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Historic Photos of the Redwood City Public Library

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Historic Photos of the Redwood City Public Library

History of the Redwood City Public Library
The Redwood City Public Library was founded in 1865, when funds raised by private subscription provided for a Town reading room. The first reading room was located in a two-story building on Main Street that was shared with the Times-Gazette newspaper office. For the next three decades, the library was moved to several different locations and was staffed by members of an informal citizens committee. In 1889, the Redwood City Library Association was formed for the purpose of establishing a public library that was supported by municipal, as well as private funding. The first Town Librarian was photographer James Van Court, who also donated part of his studio for a reading room. In September of 1900, after increased community use and support of the library, the Town Trustees levied a special library tax, and in November of the same year, Ordinance No. 30 was introduced and passed providing for the establishment of a free public library in Redwood City.

Laura Barton, who had been in charge of the reading room, became the first City Librarian. Under her direction, the Library Board was granted a bequest form the Carnegie Foundation for the construction of a Carnegie Library on Broadway. Less than a year after its completion, the new library suffered severe damage during the 1906 Earthquake. Additional funds from the Foundation, however, enabled total reconstruction of the building by 1907.

Wilhelmina Harper, a noted children's librarian, was appointed as the Head Librarian in 1930, and supervised an extensive reorganization of the collection. She increased the purchase of non-fiction and children's books, and also introduced the Dewey Decimal system to the library. More books and more patronage created a serious space problem for the Carnegie building. In 1938, a City bond issue was passed to build a new library at the corner of Jefferson and Middlefield Road. Dedicated in 1939, the library was part of of Public Works Administration project which also included the construction of a new City Hall and an addition to the County courthouse.

The library adapted to post-war population growth with increased holdings and expanded community programs. The concept of branch libraries was also implemented in Redwood City. The Friendly Acres Branch operated out of a room at Fire Station No. 3 from 1952 to 1960. In 1957, the Schaberg Branch was completed, utilizing funds from a private donation. Fair Oaks Branch opened in 1974 as part of the Fair Oaks Community Center. And in 1988, a new 45,000 square-foot main library was built on the site of the old Fire Station No. 1 in the downtown area.


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Photos provided by the Local History Collection at the Redwood City Public Library.
Copyright © 1999. Redwood City Public Library. All rights reserved.
Exhibit date: September 1997.