In 2015, the Wilkinson Public Library (WPL) celebrates 40 years serving the Telluride region. That’s 40 years as an official library district, but the history of the library goes back to the mid-sixties when a bookmobile came to Telluride once a week. Around this time, Larry and Betty Wilkinson arrived in town and met with the town’s fire department to request a community library space in the Quonset hut that once stood next to the current elementary school. The Quonset hut library was open two or three days a week, three or four hours a day. The collection consisted of local donations and discarded books from other libraries. The entire donation-only budget went toward coal for heat.
In 1974, Larry and Betty approached the San Miguel County Commissioners with a petition of 100 signatures to put a library on the ballot. With voter approval, the first library board of trustees was appointed and Betty was hired as Library Director. Eventually the library outgrew the Quonset hut and Larry went before the town council for permission to use the old stone jail on Spruce Street. With council’s blessing, the town got a grant from the National Park Service and the jail was renovated. Betty and Larry hauled twenty tons of rock that summer in the back of their van, three or four rocks at a time. In 1976, the new library was dedicated at the site of the former town jail on South Spruce Street.
By 1984, the old jail was no longer large enough to comfortably contain the library. The library board introduced a bond issue to add on to the old jail and the measure passed by a ratio of three to one. But as the town continued to grow, it became clear that the library required a building designed to hold books not prisoners. In 1997, a town referendum to build the new building passed by a narrow margin of two votes! The Wilkinson Public Library opened in August 2000.
The Wilkinson Public Library is named in honor of Larry and Betty Wilkinson, who championed a library in Telluride from its rough Quonset hut inception, through various expansions and into today’s beloved and well-used 20,000 square foot building. Larry served on the Library board through the construction of the current building and still drops by when he is visiting from his home in Montrose. He is now 92 years old. Sadly, Betty passed away in 1988.
The WPL is open seven days a week to bring you books, media, computer access, Wi-Fi, and children’s and adult programs. Stop by and see us!