A Brief History of the Round Valley Public Library
We are a rural community at the end of the highway, across the ravine, an hour’s drive to the next town--that is to say, just a bit past beyond. Our valley
consists of one small town, an Indian reservation, and ranchlands--an
economically depressed region of California, in one of its poorest counties, a
place forgotten. Some of our residents have never left the valley, many more
have never ventured to the county seat, let alone to such exotic places as San
Francisco or Los Angeles.
What began as a book exchange out of the trunk of a car, in 1978 turned into
the Covelo Community Library, housed in the former self-service laundry. The
library, financed through various fundraisers, struggled to maintain itself
with limited hours and a small collection of donated and purchased books.
In 1990 our library was adopted into the county library system and gained some
stability. During that time the library worked with the local tribes to combine
their library collection with that of the public library, and became a
much-needed information center for under-served segments of the valley, helping
to draw together much of our divided community.
Endowed with a secure environment and stable finances, the Friends of the Round
Valley Public Library created a visionary project dedicated to funding the
future construction of a new library. Two leading citizens gathered biographies
and photos of early-day Round Valley inhabitants, both Native American and
White settlers, and prepared a history entitled Families, published in 1997.
The seed money gradually grew to $100,000.
Many more years passed, while the library site became increasingly plagued by
roof leaks and mold, forcing us to look for new options. In June 2006, the few
Friends put their heads together and proposed a bold vision for an all-new
library, and in no time at all the stalwart group of four increased to more
than twenty dedicated hearts and minds.
Over the next five years the Friends of Round Valley Public Library raised more
than a million dollars, purchased and remodeled the almost 7000 square foot
Round Valley Inn, turning it into a library, commons room, coffee shop, patio,
and storage facility. The library uses 55 percent of the new building, a space
more than twice the area of the old library.
While not all of the space in the new building is the library proper, it all
serves to augment the services of the library or to raise money to support
The library commons is now integrated into every facet of our community.
• Our radio station combined with 24/7 WiFi access has broadened our reach for
local and world knowledge and offers limitless horizons to our youths and
• Our bilingual branch librarian has opened her arms to make our Spanish-speaking
citizens feel welcome, and our local Native American youths are developing
animated shorts to help preserve our heritage.
• Our media room makes possible satellite conferencing to help with court
appearances as well as seeking legal council, tax help, and resources for needy
• Our commercial kitchen is used to teach nutrition classes and host a monthly
• Partnering with the regional community college, we are able to offer extension
courses as well as online courses.
• Our Chamber of Commerce hosts and maintains our website.
• Individuals in the community with knowledge to share offer informal mentoring
and hands-on classes in everything from origami, to help in reading, to
computer literacy and radio programming--and even such inspiring programs as
the one offered by the lead animator at Disney to help open the imaginations of
• We host ongoing art shows to highlight local artists, and bring in collections
from the outside featuring artists of world renown.
And the result?
While it is a slow process, we are seeing old wounds beginning to heal and
people coming together, often with some trepidation. We are finding that we are
able to develop the spirit of volunteerism in our young, ensuring a healthy
future for our community. Much to our surprise, this has turned out to be a bit
like the old tale of stone soup--some toss a bit of knowledge, some a bushel of
good will, some a bounty of labor into the soup of our community and we all
benefit from the banquet of newly found alliances and long-forgotten hope.