A year-long program of celebratory events

The site of the new building that was to house the Idyllwild Library in Fern Valley was studied by the people who would built it in September 1961. From left, George Dickinson, Hugh Greer, Noble Allert, Margaret Humber and Bill Dickinson. The structure was to be a modified A-frame type with a set back from the street for parking.   File photo

The Idyllwild Library celebrates its centenary on July 27, 2020. The library staff are planning a year-long schedule of celebratory events to mark the 100-year anniversary. 

The current library in Strawberry Plaza is the sixth iteration of Idyllwild’s public reading center. The first was in Claudius Emerson’s historic Idyllwild Inn in the town center. 

Once Emerson negotiated a deal with the county to obtain an initial allotment of books for the “public library,” one could pay a $1.50 deposit “for as long as one had books out” [source and library timeline Bob Smith: “Before our Time: Libraries in Idyllwild, past and present …”].  In 1923, the resort expanded to full-time operation and Emerson hired a manager for the library. 

In May 1945, the hotel burned to the ground and according to Smith’s research, books were lost since the fire was intense and devastating. In 1948, Jim and Lou Weir, owners of the Fern Valley Lodge, now Kwikset Cabins on South Circle, offered a small cabin on their site as a new home for the branch library — the second location. 

As circulation and demand grew, the library moved to its third location, a cabin on North Circle Drive and Upper Pine Crest Avenue. In 1962, that cabin was moved to Camp Emerson and a new library was constructed in roughly the same location, the fourth site. 

In 1972, the library expanded into an adjacent building adding a reading room with periodical browsing, according to Smith. 

In 1996, the county bought a building on Lower Pine Crest Avenue and the library said goodbye to four decades at Fern Valley Corners, moving into its new space of more than 1,000 square feet on June 24, 1996, and becoming the fifth location.

With the help of the Friends of the Library, multiple donors and then Riverside County 3rd District Supervisor Jeff Stone, the library moved to its present state-of-the-art facility in Strawberry Plaza in October 2012. As Smith pointed out in his article, it marked the return of the library to its rightful place in the center of town.

The centenary year begins with a kickoff party on Saturday, July 27, with a reception at the library and a block party, location to be determined. Food and entertainment will enliven the festivities.

In November 2019, there will be a human library, an opportunity to “check out” a town personage, and as with a book, to discover the person’s story.

In March 2020, there will be a homecoming, much like homecomings in small Midwestern towns where all who have lived there are invited back on a certain day to celebrate the town and its history. In this case, all who have ever volunteered their time at any of the six library locations will be invited to return to join library staff, life members and large donors for a celebratory potluck homecoming — a testament to a small town’s insistence on having a library as part of its civic life.

In April 2020, there will be a poetry contest, possibly featuring a celebrated poet such as Dana Gioia, California Poet Laureate as judge.

One of the events about which Shannon Houlihan Ng, Idyllwild Library manager, is most excited is the staging of U.K. author Michael Morpurgo’s children’s classic, “I Believe in Unicorns.” The one-woman play, adapted from Morpurgo’s book, stars one of Idyllwild’s most gifted actresses, Michèle Marsh, known for her movie role in “Fiddler on the Roof” and many major TV appearances. 

It will be directed by Kathleen Walker, also a distinguished actress with off-Broadway credits. It will be presented at the Christian Science Church on Cedar Street. The story is of a young boy, in a time of war, who, inspired by a librarian to love literature, helps to save books when the town is attacked and the library burns. As the librarian says, “Books they can destroy. Dreams they cannot.”

In May 2020, Trish Tuley will showcase her “Intimate Idyllwild” photos.

Other plans include installing a time capsule within the library, not beneath, that will remain a fixture for 25 years. Inside the capsule will be any memorabilia dating from the founding of the library until now, such as old library cards.

The festivities conclude with a block party on a July 2020 date to be determined, with commemorative readings and speeches.

For more information about the centenary celebrations, visit the library’s site at http://www.rivlib.net/website/branch-page-829/location/Idyllwild. Also of interest is the website of the Friends of the Idyllwild Library, longtime advocates and supporters of the public library. View at www.friendsofidyllwildlibrary.com.