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Seventeen enterprising women from the Sun Valley area founded the Community Library in Ketchum in 1955. Each contributing $1 to create the Community Library Association, the all-female team laid the foundations for the region’s reading rooms, and sought to create a public learning space for their neighbors. With a desire to dodge censures that were hitting public libraries under American McCarthyism, the women opted to run their library as a private enterprise so that any and every book could make it to the shelves. But how would they fund the operation? Well, by opening the Gold Mine Thrift Store in a small log cabin. They raised enough to fund the library, and in 1957, the first Community Library building was completed.
Growing quickly from the thrift store sales and private donations, the library moved to its current location in 1977 with many additions to follow. Along with their vast book collection, the library added a Regional History Department as well as a Regional Museum detailing the many characters and stories of the mountain-enclosed area. In 2017, the library and its parent association would even be entrusted with the upkeep of the Ernest Hemingway Home, the author’s final residence which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Highlighting Hemingway’s connection to the region and wishing to continue his legacy, the library even hosts various writers-in-residence each year for the valley’s community.
Now home to over 127,000 items, the Community Library continues to encourage curiosity and creative endeavors for its patronage. A picture of the 17 founders can be found at the building’s front desk—with most participants smiling as if they knew their efforts would lead to a Sun Valley staple.
Written by: Seamus McMahon