Carlos Pelley has a ready answer to the wide range of questions he receives in his new role at Yakima Valley Libraries.
“We have a book here,” Pelley said before heading to the stacks in the northwest reading room and emerging with something useful.
Many visitors to the Reading Room will likely hear it from Pelley, who started on June 29 as the Library System Archivist. As Archivist, he oversees and maintains its special collections, which are housed in the Yakima Central Library’s Reading Room.
Special Collections material focuses on local and regional history from the territorial period through the mid-20th century and includes historical manuscripts, books, private records, ephemera, maps and atlases, yearbooks from high schools and universities, photographic prints and negatives, newspaper articles, diaries and more. Most don’t circulate, and Pelley’s role also includes helping people who visit the reading room to do research.
It could be anyone from renowned regional historian and author Jo Miles and other historians and authors, to people checking property lines or looking for old photos of favorite restaurants. Pelley emphasized that the documents housed in the Reading Room are available to anyone who might find them useful.
The Reading Room is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays but the door is always closed, with a doorbell to alert Pelley, whose office is just inside the door. While access to reading room materials and research assistance by appointment is encouraged, he is fine with people visiting without an appointment if his schedule allows.
“Sometimes people just want to take a look,” Pelley said.
Native to the Yakima Valley
Pelley lives in Ellensburg and grew up in the Cowiche area, graduating from Highland High School in 2006. He attended Central Washington University, earning a bachelor’s degree in history in 2012 and a master’s degree with a focus on northeastern history. 20th Century Western Pacific in 2014.
“It was something I wanted to explore, the history of the Pacific Northwest,” said Pelley, who has written about spotted owls and logging, resource extraction and identity.
An avid student of karate and martial arts, Pelley also wrote about beloved Yakima karate instructor Morris Mack, who died in 2017. He has a keen interest in East Asian history and to the historic and current Filipino, Japanese and Latin American communities of the Yakima Valley. .
Pelley worked in special collections and rare books at Central’s Brooks Library as a graduate student and joined the university library staff full-time in October 2015. He worked there until just days before. to start his new job for the library system.
“It was something that really excited me. I processed and preserved dozens of collections while working there,” said Pelley, who is also involved with the Cascade Association of Museums, Arts & History, this which gives him more information about these collections.
He was selected to be the Library System Archivist based on factors including a comprehensive knowledge base that is required to manage the various archival collections housed in the North West Reading Room, said Sherrie Prentice , responsible for technical services and outreach. She supervises the reading room.
Because he grew up in the area, Pelley already knows its history and the people who live there, Prentice said. And he wants to know more.
“He has shown exceptional enthusiasm for learning more about the history of the Yakima Valley and its libraries, and a desire to present collections that display the diversity of cultures across the valley,” she said. .
Pelley follows in the footsteps of archives librarian Terry Walker, herself an enthusiastic scholar and teacher of Yakima Valley history. Walker retired on June 30 after 20 years with Yakima Valley Libraries, said John Slaughter, director of finance and operations who also leads human resources. Walker wanted to spend more time with his family, Slaughter said.
Walker was originally hired in 1995 as a part-time library assistant at the Terrace Heights Library. She left the library system in 2000 to earn her master’s degree in library and information science, Slaughter said, and returned to the library system in 2007.
After roles as District Circulation Coordinator and IT Manager, Walker became Archives Librarian in 2011. Among her biggest projects in this job was moving the Archives and Special Collections from their decades-old home. in the basement of the central library.
Walker wanted to make them more visible and accessible to the public. Construction of the Reading Room began in November 2019 and a low-key grand opening took place in February.
A little different
The closed door and the bell indicate the particular vocation of the reading room. Its materials are unique and fragile, and most do not circulate. To ensure their preservation, the ambient temperature is closely monitored and Pelley must monitor and react quickly to any insect or mold infestation.
Visitors cannot bring food or drink, are limited to pencils, and use small lockers for their belongings. They must wear white gloves when handling photographs, although this is not required for paper documents.
A large special collection that attracts attention is the Relander Collection, which includes historical manuscripts, books, private documents, ephemera, maps, audio tapes, microfilm, periodicals, early diaries, and photographs. It is named after Clifford C. “Click” Relander (1908-69), a native of Indiana who lived in Yakima from 1945-69. His collection comprises approximately 60,000 pages.
The library received another large historical collection in May 2018 from the estate of longtime Yakima businessman William Luebke. An accountant and auditor, Luebke managed Yakima Meadows Racecourse for years. He was also an avid student of Pacific Northwest history.
Its namesake collection includes more than 5,000 books on the history of Washington and Oregon, Lewis and Clark, the Civil War, the history of railroads and transportation, and early explorations of the Pacific Coast. Some books in the Luebke collection can be viewed, Pelley said.
“He has fantastic resources,” he said.
In 2019, the library accepted the collection of Robert Lazelle “Bob” Tuck, who died in October. Tuck has worked for more than 30 years on salmon management and restoration, according to his obituary. He spent two decades advocating for treaty rights for Native Americans with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission in Portland and the Yakama Nation in Toppenish.
Pelley has already begun to study this collection and purchase items to better preserve and store certain materials in other collections, such as acid-free boxes. He wants to make the Tuck collection, and others, more accessible to the public. It will achieve this through digitization, improving searchability and showcasing gems from the collection through library programs and exhibitions, Prentice said.
Enthusiastic and happy to help, Pelley is eager to spread awareness of the library system’s special collections. No question deserves his attention, no document too obscure for him to seek. A simple question or obscure document could solve a mystery, settle a property issue, or connect a researcher with relatives.
“Someone may find these documents, these papers, important,” he said.