Cover Story

Story by Erin Jensen, Photography by Jamye Chrisman

The story goes that when “the Chambermaids” went before the county commissioners to propose that a county library be created, they were told that it was impossible and they should go home and do their dishes. Apparently, the women thought they could do both: start a library and do their dishes.

The Chambermaids, an auxiliary of the Chamber of Commerce, was organized in 1965. At their first meeting, they posed the questions, “What is most vital for our valley?” and “What do we need the most?” Fay Rammell shouted out “Library!” and, so goes the story, everyone agreed. A committee was formed to pursue the idea. Those committee members would later become the first Library Trustees: Fay Rammell, Gertrude Drake, Edna Moulton, LaVona Ross, and Beth Tonks. JoAnn Drake would become the Secretary/Treasurer.

After that first disappointing meeting with the county, Rammell was mad enough that she got up the next morning and drove to Boise. There, she met with the head librarian of the Idaho State Library, Helen Miller, who suggested that they start a petition to get a library district declared. They would need 51 percent of registered voters to sign the petition. Back in Victor, petitions were circulated house to house, and 76 percent of registered voters signed! Soon thereafter, a library district was declared that included Victor, Cedron, and Chapin—roughly everything south of today’s 4500 South.

Several libraries in nearby communities started saving duplicate copies of books to donate to the new library. Residents could donate books at Harper Drug in Driggs, Rammell Merc in Tetonia, and Victor Drug in Victor. The Idaho State Library would also lend five hundred books for six months at a time. Two field librarians from Boise came to Victor and stayed for two weeks to help with and teach cataloging to eager volunteers.

he Egberts in Victor offered the use of the tiny, nine-by-sixteen-foot brick building behind Egbert’s Emporium (now the Victor Emporium), which had once housed the telephone equipment and operator. Local women cleaned up and planted flowers outside, while the men came in and built shelving “all around the walls, up the center of the room, and clear to the ceiling. We had no worry about covering up the windows—there were none,” as one written history puts it.

Valley of the Tetons Library opened on April 20, 1966, during National Library Week. Its regular hours were Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Since the library initially received no tax money, it was run entirely by volunteers, largely the five women who were trustees. But they were also helped by other women, and by high school girls on Saturdays.

The Library Ladies, from left to right:
Carla Sherman, Rasheil Stanger, and Barbara Thompson.

A monthly Library Book Evening began immediately, under the direction of Clara Parker, held at the Victor Ward LDS Church, since the library wasn’t large enough to host events. The library also sponsored Christmas programs, readings, and other public events, and they had a column in the Teton Valley News highlighting library events and new books.

Library cards cost one dollar for adults and fifty cents for children. In 1968, the library was added to the county tax roll, and residents of Victor-Cedron-Chapin could then get a library card for free. The rest of the county paid for library cards until 1976, when the library district was expanded to include the entire county. Both before and after the library opened, the Chambermaids were constantly working to raise money. For a while, they operated an arts-and-crafts store in an old caboose that had been donated. Later, they held innumerable bake sales, raffles, and rummage sales.

In the basement of the present library are several scrapbooks spanning the years, with photos, newspaper articles, letters, and just about anything else relating to the goings-on in the library. There’s also a small record book spanning almost two years, from shortly after the library’s opening through 1968. Each entry details, in lovely cursive, the numbers of books in and books out, renewals, and fees collected, sometimes including a few words about the weather. One example from June 29, 1968: “Julia Richins. Books in: 18, Books out: 21, Renewals: 5, Overdue: 63¢ … Cold snow, hail & some sun!” Sounds familiar for June in Teton Valley, doesn’t it?

Loaner books and DVDs are among the services
provided at both the venerable Victor and new Driggs branches of Valley of the Tetons Library.

With such a small building, the library outgrew its space almost immediately, so the board soon started working toward building a new structure. Funding was secured from the county, the city of Victor, and the state and federal governments, but when bids for construction came in, they were all well over the funds available. A short-lived effort proposed buying Victor Drug from the Egberts and renovating it, but the successful scheme turned out to be buying a Boise Cascade pre-fab building. With a basement and foundation built and in place, the new building was delivered in the spring of 1970. One of the scrapbooks in the basement contains photos of the new building traveling down Victor’s Main Street, still on wheels next to the foundation, and just after being set onto the foundation. The re-opening took place on April 11, 1970, and there the Valley of the Tetons Library has remained since.

From those days when books in and out often numbered in the single digits, our valley library has grown to an all-time circulation high of 7,843 in July 2014, a daily average of 302 books checked out for the twenty-six operational days of the month. The original Boise Cascade building—now housing the children’s section, DVDs, CDs, and tapes, and director Carla Sherman’s office—was added onto in 2002–03, more than doubling the available space.

Last fall, a second library branch opened in the Old Livery building in Driggs, featuring all the services of the Victor location, including books, movies, WiFi, fax, a meeting room, and more. Valley of the Tetons Library continues to enrich our lives, more today than ever, thanks to those determined women who wanted to provide a window to the world for the members of our small community.