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  • Writer's pictureMarina Rose

Why get a library card?

Updated: Jan 3

Did you know September is Library Card Sign-up Month? Across the USA, libraries will be celebrating the empowerment and liberation found by having a library card. As Marley Dias, author and founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks says, "A library card provides opportunity for discovery and access to a rich and diverse world. It empowers you to make change and experience new stories."

If this is true, why do only 20% of Caldwell residents have a library card? Our best guess is that most folks don't know the extent of things they can do with their library card. For this month's blog post, and in anticipation of Library Card Sign-up Month, we are going to examine a bit of the history of Caldwell's library and the numerous opportunities available to library cardholders.

History of the Library in Caldwell

One of the early College of Idaho buildings on Albany and 11th.

If you had to guess - what year would you say Caldwell got its first library? 1976? 1913? 1883? If you guessed 1883, you'd be pretty close! In 1887, a group of women formed a Women's Society and bought books with the intent to create a publicly accessible library/reading room for the town. Caldwell had only been platted for a township in 1883 - and didn't officially become an incorporated city until 1890, so 1887 was very early in the town's history. In an effort to raise funds for the reading room, the ladies society held an ice cream social with homemade cakes and hand-stirred ice cream (yum). They raised $75 with their first social - quite a sum in those days! The original library was housed in the back of a local jewelry store and was completely run by the ladies of the Society. In the following years, the library moved to the town's photograph gallery and then into the College of Idaho library when it opened in 1892.

Doan & Hay Company on Main St.

As the town grew, another reading room was opened behind the Doan Mercantile Company. This was in operation for several years, providing a space for meetings, as well as newspapers and magazines. It closed when the President of the Women's Society moved out of town. The topic of a reading room was again brought up in 1899 by the Women's Temperance Society who wished to create a communal space without alcohol (there were several saloons on Main Street at the time). They were successful in their efforts and opened a reading room on Arthur Street, followed by another building on Arthur. The reading room was eventually moved into City Hall. During this time, The Progress Club Reading Room was staffed and furnished by the ladies of the Temperance Society. The books (about 200) from the original Caldwell Reading room were requisitioned from the College of Idaho to create "the foundation of a City Library." Many more books and furnishings were donated over the years. You can read more about the early days of Caldwell's Library in the short work "A History of the Library and Reading Room Movement in Caldwell."

A History of the Library and Reading Room Movement in Caldwell-rotated
Download PDF • 11.80MB
Caldwell Carnegie Library shortly after completion

As the town continued to grow, it became evident that what was really needed was a publicly-funded community library. The private support of the reading room/library was barely enough to keep the doors open. After many years of fighting for support from the city, the library finally began receiving public funds in 1907. The first official library board of trustees was in 1909. After a lot of grassroots efforts, the city was awarded a grant for a new library building from the Carnegie Foundation. The building was completed in 1914 and still stands on the corner of 11th Ave. and Cleveland Blvd. It currently houses the Veterans' Memorial Hall.

The library remained in the Carnegie Building until 1976 when our current building on the corner of Dearborn and 10th Ave was completed. Looking through old documents from the early days in this building, it is amazing to see how much has changed and how our services have expanded. Our building has undergone remodeling in several stages over the last 10 years, and our staff has made a concerted effort to be more involved in the community. Although we have a relatively small staff, each of us works hard to provide meaningful services and quality assistance to our community members.

What you can do with a library card...

If I was to ask what you could do with your library card, or for that matter, what you could do at your library - what would you say? The most obvious answer is that you can borrow books, right? But that's only the beginning! With a Caldwell Library card, you can borrow books, DVDs, CDs, magazines, kits, wifi hotspots, bike locks, educational tablets for kids, and even more. We have materials for all ages from 0 to 120 and beyond! Our kits range from story kits for kids to outdoor activity kits like bocce ball and board games. We are always open to adding more, so let us know what you'd like to see! Your library card also allows you to borrow or request materials from several other libraries - Nampa, Meridian, Garden City, Eagle, Boise, Kuna, and the Ada Community Libraries, specifically.

Caldwell Library Card

Your library card also gives you access to a variety of digital materials, including Libby (ebooks, audio, and magazines), Freegal (unlimited music streaming), and an assortment of databases for personal and professional research - ask a librarian for more information, or check out our e-resource blog posts. You can also use that handy little card to use one of our computers, or a computer at a participating library.

Of course, there are also library services you can use without a library card, such as test proctoring services, copying and scanning, technology tutoring, programs and activities for all ages, and the sweet free Wi-Fi - but getting a library card gives you access to so much more!

Meme of elderly lady looking at a computer screen, text reads "You can do all that with a library card?"

But what if you live outside city limits, and you don't fall into a library district? Unfortunately, we don't have a Canyon County Library District (yet), but that doesn't mean you can't get a library card! For folks outside the city tax district, there is a small household fee for a library card - just $47.31/year a year for the entire household! Sound like a lot? Consider this - an Audible subscription is $14.95/month, or $179.40/year, for 2 free premium audiobooks (per month) and access to Audible Originals - that's just for e-Audio; Amazon Prime is $12.99/month or $119/year, which gives you access to a select number of Amazon original ebooks, Prime Music, Prime TV, and free shipping - this gets closer to a library card, but not quite there - and it's 3x the price. I don't know about you, but looking at it from this perspective makes a library card seem well worth the yearly non-resident cost - especially if you're a big reader or want to explore more of the services the library offers.

The decision to get a library card is, of course, entirely up to you, but we hope you'll stop in and give us a try.

Still not convinced about the library's awesomeness? What would you like to see from us? Let us know in the comments, or send us an email

Updated on 10/3/2022 to reflect updates to the non-resident fee price.

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