Brief History of Timberland Regional Library

Timberland Regional Library Timeline

Timberland (TRL) was created in 1968 as an Intercounty Rural Library District by a vote of the residents of the unincorporated areas of the five counties (Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific and Thurston) after a Demonstration Project (1964-1968) funded by federal, state and local grants.

The service area covers nearly 7,000 square miles and in 2013 serves a population of approximately 475,000 residents through 27 community libraries with a collection of nearly 1.2 million items. The District is governed by a seven-member Board of Trustees appointed by county commissioners, with a trustee from each county and two additional trustees filling at-large positions.

Before TRL was created, Lewis County had no library service in the rural areas. In the rural areas of the other counties, service was provided by the South Puget Sound Regional Library, the Grays Harbor County Rural Library District and the Pacific County Rural Library District. During the 1964-68 Demonstration Project, grant funds enabled new library service through rented buildings in Tumwater and Lacey and bookmobiles in previously un-served rural areas.

Many cities within TRL provided their citizens with library service for years prior to the creation of the rural county library districts. Seven of these cities owned original Andrew Carnegie funded buildings or other gifted facilities. Others provided service from space in city halls or other city buildings. After TRL was created, most of these cities began contracting with TRL for library service to take advantage of economies of scale and more services and resources. By 1975, seventeen cities with independent municipal libraries had contracted with TRL. The last city to bring its library into TRL was Hoquiam in 2011.  In 2012, residents in the City of Morton voted to annex to TRL. 

All eighteen cities (nineteen since Morton annexed in 2012) continue to contract with TRL for service or have annexed to TRL. Through the library buildings in these cities, TRL serves most of the population of the TRL district—both city residents and rural residents. A key to TRL’s service model is that it combines the revenue from both the rural areas and the cities and uses it to provide enhanced services and resources through the city- and TRL-owned branches. In more remote rural areas far from cities, TRL has replaced bookmobiles with buildings using grant funds and timber revenue. Better library service has been established in the far corners of the district. Also in rural areas, TRL has created partnerships with schools and tribes to create service points called cooperative library centers which provide library services to the general public a few hours a week.

Besides the books, magazines, newspapers, tapes, videos, CDs, programs and other services available in community libraries and cooperative library centers, TRL also provides outreach services to groups and individuals. In recent years, TRL added  Ask a Librarian information services via toll free telephone, email and chat, as well as 24/7 access access to the library’s computer catalog and many other computerized resources. Most customers use and enjoy the library as a physical place, but an increasing number of customers use the library as a virtual library. TRL continually seeks creative ways to meet the needs of residents.