La Center Community Library celebrates 20th anniversary


The La Center Community Library celebrated its 20th anniversary last week with the soothing sounds of jazz, laughter, balloons and even an alpaca and other activities on Tuesday, May 14.

The day of celebration meant a lot to branch manager Jurinda Swingruber. She has been a part of the La Center Community Library since its beginning in 2004.

“I was the first person to do storytimes in this building, and I thought it was a gorgeous facility then when they opened it, and I think it still is, and I’m thrilled to be here as the manager,” Swingruber said.

The Fort Vancouver Regional Library (FVRL) branch in La Center has served as a public-gathering space for the last 20 years. The library routinely holds adult and youth book discussions. A genealogy group and writing group also utilize the space, Swingruber said. She is looking forward to the next 20 years at the La Center library and neighboring communities.

“We have a new branch opening in Woodland this fall, so I think the future of the libraries looks great and I’m very hopeful,” Swingruber said.

FVRL Executive Director Jennifer Giltrop is pleased with how libraries have rebounded from the digital age and the pandemic.

“Who knows what another 20 years holds. Twenty years ago, if we reflect on that, we were just starting to really transform libraries in the digital age,” Giltrop said. “People thought, ‘well, why do we still need libraries?’ And today, libraries are busier than ever. We really are coming out stronger on the other side of the pandemic, and what we’re seeing is things that both will continue to be online and digital, but the in-person community focused programs and services are essential.”

Giltrop believes there is something for everyone in a library. The La Center location offers computer access, the ability to print, copy, scan and fax documents along with 3D printers and flatbed scanners. They also offer used books for purchase and wheelchair accessibility.

“We learned that people felt very isolated during the pandemic, and where else can you meet your neighbors than at the library,” Giltrop said. “There is something for everyone here no matter what age or stage in life.”

The La Center Community Library is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturdays, at 1411 NE Lockwood Creek Road in La Center. Contact the library at 360-906-4760.

Building History

The current library and all the technology installed is the latest in the evolution of the building, which was built over a century ago.

The building, built in 1905, was first located at East Fourth Street and served as a hospital. Margaret Colf Hepola, who was born in the hospital in 1917, had a passion for historical preservation, Jeanine Liston’s history project on the La Center Community Library stated. The building was later utilized as a drug store and an appliance repair shop.

In 1999, Jay Cerveny, Bob Olson and Robert Colf purchased the property with the idea to develop it. On occasion, the fire department would use the abandoned building to test smoke equipment. A rumor circulated throughout La Center that the building may be used as a practice burn for the fire department, the history project stated.

Colf Hepola, with her son Robert Colf, combined their respect for history in an effort to save the building. The building was moved to its present site and restored to be as historically accurate as possible in its new and continuing life as a modern library over the last 20 years.