, , ,

Molokai Library Celebrates 80 Years

Photo by Tyler Westhoff

The Molokai Public Library was celebrated as a community cornerstone at its 80th anniversary last Saturday.

“I know that many of you have memories of this library, and the books you’ve borrowed, and the answers you’ve found, and the wonderful staff that are here in Molokai,” State Librarian Stacey Aldrich told the crowd. “I’m grateful to the staff from 1937 to the present who have dedicated their professional lives to serving this community.”

Aldrich especially recognized Sri TenCate, who has been the Branch Manager of the Molokai Public Library for 31 years, saying “Your kindness and dedication are inspiring to us all.”

TenCate has helped carry on the library legacy that began on May 21, 1937. The first librarian of the current building was Eva McCorriston Hill, who had previously worked in one of the smaller library “stations” on the Kaunakakai wharf. In 1940, the first bookmobile services began on Molokai. Historical accounts paint a picture of the library as a hub of community activity, as well as a barometer of social change and local happenings.

In the 1930s, the library’s back room was often used as a “clubroom” by the public. During World War II, the same back room was used by the military’s Selective Draft Board. In the 1980s, the library sustained over $6000 in damages after an earthquake, and narrowly missed being destroyed by a nearby fire. In addition to providing books and various other materials to community members, the library has also held lectures, art exhibits and musical events as well as a place to sample the most recent technology, from phonographs, to 16 mm films, to VHS tapes, DVDs, and, of course, the first computers.

Today, the Molokai Public Library is one of 50 libraries across the state, but is unique because Molokai is the only island to have just one public library.

TenCate recognized the people who make the library services possible, including the Friends of the Library across the state and on Molokai, University of Hawaii Community Services Division, donors, the library staff, and the many community volunteers who help out with everything from reading programs to cleaning DVDs. She added that without them, “we wouldn’t be here today.”

Rep. Lynn DeCoite shared a legislative commemoration, and Sen. Mazie Hirono, though she could not be present, sent words of congratulations. Eighty free children’s books were provided by Interval House Molokai, a historical display highlighted the library throughout the years, and a free booklet detailing the library’s history were distributed.

Fourth grade students from Kualapu`u School created signs to commemorate the event, and library staff encouraged attendees to write down their thoughts about what the library means to them, on pennants, which were displayed around the building.

Photo by Tyler Westhoff

Before his halau took the stage, Kumu Michael Pili Pang spoke recalled his childhood at his local library on Oahu, where he and his siblings would spend hours after school while waiting for their mother to finish work.

“It became our babysitter,” he said, “and it opened so many doors to us.”

That kind of lifelong impact on people is what TenCate says is the most important part of her life’s work.

“I’ve been here that long, so I know them from when they were in kindergarten. Now they are mothers and grandmothers,” she said. “They come here for generations from the time they are small… It’s my greatest pleasure to see them continue coming to the library.”

Some of the programs that the library currently offers the community are a bookmobile service that services three preschools, a monthly Read To Me program to encourage early literacy, a summer reading program, the UH Manoa Statewide Cultural Extension Program, Japanese Theatre, Portuguese Music and other events.

Providing these programs to the community can present challenges, however, said TenCate. With the help of Rep. DeCoite, who has worked to secure funding, plans are currently underway to expand the library in 2018.

Molokai Public Library in 1937, photo courtesy of HI State Public Library System

For TenCate, however, the most fundamental mission of the library, is timeless.

“We always encourage reading,” she said. “Even when you are still pregnant, to read to the child. … Because reading is very important. And coming to the library also is essential if they have the time. Because we have so many things for them to know. Everything is here. We are a depository of knowledge.”


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.