Sherburn Merrill Smith accidently shot himself through the stomach, inflicting a wound that was for six days feared to be fatal. With the tragic death of Wendell State Bank President in October 1912, the Wendell Library was born. Smith’s mother, Mrs. William Chester of New York donated Smith’s books, many of them leather bound, to be used as the Sherburn Smith Memorial Library.
From this small core a library grew, housed first in a room at the bank. The library books were moved to the building that was the Post Office on Avenue A when Wendell State Bank merged with First National Bank of Wendell in 1915. In 1918 it was moved to the Beaton Wendell Inn which the city acquired as a City Hall and in 1919 it was moved to the new City Hall built on Main Street. The library shared the Water Works office in 1921 until March 1962 when the City Council agreed the library had grown too big for the office and had it moved to the basement of city hall where it shared space with the furnace and coal bins. The basement library was remodeled in 1980 and the old coal bins were removed to make additional space for more books.
On July 26, 2003, the Wendell City Council and the Wendell School Board met during a city council meeting and entered into an agreement for additional city hall property. The city had acquired the old Middle School Library building on the east side of the new city hall building for the city’s new library, in exchange for the chip sealing of the parking lot next to the High School Gymnasium.
Now the library serves as a center for information, community enrichment, recreation reading, and lifelong learning. The library contains over 23,000 volumes and offers audio and video tapes as well. Popular programs include summer reading programs and story hours. Special events such as author visits and guest speakers are scheduled several times a year. The library is on an interlibrary loan program with the City of Gooding and Shoshone and offers public internet access. The library is governed by a four member Library Board, appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council. Funding for the library is through property taxes, user fees, and private donations. The Library is open five days, thirty hours a week. Future planning includes relocating the Library to a larger building recently acquired by the City. The new facility is planned to house a community center as well.