There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.  ~Andrew Carnegie

Carnegie Library of Palo Alto

A city may well be judged both by the intelligence of the average citizen within its confines and the various agencies which it contains for the promotion of intellectual life and activity; and Palo Alto owes much of its fame as one of the most desirable of all residential centers to the fact that it is well-equipped in educational institutions.  Prominent among such, and one of which Palo Alto is especially proud, is the well-planned, well-stocked, and well-managed Public Library, conveniently located and safely housed in a structure worthy of the purpose to which it has been dedicated.  One of  the most interesting of the historic buildings of Palo ALto is the one now occupied by Ralph Dodson's Music Store and Miss Herrick's Art store, formerly the Easterday Co., and before that for years by D. A. Curry, the pioneer furniture dealer and founder of Camp Curry in Yosemite Valley. This was erected by Major Norris and C.L. Crabtree and was named by them, on account of their co-partnership, Norteree Hall.  There in 1893 was started a reading room under the auspices of the Y. M. C. A. , although it must have taken considerable courage to start such an enterprise before the little village was even incorporated.  As might  have been expected, the public did not rush to support  the venture, and as the Y. M.C.A. found that it could not maintain the establishment, it was glad to give way to the Woman's Club, an organization developed about that time from a small Mothers' Club.  The ladies had conceived the idea of starting a Free Library, and had formed the nucleus of one with a miscellaneous collection of about 200 books, obtained by means of a book social held on March 21, 1896.  The day previous Prof. A. B. Shoe had addressed the Club on "The Need and Value of Town Libraries," an address especially interesting today on account of the vision of the professor, who foresaw in large measure the Palo Alto of the Twentieth Century.  The Woman's Club favored the idea of uniting its library project with the abandoned reading room,  but , fearing financial responsibility, contented itself with passing resolutions promising moral support.

On the corner now occupied by the Stanford Bank stood a two-story building, long since demolished, where the free reading room was formally opened on February 13, 1897.  A subscription list, including payments made to the Y.M. C. A. fund, had yielded some $200, of which sum about $150 was used for rent and the remainder for light, fuel, janitor service and incidentals.  Such were the :magnificent distances" of the scattered young town that soliciting was no light task, the unpaved streets and muddy crossings testing the ardor and faith of the library enthusiasts; but the workers went bravely on, spending much valuable time and bringing into requisition the whole available force of the club in gathering magazines and newspapers.  Some donated magazines, after reading them. others subscribed for periodicals; the Times and Live Oak gave their exchanges. all of which had to be collected and arranged.  Results of the first year's work showed the crying need of such a place, but when the New Year opened, the committee was loath to continue the task unless more money and more helpers  were forthcoming, guaranteeing something more than a mere existence.

When for some weeks the fate of the venture had hung in the balance, more women became interested and it was decided to go on.  A uniform subscription rate of twenty-five cents a month was established.  The list of subscribers and donations is still on file and shows that some gave as much as a dollar a month; some gave ten cents-what  they could- while only a few names have "No" after their signatures.  Ten public-spirited citizens each gave one dollar and made possible the purchase of 100 volumes of fiction from an abandoned library in San Francisco.  A second book social was given which added 105 volumes, and with 300 books in the library the institution was formally adopted by the Woman's Club on February 16, 1989. The first librarian was Mr. A. L. Cerebrate, who was on duty from 9-12 and from 2-5, for which service she was paid $15 per month.  Operettas and other entertainments, and a lecture by Dr. Jordan, who was from the first keenly interested, began to swell the funds.  Even after the town was contributing officially to the maintenance of the work various kinds of entertainment's were given to raise funds; teas, a Christmas Fair, a Mrs. Jarley's Wax Works,  an evening given by the Young Ladies' Cycling Club, and a Thanksgiving Business Men's football game.

All members of the club worked hard to assure the success of the  library, but particular mention should be made of  Mrs. E. L. Campbell, the first president, whose energy, perseverance and wisdom prevailed on the Club to sponsor the project.  Mrs. Julia R. Gilbert seems to have been given charge of the library committee of the Club almost at the start, assisted by Mrs. Culver, Mrs. Emerson, Miss Ford and Mrs. George Parkinson.  Mrs. Gilbert was later made a trustee under town control and appointed to the new board under the charter, effective 1909.  She remained a member until her death in 1916, thus completing twenty years of most efficient service.

In December 1898 the library was moved to a room on Emerson street now occupied by Crandall's Homeware Store, and in the following January Miss Anne Hadden was appointed librarian at a salary of  $15 and the free use of a rear room.  The latter was later given up and the salary raised to $30.  In October, 1899, the town voted to appropriate $20 per month to the Library and this was continued for nearly three years, although the Woman's Club continued in control and made up the amount necessary for tuning expenses with subscriptions, entertainment's and other activities. In January, 1902, the town's appropriation was raised to $50 per month.  By .  By October, 1902, the Woman's Club had received and expended  $4258 and was spending about $1200 per years.  WIth 2300 books on the shelves it was felt that the institution was large enough to be taken over by the town officially.  This was done by the adoption of an ordinance establishing a public library and levying a tax of one mill for its support, this yielding an income of $1076.  The first board, which took office on October 15, 1902, was composed of J. S. Lakin, Mrs. Mary Roberts Smith, Mrs. Dane Collidge, Mrs. A. F. Wallace A. S. Ferguson, and B. F. Hall.  Miss Elizabeth Hadden was appointed assistant librarian, to serve without pay.

By the early part of 190 the growth of the library shoed that a new building was a necessity and an appeal was made to Andrew Carnegie.  This was presented in person to Mr. Carnegie's secretary by J. F. Parkinson, and shortly after Rm. Parkinson's return from New York word came that $10,000 would be given on the usual terms, that a site should be provided and an amount equal to at least 10 per cent of the gift appropriated annually.  The Board of Trade undertook to secure the lot and raise the amount necessary to purchase it.  A committee consisting of Prof.  Fernando Sanford, George R. Parkinson, and C. S. Downing, was appointed to handle the matter, and through thief efforts the site at the corner of Hamilton ave and Bryant street was selected from among half a dozen or more offered.  The purchase price, $2170, was met by private subscription and appropriation from the treasury of the organization.  $100 was also donated by the Board of  Trade for a corner stone was laid, with Prof. A. B. Show as master of ceremonies. Mrs. Gilbert read a historical paper, an address was made by Prof. Nathan Aboott of the Stanford law department, and President Jordan told of  the visit of Andrew Carnegie twelve years before, when he suggested that Palo Alto would some day be ready to reveive his donation for a library. But as that was in the days of the box car depot, Mr. Carnegie thought it scarcely likely that he would be called upon.  The new library was opened with a public reception on November 1, 1904.  With a building and fixtures representing a cost of $10, 939.48, the town was at last possessed of a real library and one that it was felt would be sufficient for the needs of the community for many years to come.  Miss Frances D. Patterson had been added to the staff in 1903, and in 1908 a third assistant, Miss Ethel P. Gale, was appointed.  Miss Anne Hadden, who had been the librarian since her appointment in 1899, resigned in September, 1913, to take charge of the Monterey County Library, and Miss Patterson was appointed to the chief position.

There have been various changes in both staff and trustees since the opening of the new building.  With the growth of the city the demands upon the staff have become more and more exacting, but it has not been found possible to increase the number of employees, even with a additional amount granted tin taxes, the money, as far as possible, having been put into in creases of salaries of those already employed, until these salaries are now more nearly approaching what is felt to be a fair return for trained employees.  But the most serious problem has been to provide more room.  Various methods were attempted to solve the problem, a second and a third appeal being made to the Carnegie fund without success, and two bond elections being held for building and ground for an addition, both lacking the necessary two-thirds vote.  By 1921 even the public began to realize that the library must be enlaged if it was to keep pace with the demands upon it and with the growth of the community dependent upon the library, a population far exceeding the politcal boundaries of the city proper.  A campaign was started by the Civic Leagure under the direction of Mrs. Theodore Hoover which resultef through private subscription and the holding of a May Day Fete in the raising of enough money to purchase the lot adjoining the building for an addition and leave a balance for the pur chase of furniture and necessary equipment for the new building.  On November 15, 1921, bond to the amount of $40,000 for an addition to the Library were carried by a large majority, the vote being the larges ever cast at a bond election.  This addition will be completed by Octoboer 1, 1922, and will make a building of which Palo Alto may well be proud.

Transcribed by Carolyn Feroben, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California,
 published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 909

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