Santee was 'driving force' behind Colfax Library

By: Nancy Hagman, Colfax Record Correspondent
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The concept of Friends of the Library was founded in France during World War I. Eva Santee, a spry, retired librarian from Vancouver, Wash., helped to form the Colfax chapter in the early 1970s when the library was making its move to its current location on Church Street. The facility had previously been housed in the courthouse on Culver Street. According to Santee, ?The local chapter was organized because projects were needed to get funds for the new library.? She was said to be tireless in her efforts to that end. Her nature was to credit others; she praised Bea Mintline, then Colfax librarian, as the ?driving force behind the library.? Santee was born in Kansas, and her family had moved to Vancouver. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Washington and taught in grade school, then in high school. For two years she taught a course in English as a second language. Santee completed a degree in library science at the University of California, Berkeley, then for 27 years worked in the Vancouver library system. During her tenure, one main library and two branches were built, and three renovations were completed. Three bookmobiles were purchased. Like most librarians, her key focus was the reading advancement in children. ?Nancy Drew? and ?The Hardy Boys? were very popular, the thinking of the time was that it did not matter what a child read as long as they were reading. Santee refuted this notion, saying, ?There are so many books of better quality that are interesting.? She is credited with helping the Colfax library build its children?s section in its early days on Church Street. At the time of her retirement in 1967 in Vancouver, Santee received many awards, one a ?Certificate of Extraordinary Contribution? from the city. At the National American Library Association Convention at Cleveland in 1950, she received a coveted award that praised her ?warm human qualities and pioneer organizing ability.? Santee served as president of the Pacific Northwest Library Association, which covers four states and one Canadian province. Colfax was fortunate to inherit Santee. She moved here in 1969 to live with her sister and brother-in-law, Florence and Edward Whalin. In an article by Colfax Record editor Pat Jones, Santee?s sister Florence saidEva Santee received the ?Rolls Royce and red carpet treatment ? literally? when she retired in Vancouver, and that they held not just a day, but an entire week in her honor. Santee? hobby was people; she carried on a wide correspondence from Australia to Scotland. She was a life member of the Soroptimists and a member of the American Association of University Women. An avid history buff, she was also a member of the Placer County Historical Society. Of her own genealogy, she said there was controversy over the origin of her family name, believed to be French Huguenot. Her ancestors came first to the Carolinas, where there is a Santee River. In the Dakotas are the Santee Sioux, likely adopted by the European interlopers. The southern California town of Santee was founded by a family member who was a civil engineer. A room in the Colfax Library was named for Santee, to her protest. ?There are many people who have been around here a long time that deserve the honor more,? she said at the time. However, those who bestowed the tribute disagreed. Santee felt that being a librarian was rewarding work, ?You are always on the quest of something you do not know, that someone else wants to know.? She wrote book reviews even after she moved to a nursing home in St. Helena, in the Napa Valley. It was there she passed away on June 3, 1979 at the age of 83.