%.
  • Online homework help launched.
  • Added 88 computers for a total of 218 computers.
  • Free computer classes offered.

2006

  • Voters gave a 56% approval to re-authorize the library’s levy.
  • Wider variety of books and other materials.
  • More open hours.
  • Additional services for kids and teenagers.
  • Upgraded services and technology for customers.

2005

  • Express Checkout allowed customers to check out books on their own.
  • Downloadable audiobooks offered via the library’s website.

2003

  • Explorer Kids Bookmobile launched.
  • Wilkeson citizens voted to annex to Library System.
  • Diverse Communities Project starts (LSTA grant).

2002

  • Wilkeson Library closed.

2001

  • Bilingual story times started.
  • Early Learning Program starts (LSTA grant).
  • Awarded Rotary 8 Employer of the Year.

2000

  • Audiobooks on CDs are offered in libraries.

1999

  • DuPont and Milton citizens voted to annex to Library System.

1998

  • Library offered e-sources (online databases and subscription magazines) and computers with Internet access at all libraries.

1997

  • Library System website created.
  • Our Own Words Teen Writing Contest started.

1996

  • Edgewood and Lakewood citizens voted to annex to Library System.

1995

  • University Place citizens voted to annex to Library System.

1994

  • Carolyn Else retires after serving 29 years as executive director.
  • Neel Parikh, the Library’s third director, comes on board.

1992

  • New libraries opened in Graham and Summit.
  • South Prairie citizens voted to annex to Library System.

1990

  • New libraries opened in Eatonville, Gig Harbor, Parkland/Spanaway and South Hill.

1987

  • Gig Harbor citizens voted to annex to Library System.
  • Friends Connection was formed to encourage communication among community library support groups.

1986

  • Voters approved a $28.9 million bond issue for system expansion program for 12 construction projects.

1985

  • New library opened in Tillicum.

1984

  • Audiobooks on cassettes are offered in libraries.
  • Computer checkout system started.
  • Library services are provided to children in child care centers.

1983

  • Buckley citizens voted to annex to Library System.

1982

  • Eatonville citizens voted to annex to Library System.
  • New libraries opened in Bonney Lake, Orting and South Hill.

1980

  • Orting, Steilacoom and Sumner citizens voted to annex to Library System.
  • New libraries opened in Gig Harbor and Key Center.

1970

  • The Pierce County Library Foundation was established as a nonprofit corporation.

1965

  • Carolyn Else, the Library’s second director, comes on board.

1950

  • Parkland’s Community Club library committee bought a Quonset hut to be used as a library building.

1947

  • Stations opened were Anderson Island, Lakewood, Lacamas, Tillicum, Home-Lakebay, Steilacoom, Roy, Weyerhaeuser and Purdy.
  • The first bookmobile was put into service.

1946

  • Marion Cromwell, the appointed librarian, and two assistants began work as the Pierce County Rural Library District, operating for a few weeks in a basement room of the Tacoma Public Library, and then moved to 502 South 11th St. Pierce County Library System and Tacoma Public Library negotiated a contract that allowed county borrowers to check out materials from Tacoma Public Library.
  • The first library station was opened in Gig Harbor, followed rapidly by American Lake Gardens, Longbranch, National, Parkland and Vaughn.
  • Milton was the first incorporated town to contract with the library district.

1945

  • Pierce County Commissioners appointed the first Library Board of Trustees.

1944

  • Residents of Pierce County voted on and passed a ballot measure establishing the Pierce County Rural Library District.

More information

Read a more detailed library history, 1946-1965. [LINK to PDF]