The Bettie Steiger Community Enrichment Center

A service of Whitman County Rural Library District

The Center

104 S. Main Street Colfax, WA 99111
4000 sq. feet, built approx. 1937
Contact: Kristie Kirkpatrick, kirkpatr@colfax.com, 509-397-4366

What is the Center?

The Center is an annex to the Colfax Branch of Whitman County Library. It is an educational, social, cultural and business hub for the Palouse region featuring classes for all ages, public meeting space, a technology and training center, gallery space, business incubation opportunities, historic and tourist information and many more potential uses.

Who is funding The Center?

Because the library district’s budget struggles to fund services and 14 locations, no library tax funds have been spent toward The Center’s purchase or renovation. This has been accomplished through donations, grants and volunteers. Please consider giving your time or a tax-exempt donation today!

What will it cost?

Total project cost for The Center was estimated at $525,450. Of that, approximately $12,000 worth of renovations remain (1/2 the cost of a new roof!). Besides hundreds of local donors and volunteers, major donations have come from: Don and Bettie Steiger and related memorials, the McGregor family, local economic development grants, Inland Northwest Community Foundation, Whitman County Library Friends/Foundation, Colfax Grandmothers Club, Whitman Samplers, Thrivent, Athenaeum Club, Empire Disposal, US Bank Foundation, Avista Foundation, and Soiree for the Center auction proceeds,

Who owns and manages the center?

Whitman County Rural Library District owns the building, with Whitman County Library Friends/Foundation and other partners funding many of the improvements, activities and programs taking place within the facility. Kristie Kirkpatrick, WCL’s director currently manages the facility with an eventual goal to hire a Center coordinator.

Who else is involved?

Tom Maul Architecture and Design: donated assistance on the design of The Center.

The Colfax Downtown Association lists completion of The Center as one of its key objectives for the revitalization of Colfax’s historic downtown and in its Main Street Program goals.

The City of Colfax fully supports this project, seeing business growth and incubation as vital to the town’s future.

Southeastern Washington Economic Development Association and The Port of Whitman have both contributed to the Center through guidance & local economic development activities. Plans call for Small Business Association, SCORE, Worksource and other experts to provide community training and small business support from The Center.

Washington State University’s Rural Communities Design Initiative completed a community needs assessment, completed sample design models using those results and is interested in partnering to see the Center become a thriving addition to the Colfax Community.

The Colfax Arts Council provides artists and programming for gallery events and other related activities.

Community Colleges of Spokane hosts Community Enrichment classes at the Colfax Library and at The Center supporting lifelong learning opportunities for local residents.

Community partners (individuals and businesses) are teaching classes, selling wares and participating in community events through The Center.

Additional planning included:

WSU’s Rural Communities Design Initiative held open community assessment workshops to identify the most pressing needs in Colfax. As related to The Center, they identified 4 key areas to pursue. These were Business Incubation, Art Center, Fabrication Laboratory and Community Hub.

Whitman County Library adopted new meeting room policies to accommodate for-profit uses of The Center and the Colfax Library meeting room.

What types of business incubation could occur at The Center?

The Center will consider a variety of business incubation options in the hope that entrepreneurs using the facility will develop a steady stream of business before venturing into their own locations throughout the region.

Of the 4000 sq. feet available in the Center, up to 800 square feet could be dedicated to business usage. Fiber Internet, changes in the electrical services, sound proofing and other modifications to the facility could be made in order to accommodate a small manufacturing business or other types needing incubation.

Currently, Yoga, Dance, and Exercise instructors pay fee to teach their classes at The Center. Gallery space has provided income to local artists while providing The Center a modest income to offset operating costs.

The Center will soon house a fully equipped professional office available for use by appointment. The office will provide users with a desk, computer, high speed Internet and other things needed for small business meetings and operations. With limited broadband access throughout Whitman County, this Office will give prospective businesses the professional tools they need for meetings and correspondence. Additionally, experts in small business will be providing free consultations and appointments from this space.

The Center currently provides technology classes for all ages, Microsoft certification testing and a computer lab available for public classes or use. Through grant funding, the Maker Movement, Photography, sound and audio production and 3D printing are also being explored. All of these activities support small business, employment, and business incubation efforts.

How will The Center improve tourism?

The Center’s gallery attracts visitors with its exhibits and events. In addition, the Center will seek out and provide information from Colfax, Pullman and our small towns. The Center will assist in developing a Travel Loop brochure that integrates the library’s rural heritage collection with historic sites throughout the county. The Center currently provides visitors with an Historic Walking Tour brochure of Colfax (produced by WCL) and hosts a Volkssport Walk to attract new visitors.

How will The Center enrich the lives of community members?

The Center is becoming a hub of activity for our region providing educational, cultural or social engagement. The Center will inspire entrepreneurs and be the place for business development and startups. Travelers, artists, creators will gather in The Center.

There will be many free opportunities along with some that cost a fee. Free classes will range from cultural and DIY programs to those that will help our area meet the challenges of the 21st century. Events will center upon innovation, small business, the arts, education, regional and community celebrations.

In December of 2017, The Center hosted more than 700 visitors to its art and tree exhibits, community events, classes and dance recital.

About Whitman County Rural Library District

Whitman County Rural Library District (WCL) serves a population of approx. 15,000 people over a large regional area (2150 square miles) with branches in 14 towns whose populations range from 80-2900 people. The main branch is in Colfax, which also serves as the county seat and hub for the outlying communities and rural areas.

WCL originally formed by a vote of the people in 1946 and continues to grow. Over the past 20 years, the library district annexed seven towns into the district by 75% or more “yes” votes. Community support is strong, with residents continually voting to keep tax rates as high as legally possible.

Unfortunately, Washington taxing rate laws favor larger library districts and urban city libraries. Inequities can be very significant for rural districts like WCL. For this reason, WCL relies upon community donations and grants in order to thrive.

WCL’s mission is to be the community’s #1 resource for information, recreation and discovery. WCL is committed to serving all residents in the places where they live, work and go to school whether it be through our system of 14 branch libraries, the website or outreach services. To accomplish this mission, WCL strives to provide top quality information while meeting the most pressing needs of our communities.

As a result, WCL provides popular innovative programs like Microsoft Imagine Academy and certifications, Software Coding and other technical training, public computers, wireless Internet hotspots, business partnerships and support for literacy and other educational classes while still maintaining traditional services like outreach delivery to schools and seniors, preschool story hours and materials collections.

WCL is proud of its award winning services that include a Sustainability Award from Webjunction as “The Little Library That Could” and featured programs in ALA’s Real Success Stories. Bill Gates visited WCL in 2002 citing the library’s innovative approach to service and technology. In 2004, Washington State Library called WCL the best rural library in the State nominating them as one of the top 100 libraries in the USA. WCL’s programs and staff have won numerous awards and have been featured in local, state and national workshops, broadcasts and publications. Just this past fall, Friends of Whitman County Library were honored by The Washington Library Association for their efforts to fund important programs, facilities and resources.

January 2018

How can I help?

Email Kristie Kirkpatrick  today!

The Bettie Steiger Community Enrichment Center and Business Incubator
A service of Whitman County Rural Library District
104 S. Main Street Colfax, WA 99111
4000 sq. ft, built approx 1937
Contact: Kristie Kirkpatrick, kirkpatr@colfax.com, 509-397-4366