Farmington, and its library, are hidden gems

I have the pleasure of serving residents of all ages from a small library in Farmington.

Farmington is located in the northeast corner of Whitman County near the Idaho border. The library is located in the historic 1908 Masonic Lodge Building across from a lush city park. Listed on the National Historic Register, the Masonic Building also houses the town hall and a community meeting room.

Farmington is a hidden gem, serving as the gateway to McCroskey State Park and Skyline Drive, where breathtaking views of the Palouse are a popular backdrop for hiking, mountain biking and sightseeing.

The population of Farmington peaked around 1930, with 500 people utilizing businesses, banks, a general store, pharmacy, hotels, doctors and a busy rail line.

As the railroad use declined, so did Farmington’s population. The school closed in the late 1960s, and today less than 150 people live in town. Remaining storefronts include a bank, post office, city hall and our little library.

Today, the library is a hub for community activity, normally providing after school programs, story times, book clubs and a popular place for local residents to meet.

Unfortunately, with the library closed because of the coronavirus, services are currently limited to online resources, with Wi-Fi access near the building and materials being picked up curbside or delivered to patrons via the mail.

I enjoy working in Farmington for a number of reasons. I came from the Seattle area to attend college at Washington State University and was taken with the area. After marrying a farmer, my love of the rolling hills and the small towns of the Palouse has only deepened.

And, I’ve always loved reading. As a child, I would lie atop the stairs reading by the light drifting from the living room while my parents assumed I was fast asleep. Later, as a mom and now a grandma, I cherish the special bonds that come from reading with the ones you love most.

And that is what makes being a librarian so special, sharing those joys of reading with the special people who live in Farmington.

The common routine for local residents is a visit to the post office, the bank and of course, the library. I enjoy hearing about the books they are returning and helping them find a great read to take home with them.

The kids who visit the library bring the sunshine, something I am dearly missing these days. Reading to little ones, leading them in afterschool programs, or having them read aloud to me is so special and heartwarming.

Several of my library patrons have lived in Farmington their entire lives and love to share stories and memories from days gone by. As a result, I’ve learned a lot about the history of the town and people.

Travelers often stop in the library with questions about the town. One of my go-to resources is a collection compiled by former town clerk, Colleen Duty. Titled the Farmington History Collection, it includes old maps, deeds, documents, photos and details of the town’s history. Another great resource for Farmington history is the Whitman County Heritage collection found at the library’s website at.whitco.lib.wa.us.

Although I don’t live in Farmington, the community is so friendly and I really feel like I belong. I look forward to the day when the library reopens and the coronavirus is just a notation in Farmington’s history books.

Rita Ackerman is the manager at the Farmington branch of the Whitman County Library District.

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