Monday, May 20, 2019
Hailey Public Library-From Oz to E-Books
LeAnn Gelskey, who heads up a staff of eight, shows off a few of the Hailey Public Library’s new multi-cultural Cinderella dolls.
Friday, February 15, 2019


It started in 1904 with a few donated books that were given a corner in the assayer’s office at the back of what is now L.L. Green Hardware.

And in 1919 a group of the town’s founders, including Mrs. J.C. Fox and Mrs. Simon Friedman, decided the town of Hailey needed a real library.

They rented a room for $5 a month in the National Bank at Main and Bullion streets.  The Hailey Civic Improvement Club under the direction of Mrs. J.C. Fox staged a book drive. And the library opened on Feb. 19, 1919.

Nettie Mallory was the first librarian when the Hailey Public Library opened in 1919.

 “It was important to them, having experienced libraries in the larger cities in which they lived, to enrich their communities,” said LeAnn Gelskey, the library’s director.

Supporters of the robust little library that has endured a century in a small mountain town will toast its birthday on Tuesday with a Roaring ‘20s Speakeasy Nite Party and cake.

“We’ll have a VIP Cocktail Class at the Mint in Hailey with the $30 admission going to the library,” said Gelskey. “At 6:30 it opens to the public with specials in the bar, along with cake. We’re hoping people will break out their flapper dresses and zoot suits and join us.”

An even bigger birthday bash with cake, a live band and more will be held outside the library on July 19.

This picture shows some of the early Friends of the Hailey Public Library, including Stephanie Marvel, Corrine Johnson, Nancy Gurney, Karen Luke, April McLeod and Tom Hanson.

The library opened as World War I ended so a good portion of the popular titles were about the Great War, said librarian Laura Primrose. Also popular were fantasy books that allowed people to check out from reality.

Among them, the 13th installment of Frank L. Baum’s “The Magic of Oz;” Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Jungle Tales of Tarzan;” Frank Kafka’s “The Penal Colony;” P.G. Wodehouse’s “My Man Jeeves;” Carl Sandburg’s “The Chicago Race Riots,” and Booth Tarkington’s “The Magnificent Ambersons.”

Many of these books are still checked out today, she said, along with today’s popular titles, which include Tara Westover’s “Educated,” Michelle Obama’s “Becoming,” Rachel Hollis’ “Girl, Wash Your Face,” Susan Orlean’s “The Library,” John Grisham’s “The Reckoning,” Heather Morris’ “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” and James Patterson’s “The Chef.”

Nettie Mallory—the wife of photographer Martin Mallory, who captured many of the images of old Hailey with his camera--was the first librarian.

LeAnn Gelskey shows off one of the tiny libraries that her staff have placed through town at bus stops and other places with books that passersby can check out.

“She liked to fish—at least, we have a picture of her fishing—in pants,” said Gelskey.

But in 1927, just eight years after the library opened its doors, a fire destroyed the library and all of its books. The women tried to rescue the books but were refused by the fire chief who feared the fire would spread if they opened the door.

The women didn’t waste any time resurrecting it, said Gelskey. Within a week, a library fund was established and an amateurrevue called the Legion Loonies raised money to rebuild the library on the  corner of 1st Avenue North and Bullion.

The library moved into what is now the Advocates Attic on West Carbonate Street in 1970, sharing the building with City Hall and a multi-purpose room in back where films were shown.

These were among the popular titles when the Hailey Public Library opened in 1919—and some can even be checked out via E-Books today!

“I remember going there in the early 1970s—it was a place my mother allowed me to ride my banana seat bike with its pink tassels by myself,” said Gelskey. “Alba Arndt was the librarian—she ran it by herself. And I’d help her shelf books. Since I preferred to read adult books, she’d tell me the books I could and could not read.”

The Hailey Public Library moved to its current location on Croy Street in 1994. And in 2010 it expanded into the former city council chambers, making way for a colorfully decorated children’s library. Floors were shored up to hold the collection.

And in 2016, after Ketchum’s Community Library donated some of its old shelves, the library got a new carpet and paint job. Librarians moved the circulation desk to the front of the library to help people as they entered. And they moved the Hispanic collection to the front to be more welcoming, along with DVDs and audio tapes., which sit under the signs “Look” and “Listen.”

“We’re a library that offers high interest current material somewhat based on the Barnes & Noble model,” said Gelskey. “And we no longer are in the habit of saying, ‘Shhhh.’ We’re referred to as the third space outside home and work where people come together to engage with one another and be enriched. We even have people wait here while they get an oil change.”

It’s not all about books, anymore, either. In addition to the computer access and video games it offers, the library is gearing up to offer board games.

“Games are so expensive--this will give people a chance to try them out and see if they like them,” Gelskey said.

The library also just received a grant to put together culture kits that include books, dolls, clothing and other hands-on material to teach kids and families about various cultures such as African -American and Japanese.

“There are even multi-cultural Cinderellas,” she said.

The Idaho Commission for Libraries and Idaho STEM Action Center have offered maker space materials for youngsters, such as robots, that supplement what they’re learning in schools. There’s no grade attached so the kids can feel free to experiment with them without pressure, Gelskey said.

In summer the library offers “messy” programs, such as slime and science experiments, outside.

“One of our librarian’s husband holds the record for water-launched rockets so we’re getting him to do a program,” Gelskey said.

The Limelight Hotel’s employees have funded the library’s afterschool programs where kids learn arts and crafts, including sewing. In fact, they recently donated no-sew pillows to the Senior Connection. 

A lot of the other improvements have been made possible by the Friends of the Hailey Public Library, which was started by Stephanie Marvel with the help of such members as April McLeod, Corrine Johnson, Tom Hanson, Karen Luke and Nancy Gurney, who preceded Gelskey as head librarian.

They’ve held garden tours and bake and book sales to fund improvements.

Today the library has 36,765 books on its shelves, 1,996 audio tapes and 3,336 videos. It offered 14,147 wireless Internet sessions last year, 620 young adult programs and 668 family programs.

What’s more, it has 16,888 books available through E-Books, or electronic books, which anyone with a library card can access.

 “We never see some of our patrons because they check everything out by E-Books,” Gelskey said. “I just wonder what Miss Nettie would think of all this.”


In addition to the two big parties on February 19 and July 19 this coming summer, The Hailey Public Library has organized a plethora of events to honor its centennial.

In January and February, for instance, it celebrated the 1910s and 1920s by breaking out vintage games like chess that correspond to those decades. For the 1960s it could break out Twister.

March events will include a Library Reads Book club discussion of “Water for Elephants” by Ara Gruen on 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 12.

There’ll be a Decades Story Time at 10:30 a.m. March 13 and 15, Vintage Games from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 16, and something called Eat It Up! From 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 19.

And patrons are encouraged to read a children’s classic they missed reading as a child during that month.

April’s events will include an Evening of Jazz at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 19, to celebrate the 1940s. The 1950s in May will include a presentation on The History of Hailey by Rob Lonning at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16. And June’s 1960s will include an Exploration of the Moon on Wednesday, June 19.

The observances will conclude in November with a Modern Game Night on Nov. 16 to celebrate the 2010s. And December will pay homage to the future with a book club read of Andy Weir’s “The Martian” and a program on Dec. 19 called “Futuris.”

To learn more, pick up a Centennial Celebration schedule at the Hailey Public Library or visit


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