Trempealeau has two generous and forward-thinking women to thank for its impressive modern library. One started the town’s first library in the early 20th Century, and the other bequeathed a large portion of the funds for the current facility at the start of the 21st Century.
Hettie Pierce (1871 – 1960)
Hettie Pierce loved children. She painted nature and knew every plant by its Latin name.
Upon watching her doctor husband’s patients sit idly in the waiting room of his Main Street office, Hettie put out some of her own books for them to read. She established a separate building on 3rd Street in 1913 and began lending to the general public.
After Hettie’s death in 1960, the building was torn down. In the same year, the village built a new administration building and designated a room as the Hettie Pierce Public Library. By the late 1990’s, demand for library services had outgrown the small space. Librarian Judy Grant and a small group of local citizens began an effort to raise funds for a new building.
Shirley Wright (1932 – 2004)
Shirley Wright was born in Trempealeau and graduated from Healy Memorial High School. After attending Winona State University, she moved to the East Coast and earned a graduate degree in linguistics. She taught English in Costa Rica, Colombia, and Vietnam, then returned to the East Coast and married. She was charismatic and made whomever she was talking to feel important.
Already a widow, Shirley was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer in late 2002. Upon hearing of the plans for a new library in Trempealeau, she decided to leave more than $1 million for the project in her estate. When added to the $600,000 already donated, the money was enough to pay for the property, building, equipment, and furnishings for the new facility.
Designed by Val Schute of River Architects and constructed by Olympic Builders, the Shirley M. Wright Memorial Library opened its doors in June 2005. It is a state-of-the-art facility providing Trempealeau and surrounding communities with meeting and study rooms, relaxed reading areas, free Internet and WiFi, and access to more than 455,000 titles available through the Winding Rivers Library System.
Pictures of both Hettie Pierce and Shirley Wright hang in the library, honoring their contributions to the Trempealeau area, its citizens, and visitors. The exterior of the building proudly proclaims, “Shirley M. Wright Memorial Library, established by Hettie Pierce in 1913.”