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,, 509-397-4366

What is the Center and when will it be complete?

The Center is an annex to the Colfax Branch of Whitman County Library. When complete, it will be an educational, social, cultural and business hub for Whitman County featuring classes for all ages, gallery space, business incubation opportunities, historic information, tourist activities, sales of local merchandise or other potential uses. Currently, the two main community/meeting rooms are available for use while fundraising is ongoing to complete restrooms and a kitchenette and the southeast corner of the building.

Who is funding The Center?

The Center was purchased and renovations completed through donations, grants and volunteers. Please consider giving of your time or a tax-exempt donation today!

What will renovation of The Center cost?

Total project cost is estimated at $504.450. Of that, approximately $150,000 worth of renovations still need to be completed on the site which was formerly Hamilton Drug Store.

Funding sources to date include Don and Bettie Steiger and related memorials, the McGregor family, Inland Northwest Community Foundation, local economic development grants, Whitman County Library Friends/Foundation, Thrifty Grandmothers Club, Whitman Samplers, Thrivent, Athenaeum, Colfax Downtown Association, Empire Disposal, US Bank Foundation, Avista Foundation, Soiree for the Center auction proceeds and many others.

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.

What types of education, cultural, and technical classes will take place in The Center?

With the Library’s only meeting room bursting at the seams, educational, cultural and technical programming are already overflowing into The Center. Once the facility is complete this will only increase, not only through the library’s efforts but also from community partners and agencies.

For kids, the library provides a wide array of educational opportunities, including baby, toddler and preschool classes, Play and Learn, Crazy 8’s math club, software coding classes, Lego programs, book discussion clubs, 3rd Thursday afterschool club and outreach to schools and daycares. WCL often sponsors partner programs like scientists and science centers, guest authors and experts, musical performers and more.

For adults WCL provides a wide variety of classes such as literary, computer skills and technology, career search, skills and support, history, science, cooking, fitness and travel, often in partnership with Community Colleges of Spokane, Humanities Washington, regional agencies and local instructors.

For seniors, we provide educational, technical, everyday living and perhaps most importantly social opportunities. From gentle fitness, low-vision readers and bingo to technology instruction and support, health and wellness, ACT 2 community enrichment classes and heritage programming, the library works hard to see that seniors and all residents receive quality access to life-long educational opportunities.

What types of business incubation could occur at The Center?

The Center will accept a variety of business incubation options in the hope that entrepreneurs using the facility will develop a steady stream of business and reliable clientele 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 a specific 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, Exercise and Art instructors are interested in renting the Center. These uses are quite feasible considering the size limitations of the Center. Gallery space and sales space is also being considered for budding local businesses to sell their artwork or other small sized items.

The Center may also house a fully equipped professional office available for use by appointment. The office would provide users with a desk, phone, fax machine, computer, high speed Internet, scanner, small conference table and other things needed for small business meetings and operations. With the limited broadband access throughout Whitman County, this Office will give prospective businesses the professional tools they need for meetings and correspondence.

The Center is also exploring the Maker Movement, Photography editing and support, sound and audio production, a 3D printing, small fabrication equipment and other uses that would encourage and benefit small business development and expansion.

How will The Center improve tourism?

The Center’s exhibits and events will encourage travelers to stop. Once inside, we will provide helpful information from our region and our small towns to encourage regional tourism. The Library helped develop a historic walking tour of Colfax and will assist in developing a Travel Loop brochure throughout Whitman County that integrates the library’s rural heritage collection with historic sites. The Center will be a hub for county business and travel info!!

Who else is involved?

Tom Maul Architecture and Design, an accomplished firm from Seattle has committed to development and design of The Center.

Volunteers to date include Tom Maul, architect, Chris Sapp Masonry, Real Life Ministry volunteers, Sullivan Construction, Rural Resources, Bill Hotchkiss, and others.

The Colfax Downtown Association lists completion of The Center as one of its key objectives seeing it as a key step in the revitalization of Colfax’s historic downtown.

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

Colfax Chamber of Commerce is an advocate and partner in this project as the Center will play a key role in community activities, events and celebrations.

Southeastern Washington Economic Development Association and The Port of Whitman have contributed to the Center through funding, guidance & local economic development activities. Plans call for the Small Business Administration, SCORE, Worksource and other experts to provide community training and support for small businesses via 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. Colfax Chamber of Commerce is an advocate and partner in this project as they look forward the The Center’s participation and support in a variety of community activities and Events.

The Colfax Arts Council has contractually partnered to offer staffing and marketing skills in exchange for use of the facility to include exhibits, gallery events and classes.

Community Colleges of Spokane hosts Community Enrichment classes at the Colfax Library and fully support completion of the Center in order to expand their low-cost classes.

Empire Health Foundation has provided funding for Senior Citizen programming and equipment that is currently taking place in The Center and The Library.

Community partners have expressed an interest in teaching classes or selling their local products through The Center. Many residents have donated to The Center or have written letters of support for the project.

Whitman County residents are showing strong support for The Center through donations, volunteer efforts and most recently, a fundraising auction that raised $50,000 for the project.

Additional planning activities

Washington State University’s Rural Communities Design Initiative (WSU RCDI) completed a comprehensive community needs assessment. Those results helped determine uses for the facility. WSU RCDI and various university departments are participating in future studies, programming and marketing at The Center.

Whitman County Library adopted new meeting room policies to accommodate for-profit uses. This model is growing in popularity, demonstrating the funding model will work for The Center.

About Whitman County Rural Library District

Whitman County Rural Library District (WCL) serves a population of 15,120 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 1945 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 where we collect only $900,000 in taxes to operate 14 branches and support a large geographic area. 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 a IT Microsoft Training Academy, public computers, wireless Internet hotspots, business partnerships and support, and educational classes while still maintaining traditional services like outreach delivery to schools and seniors. For kids, classes like software coding, Crazy 8’s math club, afterschool and preschool classes, and summer reading all while maintaining traditional services 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.

June 2016.

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,, 509-397-4366