Arlee Library History

The Jocko Valley Library started in the Spring of 1974, with a small group of volunteers collecting donated books from friends and neighbors in the Arlee Valley.

The Arlee Methodist Church was the sponsoring organization, and space in their basement served as the first home of the library. At that time there was a large number of active organizations in the community. Each organization donated five dollars per month to support the library.

Generous book donations by individuals from Missoula to Kalispell quickly increased the library's collection to more than 2,000 volumes. Shelving was donated or constructed from supplies bought with donated funds. In those days the library had enough volunteers to be open on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 2:00 to 5:00.

When the library outgrew the limited space available in the Methodist Church it moved to a small building on Arlee’s Main Street known as the “old liquor store.” The rent, heat, and electricity bills soon consumed the small amount of funds available in the budget. With the passing of time, interest and enthusiasm diminished among volunteers. Through the generosity of the Catholic Church, a rent and utility free room was provided. The volunteers once again packed up books, dismantled the shelves, and moved.

Use of the library continued to be encouraging, but volunteers able to keep the library open on a regular basis continued to dwindle. During this time the library was only open one afternoon each week. The Catholic church began a remodeling project which included the area allotted to the library. Once more, the library went looking for a home.

Due to the turnover of officers and the disbanding of many community groups over the years, the five dollars per month income went to the wayside. With volunteers reduced to a faithful four or five, the library was truly at a low ebb.

The Brown Building is a 1910 vintage school house. This was the first school house in Arlee and it was turned into a community center. The basement was originally the Shop and Gym room. Concurrently with the library’s need for a free and larger space and the Jocko Volunteer Fire Departments need for a training room, the basement of the Brown building was able to accommodate both needs. Through the generosity of many local businesses, the Fire Department, and individuals who gave building supplies, money and many hours of skilled free labor, a beautiful room was finished in the basement of the Brown Building. The library was housed in the east half of the basement and the Fire Department’s training room in the west part. The Brown Building Committee generously agreed to provide heat and electricity for the rooms.

With a permanent, rent and utility free home, the number of volunteers continued to be minimal. For several years the burden fell mainly on the shoulders of four individuals. Jackie Beck, Ardella Betts, Dalene Doney and Bette Samsel arranged bookshelves, cataloged, shelved books, and provided library services.

In November of 1981 a surprise in the form of a four hundred dollar tax revenue fund from Lake County appeared. It was a welcome surprise, as the need for new books, current materials, and a morale boost for the troops, was desperately needed. The Lake County Commissioners recognized the need for library services in Arlee, and began to assist the Jocko Valley Library with a share of monies from the county library mill levy. Books, supplies and much needed equipment were purchased. The library received tax revenues in November 1982 and July 1983. During this time there was a growing group of young readers using the library. The age range was from Kindergarten through eighth grade. Approximately 85% of the patrons were CS&K Tribal membership.

In October of 1983, the CS&K Tribal Council gave a generous sum to the libraries in Lake County. The amount was prorated among those libraries serving a significant Indian population with Arlee receiving one thousand and eighty dollars. The library board used this income to purchase additional books and expand hours of operation by hiring a local young person to work three hours per week.

We would like to thank the many volunteers and board members over the years, who helped establish our library and the current members who continue to help the Jocko Valley Library succeed.

Sources Cited:


~ Grant proposal written in October 1983; by Bette Samsel

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