of State Librarians of California*
1850 – Present
|The following consist of short biographies
of the twenty-two men and women who have guided the California
State Library during its first 157 years. Kathy Correia,
Supervising Librarian of the California History Section
and John Gonzales, former Senior Librarian in the Section,
compiled these profiles. Much of this information originally
appeared in the Spring/Summer 2000 issue of the California
State Library Foundation Bulletin.
California State Library was created on January 24, 1850
by legislation signed by Governor Peter H. Burnett. Previously,
in December 1849 Colonel Jonathan D. Stevenson and Senator
Thomas J. Green of Sacramento had donated books in anticipation
of a library being created by the Legislature. Later,
on January 19, 1850, John C. Frémont donated 100
books. These gifts formed the nucleus of the California
State Library’s collection.
The January 24, 1850 legislation placed the direction
of the California State Library under the California Secretary
of State, who was designated ex officio State Librarian.
Originally the office of Secretary of State was not at
an elected position, but a three-year governor’s
appointment, subject to State Senate confirmation.
The original law stated that all books coming into the
possession of the State, purchased or donated, were to
be kept in the office of the Secretary of State and were
to be considered the collection of the State Library.
The legislation specified that a suitable place for the
State Library was to be found and that the library be
operated to meet the objectives set forth. However, these
objectives were not established until legislation was
signed on April 9, 1850. This law restricted who could
borrow books, imposed a two book circulation limit rule,
and instituted a loan period of two weeks. Lost books
were to be charged at three times their value, circulation
records were to be kept by the librarian, and final payment
for legislative session attendance would be withheld until
all borrowers’ book accounts were cleared. The librarian
was also given authority to pursue civil action against
any delinquent accounts.
The State Library’s first eleven years of existence
were spent under the care of the Secretary of State, literally
in his office. The ex officio State Librarian has other
duties, but did provide space and the function of a library
to the Legislature, governor, and other state officials.
Usage was restricted to state officials and would remain
so until James L. Gillis became State Librarian.
The California State Library remained under the control
of the Secretary of State until 1861. The following six
men served as ex officio State Librarian and Secretary
of State during that time.
Van Voorhies, 1849 – 1853
Van Voorhies was the first ex officio State Librarian.
His appointment came right after his twenty-second birthday.
First elected as state senator from San Francisco, he
resigned to become Secretary of State. Born in Tennessee
in 1823 and a lawyer by profession, he made his way to
California on February 28, 1849 via Washington, D.C. where
he had been appointed an assistant postmaster general
with the duty of establishing post offices in California.
Van Voorhies was reappointed Secretary of State on January
9, 1852 but resigned on February 19, 1853 to become the
surveyor of the Port of San Francisco. He moved to Oakland,
where he practiced law and published two newspapers: first
the Alameda Gazette and in later years, the Alameda Democrat.
He was married in 1854 to the daughter of the California’s
second governor, John McDougal. At the age of 58, he served
as a delegate to California’s Second Constitutional
Convention. He died on September 26, 1884 in Eureka while
on a newspaper assignment for the Humboldt Standard.
W. Denver, 1853 – 1855
W. Denver, the second ex officio State Librarian, was
appointed Secretary of State by Governor Bigler on February
19, 1853 and reappointed on January 9, 1854.
Denver was born in Virginia in 1817, moved to Ohio as
a child and later graduated from Cincinnati Law School.
He served in the Mexican War, and in 1861 was commissioned
a brigadier general in the Union Army.
In 1852 Governor Bigler placed him in charge of the relief
supply trains for overland immigrants arriving in California.
The California State Legislature had voted to supply assistance
to recent arrivals who were experiencing great difficulties
traversing the mountain passages to California. Edward
Gilbert, the editor of the San Francisco Alta California,
strongly criticized the efforts of Governor Bigler and
consequently James W. Denver in his newspaper. Growing
animosity led to a duel that was fought between the two
on August 2, 1852.
Gilbert’s first shot went wide and Denver shot into
the ground and he attempted to leave. Both sets of seconds
insisted on the participants firing again. Denver shot
and killed Gilbert on the second round of shooting. Dueling
had previously been outlawed in California, but public
opinion had been so strongly in Denver’s support
that no action was ever taken against him.
From the beginning, when the State Library was established
through the donation of books, there was an on-going need
to continue building the collection. California’s
legislators recognized the importance of having an outstanding
collection of resources. The Library Fund was created
on May 1, 1852. It established fees to be collected by
the Secretary of State as a way to build-up the Library’s
collection. Unfortunately, the Library Fund did not generate
all of the funds necessary to create the collection that
James W. Denver, recognizing that the fund would not support
the State Library, suggested that the Library be separated
from his office and that a more reliable and productive
source of revenue be created. He suggested an immediate
appropriation of $10,000. He also proposed that continuing
fees derived from local land patents sold by the state
and fees collected from peddler’s licenses be used
to add revenues. In response to his suggestions an act
was approved on May 5, 1855 that allocated $2,500 to the
Library for contingent expenses. It is important to note
that the function of State Librarian was separated from
the duties of Secretary of State in 1861.
Denver resigned as Secretary of State on November 1, 1855
upon his election to Congress where he served two years.
After his term in Congress, President Buchanan named him
as commissioner of Indian Affairs and later as the Governor
of the Territory of Kansas which included Colorado. Perhaps
what James W. Denver is most noted for is that the city
of Denver, Colorado is named after him.
He died on August 9, 1892 in Washington, D.C. where he
had practiced law until his death at the age of seventy-five.
H. Hempstead, 1855 – 1857
H. Hempstead, the third ex officio State Librarian, was
a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and was born September
29, 1832. Hempstead arrived in California in 1852 and
secured a position as personal secretary to Governor Bigler.
He was appointed by Governor Bigler as James W. Denver’s
successor as Secretary of State on November 5, 1855. Charles
had just celebrated his twenty-second birthday five weeks
before his appointment.
He left the office of Secretary of State in 1857 when
President James Buchanan appointed him superintendent
of the United States Mint in San Francisco. This position
ended in 1861 when President Buchanan left office. Hempstead
went to Utah and joined the Union forces under General
Connor. His military service was spent in Utah and by
the end of the civil war he had attained the rank of captain.
After his discharge, he was in the newspaper business
and later practiced law. President Grant appointed him
United States Attorney for the Utah Territory. He died
at the age of fifty-seven in Salt Lake City on September
F. Douglass, 1856 – 1858
F. Douglass, the fourth ex officio State Librarian, was
born in Tennessee on January 8, 1821. After a fight and
the resulting death of a physician in 1839, he served
fourteen months in prison in Arkansas. Later, during the
Mexican War, he served with the Texas Volunteers and eventually
came to California as a teamster with his regiment.
He settled in the San Joaquin district of the California
Central Valley and in 1849 was elected to the first session
of the California State Senate from this district. In
1850, the Legislature elected him a brigadier general
in the State Militia. A year later, President Fillmore
appointed him United States Marshall for California. He
served again in the Assembly during the sixth session,
once more for San Joaquin County.
He was a successful farmer and died at his home in San
Joaquin County on June16, 1872 at the age of fifty-four.
Forman, 1858 – 1860
Forman, the fifth ex officio State Librarian, was appointed
Secretary of State by Governor Weller on January 9, 1858.
He was already a successful attorney and had served as
postmaster of Sacramento and had been judge of California’s
Sixth Judicial District.
Born in New York on August 25, 1807, he graduated from
Union College in Schenectady and was a trained lawyer.
President Martin Van Buren, a friend of his family, appointed
him United States Attorney for Illinois and later he was
elected a state senator for Illinois. He raised a regiment
of Illinois volunteers for the Mexican War and was commissioned
a colonel. After the war, he settled in Sacramento, California
in 1849. During the Civil War his commission was reactivated,
but he was denied combat duty and consequently resigned
his commission. He resumed his legal career in Illinois
and returned to California some twenty years later, where
at the age of ninety-four he died on February 11, 1901.
Price, 1860 – 1862
Price was the sixth and last ex officio State Librarian.
He was appointed Secretary of State by Governor Latham
on January 10, 1860 and served until replaced by William
H. Weeks on January 11, 1862. He served as ex officio
State Librarian until 1861 when legislation placed the
Library under the control of a board of Trustees who had
the power to appoint at State Librarian.
Price was by profession a physician and had served in
this capacity during the Mexican War. He arrived in California
in 1849 and practiced medicine in Sacramento.
Price’s political career began when he was elected
to the California Senate on November 6, 1858 to complete
the unexpired term of W. I. Ferguson. He was one of twenty-eight
Lecompton Democrats in the Senate. After his term as Secretary
of State, Price settled in San Francisco where he became
a stockbroker. He died in San Francisco at the age of
forty-five from tuberculosis on April 8, 1868.
The above information was adapted from an article entitled
“California’s Ex-Officio State Librarians,
1850-1861” written by Peter T. Conmy that appeared
in News Notes of California Libraries, Volume 69, no.
1861 to present
C. Stratton, 1861 – 1870
California State Library was under the control of the
California Secretary of State from 1850 to 1861. In 1861,
legislation placed the Library under the control of a
Board of Trustees who had the power to appoint a State
Librarian. William C. Stratton was the first State Librarian
chosen under this system and he served from March 16,
1861 to January 22, 1870.
Stratton was born in Albany, New York on December 14,
1826. At the age of 18 he taught school in central New
York City, pursued business interests and studied law.
He was admitted to the bar and moved to New Jersey. While
a resident of New Jersey, he was elected to its Legislature
and served from 1849 to 1853.
In 1856, Stratton moved to California and settled in Placer
County. He continued his political career as a member
of the California Assembly, representing Placer County
from 1856 to 1859. He served as Speaker of the Assembly
As State Librarian, William C. Stratton was praised in
contemporary newspapers as being “active, courteous,
industrious and indefatigable in the discharge of his
duties”. He is credited with developing the State
Library’s collections and classifying materials
so that they could be located. Stratton had been hired
by the legislature in 1860 to prepare a descriptive catalog
of the Library’s collection. He did, however, not
escape controversy during his tenure as State Librarian.
There were members of the legislature who thought him
a Confederate sympathizer. Consequently, members of the
Assembly introduced legislation that sought to remove
individuals from the Board of Trustees who supported Stratton.
The legislation was postponed, however, and his supporters
remained on the Board of Trustees.
The controversy surrounding Stratton continued when the
Sacramento floods of December 1861 and January 1862 damaged
some of the Library’s materials. The high water
mark was thought to have been reached in December 1861,
but the second flood in January 1862 was two feet higher!
The shelving, weakened by flooding, collapsed and caused
books to be thrown into the water. Local newspapers described
some of the damaged items as “rare and valuable
works.” Eventually Stratton was cleared of blame
and the books were rebound or replaced.
Stratton resigned as State Librarian on January 22, 1870.
In 1860, before being appointed State Librarian, he had
begun a successful law practice in Sacramento. Upon his
resignation, he resumed his law practice in Sacramento
until his move to Santa Barbara in 1873. Stratton died
there on May 2, 1898.
Neely Johnson , January 24, 1870 – April 5, 1870
Neely Johnson was appointed State Librarian on January
24, 1870 and served until April 5, 1870. The Board of
Trustees chose him to fill the rest of the unexpired term
of W. C. Stratton. Johnson’s choice as Librarian
was unique as he was blind at the time of his appointment.
William Neely Johnson was born in Evansville, Indiana
in 1826. He came to California sometime in the early 1850s
with his brother John Neely Johnson who was later Governor
of California from 1856 to 1858. In 1856, William was
appointed secretary of the Board of Land Commissioners.
The Board of Land Commissioners at the time consisted
of the governor, secretary of state and the state treasurer.
Johnson went on to become head of the Sacramento Land
Office in the 1860s and was removed from this position
in 1869 when he lost his sight. He had sought initial
treatment for his vision loss in California and was treated
on the East Coast in 1866, but these efforts failed to
restore his vision. Johnson resumed his law practice in
June 1869 specializing in cases presented before the United
States Land Office in Washington, D.C.
A special testimonial was presented to Johnson on February
6, 1870 in the form of a gold stem repeater watch and
matching chain. The watch noted hours and minutes by sound.
Johnson was honored for his “past services, also
as a public officer and citizen of the Capital City and
in appreciation of his upright and honorable conduct exhibited
in all the relations of private life.”
William Neely Johnson left the office of State Librarian
and resumed his law practice. He died June 24, 1885 in
San Francisco at the age of fifty-nine.
O. Cravens, 1870 – 1882
O. Cravens was the third State Librarian appointed by
the Board of Trustees. He was first appointed on April
6, 1870 and was unanimously reappointed again in 1874
and in 1878. It is interesting to note that the make-up
of the Board of Trustees changed over the years and that
Robert O. Cravens was appointed by two of the three different
combinations of board members.
In 1852, the Board of Trustees consisted of the governor,
treasurer, controller, president of the Senate and speaker
of the Assembly. However, in 1861 the Board consisted
of the governor, chief justice of the Supreme Court (ex
officio) and three others. In 1872 the selection of Board
members became the responsibility of the Legislature.
Robert O. Cravens was born January 13, 1829 in Harrisonburg,
Virginia to Dr. John and Ruhama Cravens. The family moved
to Missouri where his father farmed and practiced medicine.
Cravens crossed the plains to California in 1850; arrived
in Sacramento and sold the supplies which he had carried
overland. In 1851 he successfully sought gold in the Georgetown
area of El Dorado County. He later moved to Placer County
where he was elected Justice of the Peace in 1853. A four-year
term as Justice of the Peace convinced Cravens that he
wanted to pursue a law career. He was admitted to the
California Bar after a period of study as a law clerk
and practiced law in Auburn until his return to Sacramento
in 1870. The Board appointed him State Librarian in 1870
for the first time.
Cravens served three terms as State Librarian for a total
of twelve years. He left the office on April 5, 1882.
His political career continued when he was appointed by
President Grover Cleveland as deputy internal revenue
collector for California. In 1890 he was elected a Sacramento
police judge. He died on January 10, 1917 at the age of
89, just three days short of his ninetieth birthday.
H. Wallis*, 1882 – 1890
H. Wallis, the tenth State Librarian, was perhaps most
famous for being put on trail for his job performance
by the Library Board in 1883. His twenty-year career with
the State Library began as a porter from 1871 to 1880,
was then promoted to deputy librarian in 1881, and finally
attaining the position of State Librarian. He was appointed
by the Library Board on April 6, 1882 and re-appointed
four years later to another term.
Born July 3, 1851 in San Francisco as Talbot H. Green
to Talbot H. and Sarah Green. He was later adopted in
1854 by his step-father, Joseph S. Wallis, who was later
elected to the California State Senate. Wallis, graduated
from the San Jose Institute, and he studied law while
working for the State Library and was later admitted to
practice in 1879.
The events that led to Wallis’ trial were driven
by strife and political maneuvering between Wallis, his
Deputy State Librarian, Miss M. A. Patton and the Library
Board of Trustees. Wallis had fired Miss Patton for various
reasons dealing with her job performance. Miss Patton
went to J. J. Owens, her supporter on the Library Board
with her complaint regarding her dismissal. Owens subsequently
told Wallis if he would not reconsider her dismissal,
that he would publish serious allegations in the San Francisco
newspapers the following day. Rather than reconsider his
dismissal of Miss Patton, Wallis asked for an investigation.
Charges were published against Wallis for drinking, swearing,
smoking, and being incompetent as State Librarian.
The investigation took the form of a trial before the
Library Board of Trustees. In all, sixty-three defense
witnesses testified for Wallis, including state senators,
assemblymen, justices and other state officials. They
affirmed that Wallis capably performed his duties as State
Librarian. None of the charges were proven. He was unanimously
re-appointed to another term as State Librarian on April
6, 1886. Wallis faced another round of similar charges
in 1887, this time brought by Governor Robert W. Waterman,
but the investigation ended without any punitive results.
Even with all this controversy, Wallis’ tenure as
Librarian saw the State Library’s collection grow
from 51,000 to 73,000 volumes. A law catalog was produced
in 1886, and the general book catalog was completed in
1889. He was instrumental in calling for the first meeting
of State Librarians that was held during the American
Library Association’s annual meeting in St. Louis,
Missouri in 1889.
Wallis was not offered a third term as State Librarian
by the Board of Trustees in 1890, and left office to resume
his law practice. He was working for the Sacramento City
Street Department at the time of his death in Sacramento,
July 3, 1914 at age 63.
* Adapted from an unpublished article written by Thomas
Fante, California History Section, October 27, 1981.
Dana Perkins, 1890 – 1896
Dana Perkins was the eleventh State Librarian. He was
first appointed to a four-year term on February 6, 1890
and reappointed for another term in 1895.
W. Dana Perkins was born in New Hampshire in 1831. He
arrived in Placer County in 1850 and settled near present
day Rocklin. He owned the Pine Grove House on the Auburn
and Sacramento Road. Perkins was active in local politics
and served as the Placer County Tax Collector for two
terms. He was appointed Sergeant-At-Arms of the Assembly
for the 1869-70 and 1875-76 sessions. Perkins was a member
of the Agricultural Board from 1877 to 1879 and again
from 1888 to 1889.
In 1870, Leland Stanford employed Perkins as a land agent
for the Southern Pacific during that same time that he
had held the other positions. Perkins spent twenty years
with the Southern Pacific in this capacity. His services
where no longer required when Collis P. Huntington became
president of the railroad, and he was let go.
On December 8, 1895, in his second term as State Librarian,
he was stricken with paralysis and was bed ridden until
his death on October 18, 1896. In honor of his memory,
Governor James H. Budd ordered that all State Capitol
offices be closed during the funeral. One of Perkin’s
pall bearers was Edward D. McCabe who was later to become
the thirteenth State Librarian. Local newspapers described
the funeral procession as one of the largest seen in Sacramento.
The procession to the cemetery consisted of over forty
P. Mathews, 1896 – 1897
P. Mathews was chosen twelfth State Librarian in 1896
to finish the term of W. Dana Perkins who died in office.
He was born in Virginia in 1842 and was a trained physician.
He arrived in Tehama County in 1870 and practiced medicine
there. It was while a resident of Tehama County that Mathews
was first elected to the Assembly. He served in five Assembly
sessions from 1880 – 1893.
Mathews resigned his position as State Librarian on April
20, 1897. He continued to serve in state governments as
director of the State Board of Agriculture. His term as
director of the State Board of Agriculture was from 1892
to 1901. Mathews was also a member of the State Board
of Health from 1897 to 1903. He was appointed Secretary
of the Auditing Board of the State Commission of Public
Works in 1903. He retired from public life in 1913 and
moved to Oakland where he died December 29, 1921 at the
age of 78.
D. McCabe, 1897 - 1898
D. McCabe, the thirteenth State Librarian, was appointed
in 1897 when William P. Mathews resigned. At the time
of his appointment as State Librarian, he was serving
as Governor James H. Budd’s executive secretary,
a position he had been given after he had campaigned for
Budd’s election in 1895.
He was born in Columbia, Tuolumne County in 1859. McCabe
graduated from the University Mound College at South San
Francisco and in 1884 was one of the early graduates of
Hastings College of Law. In 1886, McCabe was elected county
clerk of Stanislaus County and served in this capacity
Upon resigning the position of State Librarian, McCabe
was appointed a state building and loan commissioner.
When his term as Commissioner was over, he moved to San
Francisco and practiced law. Several years later he was
involved in mining operations in Idaho and Nevada, but
returned to San Francisco in poor health. He died on January
9, 1921 in San Francisco at the age of seventy-two.
L. Coombs*, 1898 – 1899
Leslie Coombs was appointed fourteenth State Librarian
of California on April 7, 1898 and served until April
1, 1899. He resigned to become United States Attorney
for Northern California. Prior to his term as State Librarian,
Coombs had served in a variety of capacities in government
including District Attorney for Napa County, three terms
as State Assembly member representing Napa County, and
a stint as United States Minister to Japan.
Although Coombs’ education was not in library science,
he did recognize problems with the State Library. At the
beginning of his term, books were only arranged strictly
by author; no subject access was possible. This constraint
made research extremely difficult. Coombs introduced the
dictionary catalog to the State Library which allowed
access by author, title and subject. Coombs explained
that the work involved in assigning subject headings could
be performed by existing staff and would extend to newly
There was also a problem of borrowers not returning books.
When Coombs took office, he discovered that some books
had been in circulation for over five years! Through personal
effort he was able to recover a large number of the overdue
Coombs did not like the fact that use of the Library was
limited to state officials. He dreamed of seeing the Library
become an institution whose collections where available
to all citizens of California. James L. Gillis, his successor,
expanded on Coombs’ idea of making the state Library’s
collections more available to Californians.
When Coombs resigned in April 1899 to become United State
attorney for Northern California, the California State
Library contained 114,000 volumes and was second in size
to the State Library of New York.
After his term at United States attorney for Northern
California, Coombs was elected to Congress and served
one term, 1901 – 1903. He spent the next twenty
years practicing law, but returned to the California Assembly
to serve in the 1921 through 1927 sessions. He carried
the Assembly bill that created the Golden Gate Bridge
and Highway District.
Coombs died in San Francisco, October 5, 1934 at the age
of 81.* Adapted from an article by Peter T. Conmy, “Frank
Leslie Coombs, California State Librarian, 1898-1899,”
News Notes of California Libraries, Spring 1972, vol.
67, no. 2, p.278-282.
L. Gillis*, 1899 – 1917
resignation of Frank L. Coombs in 1899 set the stage for
the appearance of perhaps the most innovative and influential
State Librarian. He would forever change the function
of the State Library. James L. Gillis began his term as
the sixteenth State Librarian in 1899 and served until
his illustrious career ended with his death in 1917.
Born October 3, 1857 in Iowa, he spent his early years
there until 1861 when the family moved to Nevada. The
family moved in 1870 to Sacramento where James attended
school. Two years later he became a messenger boy with
the Sacramento Valley Railroad Company, a division of
the Southern Pacific Railroad Company. He eventually worked
his way up through the ranks to become assistant superintendent
of the company. He left the railroad in 1894 and went
to work as chief clerk of the Assembly Committee of Ways
and Means. He was also keeper of the archives of the Secretary
of State in between his stints as chief clerk. In 1898
he was appointed a deputy in the State Library and State
Librarian on April 1, 1899.
One of the first things Gillis did as State Librarian
was to set about reorganizing the Library. He acted upon
recommendations made by his predecessor, Frank L. Coombs,
but eventually extended his sights well beyond what Coombs
had in mind. The dictionary system of cataloging was extended
to all books in the collection, not just new arrivals.
A separate Law Department was created to release space
in the reference room. This was followed by the creation
of a California Historical Department. He also initiated
the indexing of California newspapers to provide reference
service in the California Department.
Through his great organizing skills and ability to recognize
talents in others, Gillis was to extend the services of
the State Library to all of the residents of California.
He established the Department of Traveling Libraries in
1903. By 1906 there were over 200 of these libraries with
over 10,000 total volumes sent out to various communities
in California. The traveling libraries gave rural areas
of California a taste of what libraries could provide.
In 1905 he had placed two library organizers in the field
to give encouragement and assistance to already established
public libraries as well as to help establish new libraries.
next step that Gillis took was to help pass the County
Free Library Law of 1909. This law had some shortcomings
so again in 1911, Gillis was instrumental in helping to
write and pass the 1911 County Library Law. With the passage
of this law Gillis realized that there would be a need
for trained librarians to help staff the new county libraries
that would be created. He first established apprentice
courses at the State Library, but later decided that a
library school was essential. It was in 1914, that the
State Library’s library school was opened to its
first class of fifteen students.
The Berkeley campus of the University of California began
offering a library course in 1918. Gillis felt that two
institutions should not offer the same instruction, and
it was his belief that the University was best suited
to offer library instruction. Between 1918 and 1920 the
instruction given through the courses at the State Library
was merged with the instruction offered at Berkeley. The
last of a total of seventy-five graduates to finish courses
through the State Library did so in 1920. These graduates
helped accomplish Gillis’ goals of having trained
librarians to work in the library systems that he had
accomplishments highlighted the career of James L. Gillis
as State Librarian. Among these achievements were the
creation of the first union catalog in the United States,
the California Information File, and the Books for the
Blind department within the State Library. In addition,
he provided dynamic leadership as president of the California
Library Association for nine years. He died on July 27,
1917 in the office of the Secretary of State soon after
he had arrived at the Capitol to begin his day of work.
* Adapted from articles in News Notes of California Libraries,
vol. 52, no. 4, October 1957, pp. 635 - 714.
J. Ferguson, 1917 – 1930
J. Ferguson became the sixteenth State Librarian on August
25, 1917 succeeding James L. Gillis who died in office.
Ferguson began his career with the Library in 1908 as
assistant state librarian. He held this position until
1917 when he became State Librarian.
Milton was born in West Virginia on April 11, 1879. He
graduated from the State University of Oklahoma in 1901.
In 1902, he attended and received a librarian’s
certificate from the New York State Library School. In
1903 he returned to the State University of Oklahoma as
a librarian and remained there until 1907. James L. Gillis
had personally recruited Ferguson in 1907 to join the
staff of the State Library. Ferguson was the first State
Librarian to have any formal training in library science.
Among his other duties as assistant state librarian, he
helped Gillis plan for the establishment of county libraries
in California. In order to be better able to answer questions
about California law while on reference duty, Milton studied
law and in 1912 passed the California State Bar Examination.
He was appointed State Librarian on August 25, 1917 upon
the death of James L. Gillis. It was his responsibility
as State Librarian to carry on with the planning of the
new library building in Sacramento. Legislation in 1914
had provided for a new building to house the State Library
and the Courts in Sacramento. However, World War I and
funding problems delayed construction until the early
1920s and the Library did not move into it’s new
quarters until 1928. Ferguson assisted in selecting the
text for the inscriptions on the Library and Courts Building.
In 1921, during a reorganization, the Board of Trustees
was abolished by legislation, and administrative responsibility
for the State Library was placed within the newly created
Department of Finance. Another aim of the 1921 legislation
was to remove the responsibility for county library administration
from the county boards of supervisors and place it with
the county boards of education. Ferguson managed to stop
this from occurring and thus kept Gillis’ county
library plan in place. Another reorganization occurred
in 19276. Legislation passed that year moved the State
Library to the Department of Education and made the State
Librarian an appointee of the governor. Ferguson became
the first State Librarian to be appointed under this system.
Ferguson served as President of the California Library
Association for two terms, one spanning 1918–1919
and another 1926–1927. He was also president of
the National Association of State Libraries for the years
1918 and 1919. He took a leave of absence as State Librarian
in 1928 and 1929. The Carnegie Corporation had hired him
to conduct a survey of library services in several countries
including the Union of South Africa.
Milton J. Ferguson resigned as State Librarian in September
1930 to become the head of the Brooklyn Public Library.
He held this position from 1930 until his retirement in
1949. In 1938 through 1939 he served as president of the
American Library Association. In retirement, he edited
the fifteenth edition of the Dewey Decimal Classification
and was a member of the Dewey Decimal Editorial Policy
He died at the age of seventy-five on October 23, 1954.
R. Gillis, 1930 - 1951
R. Gillis became the seventeenth State Librarian on September
15, 1930 upon the resignation of Milton J. Ferguson. She
was first woman to serve in this capacity and she was
the daughter of James L. Gillis.
Mabel was born in Sacramento on September 24, 1882 and
was educated in local schools. She graduated from the
Berkeley campus of the University of California in 1902
and in 1903 taught in Sacramento public schools for a
year. In 1904, James L. Gillis asked her to join the staff
of the California State Library as an assistant in the
Extension Department. Her career with the State Library
spanned forty-seven years.
In the position Mabel Gillis held in the Extension Department
from 1904 to 1917, her principal task was to help develop
services to the visually impaired. National legislation
in 1904 provided postage-free mailing of books to the
blind. The California State Library was among the first
libraries in the country to provide visually impaired
readers with reading materials. In 1911 the Books for
the Blind department had become a separate section of
the Library with Gillis in charge. In 1915 she instituted
a state-wide plan for in-house teaching of those who wished
to learn sightless reading. Due to Mabel’s organizing
work in providing services to the blind, the State Library
was chosen in 1931 as one of eighteen regional centers
when the Library of Congress initiated a national service
to the blind.
With the death of her father, James L. Gillis in 1917,
Mabel was elevated to Assistant State Librarian when Milton
J. Ferguson was appointed State Librarian. One of her
responsibilities as Assistant State Librarian from 1917
to 1928 was to help in the planning phase of the new Library
Building in Sacramento. Legislation in 1914 had provided
for a new building to house the State Library and the
Courts in Sacramento. However, World War I and funding
problems delayed construction until the early 1920's.
When the building was finished and ready for occupation,
Gillis planned the move so no disruption of services would
occur when the Library reopened in its new quarters in
In 1930 when Milton J. Ferguson left to become head of
the Brooklyn Public Library, Mabel Gillis was appointed
State Librarian in 1930 by Governor C. C. Young. As head
of the county libraries of California, she instituted
an annual conference of California county librarians.
Gillis also arranged and held the annual examinations
for the special certificate which, by law, all county
librarians in California were required to hold.
State Library’s Union Catalog expanded during her
term as State Librarian. The catalog included a record
of 3 million books held by libraries in California, and
increased sharing of rare resources, thus facilitating
California libraries’ abilities to cooperate in
providing services to Californians. Gillis helped to publicize
the Library’s Californiana collection by having
newspapers microfilmed for preservation and acquisition
by other libraries.
Gillis went on to be re-appointed State Librarian by four
different governors. Her total career with the State Library
spanned forty-seven years; twenty-one years being spent
as State Librarian. The Library’s budget was $36,000
and there were 20 employees when she joined the Library
in 1904. When Mabel Gillis retired in 1951, the number
of employees had grown to 85 and the operating budget
Mabel R. Gillis died at her home in Sacramento on September
6, 1961, eighteen days short of her seventy-ninth birthday.
Russell (Zimmerman) Leigh*, 1951 – 1972
(Zimmerman) Leigh was appointed California State Librarian
by Governor Earl Warren on September12, 1951. She was
subsequently reappointed State Librarian by four different
governors. She served a total of just under twenty-one
years and noses out by several months the time that Mabel
Gillis spent as State Librarian. However, Mabel retired
with a total of forty-seven years of service with the
California State Library.
Leigh was born in 1904, near McCloud, Oklahoma. She attended
local schools and graduated from the Oklahoma College
for Women in 1929. Influenced by her college librarian,
she attended the School for Librarianship at the University
of California, Berkeley in the fall of 1929 and graduated
in June 1930.
Her first library job was with the Berkeley Public Library
in 1930. In 1932 she was appointed the head of the Watsonville
Public Library and held this position until she resigned
in 1935. She reentered the workforce to become head of
the Orange County Public Library in 1938. Four years later
in 1942, she was appointed head of the San Bernardino
County Public Library. She was actively recruited in 1945
to become the Washington State Librarian and stayed in
this position until 1951.
It was Leigh’s experience as Washington State Librarian
which led to her recruitment to fill the vacancy created
when Mabel Gillis retired. While in Washington, she helped
develop county library systems and extend library services
Leigh continued her work on developing cooperative library
services in California, an area in which she had been
heavily involved in Washington. She envisioned a broader
scope of library service that would include cooperation
between all types of libraries, not just county libraries.
In 1952, she was instrumental in encouraging the California
Library Association to adopt uniform standards for library
services to Californians. In 1957, the California Public
Library commission was created to study how California
libraries measured up to the standards listed in 1952.
Eventually this effort lead to the passage of the California
Public Library Services Act (PLSA) in 1957.
Leigh’s interest in improving library services also
had a national scope. She was also active in the national
campaign which led to the passage of the Library Services
Act (LSA) in 1956 and the improved version, the Library
Services and Construction Act (LSCA) in 1964. These acts
provided federal grants to help improve library services
within individual states. The California State Library
through its Library Development and Services Bureau was
responsible for the distribution and allocation of the
resulting federal grants.
Leigh was able to witness the vast improvement in library
services that resulted from the programs she worked so
hard to establish: the California Public Library Services
Act and the Library Services and Construction Act.
Leigh also held national American Library Association
committee memberships. She was the second vice president
of the American Library Association for 1967 through 1968.
The American Association of State Librarians made her
its first president in 1957.
She retired in 1972 after a career as California State
Librarian that spanned almost twenty-one years. She now
lives in San Diego.
* Adapted from articles by Cindy Mediavilla, “Revisiting
the Career of Carma Russell(Zimmerman) Leigh, Washington
State Librarian, 1945-1951", ALKI Magazine (December
1997) Volume 13, Number 3, 22-25, and “Carma Leigh,”
News Notes of California Libraries, (Spring 1972): 277.
S. Crockett, 1972 – 1980
S. Crockett became the nineteenth California State Librarian
when she was appointed to the position by Acting Governor
Ed Rienecke, on August 14, 1972.
Crockett graduated from Vassar College and obtained an
M.A. in Librarianship from San Jose State University.
She had served as a high school librarian in Redwood City,
California and as a children’s librarian at the
Corning Memorial Library in New York. Crockett had been
with San Jose City College as a General Librarian from
1962 to 1968. In 1968, she became director of library
services for the City College of San Francisco and served
in this capacity until 1972 when she was appointed as
Ethel had been active in professional organizations nationally
and at the state level. She participated on the Library
Development and Standards Committee of the California
Library Association as chairman in 1970. In 1971, the
committee drafted The California Library Network: A Master
Plan, which was adopted by the California Library Association
in December, 1971.
During her tenure as State Librarian, Crockett served
in 1974–75 as vice-chair of the Council of WICHE
(Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education) which
was involved in interstate networking and in 1975–76
as president of COSLA (Chief Officers of State Library
Library automation developed into a major tool during
Crockett’s term as State Librarian. In 1973 CSL
began using various online reference databases to assist
the reference staff in answering questions. In 1974 the
CSL began producing CULP (California Union List of Periodicals)
using OCR (optical character recognition) input. The first
edition included the holdings of 200 libraries; the third
edition in 1977 listed 460 libraries of all kinds.
Also in 1974 the Intersegmental Task Force composed of
the State Librarian and librarians of the University of
California, and the California State University and Colleges
began meeting to discuss intertype networking. Representatives
of public, special, private, academic, and community college
libraries were added. As a culmination of these meetings,
in June 1976, representatives of the publicly funded libraries
entered into a joint exercise of powers agreement to establish
CLASS (California Library Authority for Systems and Services)
to promote resource sharing and provide networking services
of all kinds of libraries in California.
In 1977 the State Library began entering some of its cataloging
records into the Stanford University BALLOTS (later RLIN)
online system. Monthly and annual issues of California
State publications were created as a byproduct of this
cataloging through the SPIRES system. Crockett also funded
a Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA) demonstration
project to tie together the cataloging of seven public
libraries through the state in PLAN (Public Library Automation
Network) in the BALLOTS system.
Continuing in the automation arena the State Legislature
and governor approved funding to automate CSL’s
Books for the Blind and Physically Handicapped circulation
and inventory control system serving 8,000 patrons in
Services to the blind and disabled benefited greatly while
Crockett was State Librarian. In 1974 eleven and one half
positions were added to the staff of the Books for the
Blind and Physically Handicapped, and the whole operation
moved into a new, larger off-site facility. In 1978 state
funds were authorized to support the Southern California
Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
operated by the nonprofit Braille Institute of America
in Los Angeles and for toll-free telephone services for
the patrons of the two regional libraries.
In 1977 the California Library Services Act (CLSA) was
passed replace PLSA, to help public libraries and cooperative
public library systems provide coordinated reference services
and provide reimbursement for interlibrary loans of materials
and over the counter loans to nonresident borrowers. CLSA
created the California Library Services Board (CLSB),
and as State Librarian, Crockett became its executive
officer. The CLSB also became the Advisory Council for
the Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA) funds
that flowed through the State Librarian as grants to local
Of note, an event of great import took place during Crockett’s
tenure, the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 would eventually
cause crippling cuts to many public libraries that relied
upon local property tax for support.
Following notification by the University of San Francisco
that it would not renew Sutro Library’s twenty-year
lease that expired in December 1979, Crockett was instructed
by the Legislature to seek alternative sources of support
for Sutro. San Francisco State University President Paul
Romberg offered the possibility of providing a site on
the campus. Sutro Library could be located there if other
funds were made available for the construction of the
Library. This offer ultimately made possible a new home
for Sutro Library.
On other building fronts the State Librarian successfully
waged the battle to save the original wood frame windows
in the Library and Courts Building. This attempt to modernize
the library building provided the impetus to move toward
placing the building on the National Register of Historic
Places in 1984.
In October 1979 Ethel Crockett announced her intention
to retired in August 1980 to allow sufficient time to
search for the new State Librarian. She left office in
August 1980 at the age of sixty-five. She currently lives
in Marin County.
E. Strong*, 1980 - 1994
E. Strong, the twentieth California State Librarian, was
appointed by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. upon the retirement
of Ethel Crockett as State Librarian. Strong served almost
fourteen years at the pleasure of three different governors
until his resignation in 1994.
Born in Moscow, Idaho in 1945, Gary Strong attended the
University of Idaho and received a Bachelor’s degree
in1966. He graduated from the University of Michigan with
a Master of Library Science degree in 1967. Strong had
worked for the University of Idaho Library from 1963 to
1966 during his under graduate years. His early library
career began in 1966 in Idaho with the Latah County Free
Library. He returned to Michigan to become the Head Librarian
of the Markeley Residence Library at the University of
Michigan from 1966 to 1967. In 1967, he was appointed
director of the Lake Oswego Public Library in Oregon and
remained there until 1973. He continued his career in
library management in 1973 with an appointment as director
of the Everett Public Library in Washington. He was chosen
as associate director for services at Washington State
Library in 1976, and he later served as deputy state librarian
of Washington from 1979 until 1980.
Strong began his term as California State Librarian in
August 1980. In 1982, he founded the California State
Library Foundation. He edited the California State Library
Foundation Bulletin. The Bulletin won the H. W. Wilson
At the end of the 1980's, California’s economy entered
a recessionary period in California that was felt by all
levels of library service throughout the state. The California
State Library’s budget was reduced and staffing
levels dropped during various budget cycles. Strong, however
still managed to have the State Library provide services
without serious cutbacks. During this time, he established
the California Research Bureau to provide non-partisan
research on California topics to the Legislature and the
The 1980's also saw the Library outgrow its space. The
Braille and Talking Book Library, the Library Services
Development Bureau, and the California Research Bureau
where all housed in off -site offices. Strong saw the
need for another building. In 1990 legislation was enacted
to authorize a bond measure to finance the new facility.
The bonds were sold and the building was planned and designed
when the recession hit California in full force. The recession
did not deter Strong’s planning input. Economic
conditions caused the construction bids to be lower than
anticipated, resulting in the addition of more building
features. Strong’s enthusiasm with the planning
and actual construction was so fervent that he had his
own construction safety helmet. The helmet was needed
because he toured the building during each construction
phase and documented each phase of the construction with
While at the California State Library, Strong also served
as the chief executive officer of the California Library
Services Board; chairperson of the California Library
Construction and Renovation Bond Act Board; member of
the California Library Construction and Renovation Bond
Act Finance Committee; chairperson of the Governor’s
State Literacy Collaborative Council; and member of the
Family Impact Seminars Advisory Board.
Gary Strong’s honors during his tenure as State
Librarian include the Librarian of the Year award from
the California Association of Library Trustees and Commissioners
(1994); the John Cotton Dana award from the Library Administration
and Management Association (1994); the Advancement of
Literacy award from the Public Library Association (1994);
and the Exceptional Achievement Award from the Association
of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (1992).
Strong also served on a number of policy panels, including
the White House Conference on Libraries (1992), the Government
Technology Conference Advisory Board (1993-1994), for
which he received the California Governor’s Award
for Exceptional Achievement.
Gary Strong resigned as State Librarian in August 1994
to accept the position of director of the Queens Borough
Public Library of New York. He started in his new position
in September 1994. The Queens Library has the largest
circulating library system in the country and has attained
a record circulation level of 16 million items and 15
million library visits in the fiscal year that ended June
30, 1998. While at the Queens Library, he has won the
21st Century Librarian Award from Syracuse University,
the Charlie Robinson Award from the Public Library Association,
and the Humphrey Award from the American Library Association's
International Relations Round Table for his contributions
to international librarianship. He served on the New York
State Board of Regents Advisory Council for Libraries
and the board of directors of the New York Metropolitan
Reference and Research Library Agency and was elected
vice president of that organization in October 1999. He
also served on the International Federation of Library
Associations and Institution (IFLA) Committee on Copyright
and Other Legal Matters and the board of the section of
Services to People with Disabilities. He was co-chief
executive officer of the IFLA Boston 2001 NOC and served
as the IFLA representative to the United Nations. He is
an active member of the International Association of Metropolitan
Libraries. He has initiated international cooperation
agreements with the National Library of China and the
Shanghai Library and created the International Center
for Public Librarianship at Queens. He also held the post
of adjunct professor at Queens College.
On September 1, 2003, Strong became the seventh university
librarian of the University of California at Los Angeles.
Strong has served as a consultant and advisor to the Library
of Congress. He is a member of the American Library Association,
the California Library Association, the Chinese American
Librarians Association, and the Library Administration
and Management Association, among other professional organizations
and affiliations. He is also a passionate bibliophile
and has formed a large collection of fine press books.
In addition, he belongs to the Grolier Club of New York
and the Zamorano Club of Los Angeles.
Gary E. Strong now resides in Los Angeles. He is married
and has two adult children and one grandson.
*Adapted from Gary Strong’s biography on the UCLA
Library homepage for Administration and Organization at
Kevin Starr*, 1994 – 2004
Kevin Starr became the twenty-first State Librarian upon
Gary Strong’s resignation. Governor Pete Wilson
appointed Starr State Librarian of California on September
3, 1994 and the California State Senate confirmed him
on April 6, 1995. Starr was re-appointed to a four- year
term as State Librarian by Governor Gray Davis in January
1999. He is the first California State Librarian to hold
a Doctor of Philosophy degree.
Kevin Starr was born in San Francisco in 1940. Educated
locally, he graduated with a B.A. from the University
of San Francisco in 1962. He followed this with two years
of service as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, stationed
with a tank battalion in West Germany. Starr entered Harvard
University after his army duty and obtained an M.A. in
1965 and a PhD in 1969. While at Harvard he was the Allston
Burr Senior Tutor in Eliot House from 1970 to 1973. He
obtained his Master of Library Science from the University
of California, Berkeley in 1974. He continued his studies
at the Graduate Theological Union, from 1983 to 1984.
His career began with teaching at Harvard University,
first as an assistant professor, then later as an associate
professor of American Literature from 1969 to 1974. In
1973, he became executive aide to Joseph Eliot, the mayor
of San Francisco. He was appointed City Librarian of San
Francisco and served in this capacity from 1973 to 1976.
Dr. Starr’s teaching career resumed following his
departure from the San Francisco Public Library. He has
taught continually at the university and college level
since 1974. He taught political science as a visiting
lecturer and Regent’s Lecturer at two University
of California campuses, Berkeley and Riverside, from 1976
and 1977. He was a lecturer on Librarianship at Berkeley
in 1978. He held a position as a professor of Communication
Arts at the University of San Francisco from 1981 to 1989.
In 1989, he became a professor of Urban and Regional Planning
at the University of Southern California. The University
of Southern California bestowed on him in 1998, the title
of University Professor. He continues in this professorship.
Dr. Starr has been involved in journalism as a columnist
for the San Francisco Examiner from 1977 to 1983. He continues
in the field of journalism since 1994 as a contributing
editor for the Los Angeles Times.
Starr brought to the office of State librarian a unique
combination of library science, literature, journalism,
and history. He is a renowned author of California history
books. His first book, Americans and the California Dream,
1850-1915, was published in 1973. To date he has authored
nine major works and has more planned. He has also contributed
chapters, forewords and introductions to dozens of books.
His writing has received such honors as a Guggenheim Fellowship,
the Gold Medal of the Commonwealth club of California,
and the Carey McWilliams Award from the California Studies
Known as a dynamic speaker, Starr maintains a full schedule
of speaking events where he represents the California
State Library and its programs. Since Dr. Starr became
State Librarian, an improved California economy allowed
for expansion of the Library’s various programs.
He has facilitated the creation of the Library of California
of which he is the Chief Executive Officer along with
the California Library Services Board. In addition, he
served as Chair of the California Sesquicentennial Commission,
implemented the California Civil Liberties Public Education
Program, and was instrumental in establishing the California
Cultural and Historical Endowment. Upon his retirement
from the State Library on April 1, 2004, Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger appointed him State Librarian Emeritus.
In November 2006 he received a National Humanities Medal
from the President of the United States.
* Adapted from material on the California State Library
homepage at www.library.ca.gov
and from material at www.worldworks.net/caltour/starr.html.
Hildreth*, 2004 – 2009
State Librarian of California Susan Hildreth, who Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed in July 2004, has a distinguished career as a leader in public libraries.
As State Librarian, Hildreth managed an annual budget of over $88 million in state and federal funds. She oversaw the California State Library as it supported California libraries and cultural institutions in providing for the continued growth of the intellectual, technological, cultural and social literacy of California’s diverse populations.
Previously, Hildreth was the City Librarian of San Francisco and Deputy City Librarian. While leading the San Francisco Public Library, Hildreth managed an annual operating budget of over $58 million and oversaw San Francisco Public's $130 million capital improvement program.
Prior to her tenure in San Francisco, Hildreth was the planning consultant for the Library Development Services Bureau of the California State Library, the Deputy Director for Support Services for the Sacramento Public Library, the County Librarian for the Auburn-Placer County Library, and the Library Director for the Benicia Public Library. She also worked at the Yolo County Library and began her career at the Edison Township Library in New Jersey.
Hildreth graduated cum laude from Syracuse University and holds a Master's degree in Library Science from the State University of New York at Albany as well as a Master's degree in Business Administration from Rutgers University.
Hildreth resigned in February 2009 to become City Librarian of Seattle Public Library.
* Adapted from California State Library homepage at http://www.library.ca.gov/html/Hildreth_Bio.cfm.
|Stacey A. Aldrich, 2009–2012
|Stacey Aldrich was sworn in as State Librarian of California on November 19, 2009. Surrounded by an overflow crowd of friends, family, and colleagues, she took the oath of office in the newly dedicated J.S. Holliday Rare Book Room of the California State Library.
Stacey was appointed to the post by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who stated in a press release that “Stacey is truly an expert in the field and California is lucky to have her as the State Librarian.” She had been Acting State Librarian since February 2009, and served as Deputy State Librarian from August 2007 forward. As Acting State Librarian, Stacey ably directed a staff of 155, oversaw a budget of $80 million, and worked with state and local officials on multiple projects, bonds, and initiatives of the State Library. She was instrumental this year in securing California’s participation in Opportunity Online, a major broadband initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that will significantly improve and sustain public access to the Internet through California’s public libraries.
Stacey is an impassioned futurist who serves on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Futurists. In presentations and workshops here and abroad, she challenges librarians to actively shape the future of libraries by examining trends and technologies, building scenarios for possible future outcomes, then developing strategies to deal with those futures. Named one of Library Journal’s Movers & Shakers in 2003, Stacey is recognized as a national leader who’s shaping the future of the library profession.
Before joining the State Library, Stacey served as Assistant Director of the Omaha Public Library from 2005 to 2007; held two positions with the Maryland Department of Education--Branch Chief of Public Libraries and State Networking from 2000 to 2005, and Public Library consultant from 1996 to 1999; and served as Senior Associate at Coates & Jarratt, Inc., a futuring think-tank, in 2000. She was Information Technology Librarian for Hood College Library in Frederick, Maryland, from 1992 to 1996. Stacey earned a Master of Arts in library science and a Bachelor of Arts in Russian language and literature from the University of Pittsburg. She belongs to the American Librarian Association, Public Librarian Association, California Library Association, and Beta Phi.
State Librarian of California Stacey Aldrich resigned in October 2012 to accept the position of deputy secretary for the Office of Commonwealth Libraries of Pennsylvania. Aldrich assumed her new responsibilities in Harrisburg in early November. In many respects, this move to the Keystone State represents a homecoming. She attended the University of Pittsburgh for her Master of Arts and Bachelor of Arts degrees and her parents live in Pennsylvania.
|Gerald Maginnity, 2012–
|Gerald Maginnity since November 2012 is now serving as acting state librarian until Governor Brown makes an appointment. He is assisted by the State Library’s executive team of Jarrid Keller, Debbie Newton, Brian Sala, and David Cismowski.
Prior to assuming his new responsibilities, Maginnity held the position of chief of the Library Development Services Bureau of the State Library. Maginnity joined the State Library in November 2005 with broad experience in a variety of public libraries and cooperative library systems and became the bureau chief in May 2008. Previous work experience in California included coordinator of the Sacramento-based Mountain Valley Library System, associate county librarian in Fresno, and Vallejo branch head for Solano County Library. In addition, he has worked for the Serra Cooperative Library System in Imperial and San Diego Counties and the Lassen County Library. Prior to coming to the Golden State, Maginnity worked for libraries in Canada and Mexico, including the Main Library of the Instituto Tecnológico in Monterrey, Mexico. He received his Master’s Degree from the School of Library and Information Science, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.
Historic Library & Courts Building: An Exhibition of Historical
Photographs and Contemporary Images by Cathy Kelly
Library & Courts Building located at 914 Capitol Mall
is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful buildings
in State Government. Its entrance lobby is unsurpassed and
the building features three murals and a variety of attractive
decorative features. On May 24, 1984, the Library & Courts
Building was named to the National Register of Historic Places.
Restoration is now underway of the fifth floor meeting room
and its magnificent rotunda.
Library & Courts Building opened in 1928 as part of the
Capitol Extension Group. It faces a twin structure, Office
Building Number 1 (now called the Unruh Building). Designed
by the prestigious San Francisco firm of Weeks & Day,
both neo-classical structures are located across the street
from the State Capitol. A circular drive with a fountain in
the middle provides a graceful division between the two office
buildings. The five-story exteriors are clad in Sierra white
granite quarried by the McGilvrary-Raymond Granite Company
in Madera County and granitex architectural terra cotta manufactured
by Gladding, McBean and Company of Lincoln, Placer County.
Foundation commissioned noted architectural photographer Cathy
Kelly in 1988 and 2001 to photograph this magnificent edifice.
Her photographs are supplemented by historic photographs from
the Librarys California History Section.
further information on the history of this fabulous building
see: California State Library Bulletin, Issue Number 69 (Fall
2000 / Winter 2001). Copies of the Bulletin may be obtained
purchased from the Foundation for $7.50. Please see Publications
List for order information.
& Courts Building, north facade. 2001. Photograph by Cathy
photograph of the State Capitol and Capitol Extension Group.
The building on the right is Office Building No. 1 or the Jesse
Unruh Building, and on the left is the Library & Courts
Building. Photograph was taken shortly after the completion
of the twin buildings in 1928.
& Courts Building, Cornerstone Laying Ceremony, March 26,
Capitol with Library & Courts Building under construction.
Looking south, southwest. McCurry photograph.
& Courts Building, 1926 depicting the east and north facades.
& Courts Building and circle, circa 1930. This view of the
north facade was taken shortly after the completion of the landscaping.
north facade features a granite pediment group created by New
York sculptor Edward Field Sanford, Jr. Composed of seventeen
figures and entitled Californias Gift to the World,
it was the largest pediment in the country at the time of installation.
sculptor Edward Field Sanford, Jr. inspects the work on his
pediment. In this photograph, the artist is inspecting the work
of the craftsmen who carried out his design. The central figure,
standing a full twelve feet, represents the fully developed
California with a sword of justice in one hand and the owl of
wisdom in the other..
Entrance Vestibule. The Lobby is dedicated to California veterans
who died in World War I. The most dominating feature of the
room is the sixteen black Italian marble pillars. The pillars
serve no function other than decoration. Photograph by Cathy
of one the decorative urns surmounting the marble pillars. Photograph
by Cathy Kelly©
of bronze torch light standards in the Memorial Vestibule. Photograph
by Cathy Kelly©
Van Sloan murals. The famed San Francisco artist received a
contract from the State of California to paint a series of twelve
mural panels illustrating the history of warfare from neolithic
times to World War I. He completed the murals in April 1929.
Photograph by Cathy Kelly©
of Frank Van Sloan murals. Photograph by Cathy Kelly©
staircase. Photograph by Ross Steiner©
Recognized as one most beautiful courtrooms in the country,
it is used by the Third District Court of Appeal, and for six
days a year, the California Supreme Court. Photograph by Cathy
Librarians Office. The office features important California
landscape and portrait paintings. Recently, the Librarys
Foundation acquired from Marcia and Robin Williams the Maynard
Dixon painting called Allegory. It is shown above
the roll top desk. Photograph by Cathy Kelly©
Anoakia Murals by Maynard Dixon. Located on the second floor
corridor, these murals were originally commissioned by Anita
Baldwin McClaughry for her mansion in Arcadia, California. The
McCaslin family, the owners of the mansion, donated the murals
to the Library in 1997. These murals, Dixon believed, dated
the start of his true creative life. A bronze statue of Dixon
by Gary Smith was purchased through Foundation funds stands
in a niche between the paintings. Photograph by Cathy Kelly©
details. The ceilings of the public floors are painted with
figures from mythology including this portrait of Medusa. Photograph
by Cathy Kelly©
Hall, 1929. Named in honor of State Librarian James L. Gillis,
this stately room serves as the main reference center for the
Pageant of Tradition. Created by Maynard Dixon in 1928, this
immense mural in Gillis Hall measures fourteen feet high by
sixty-nine feet in length. For this mural, Dixon selected Californias
historical progress and pioneering ambition as his theme. It
was Dixons largest mural. Photograph by Cathy Kelly©
Dixon at work on the mural. Dixon worked from a scaffold. For
three and a half months, Dixon labored daily in Gillis Hall
finally completing the mural in November 1928.
and Catalog Room, 1929. The room is graced by a highly ornamented
ceiling, terrazzo floor, and bronze chandelier.
entrance gate to the Circulation and Catalog Room, 1929.
elevated bronze statues by Edward Field Sanford, Jr. flank both
sides of the Circulation and Catalog Room. The female figure
is called Inspiration and the male figure Wisdom. Photographs
by Cathy Kelly©
& Courts II Building
900 N Street
Library & Courts II Building was created as an annex for
both the Library and the Third District Court of Appeal. Outgoing
State Librarian Gary E. Strong and incoming State Librarian
Dr. Kevin Starr dedicated the building in October 1994. It houses
the Braille and Talking Book Library, California History Section
and Special Collections, Preservation Office, Information Technology
Bureau, California Research Bureau, Technical Services Branch,
and Library Development Services. The Court of Appeal occupies
the fourth floor.
of east facade from Fragrance Garden. Photograph by Cathy Kelly©
Posters of California
Reproductions of many of these posters
may be purchased from
our friends at Zazzle.com
California History Section of the State Library preserves
and makes available an immense collection of California-related
posters covering a wide variety of subject matter and dates.
The following reproductions represent a sampling of the best
examples from the collection. Permission to reproduce must
be obtained directly from the California History Section,
P.O. Box 942837, Sacramento, CA 94237-0001. 916-654-0176.
Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Poultry Show, 1909
National Orange Show, 1912
National Orange Show, 1913
National Orange Show, 1914
National Orange Show, 1917
Fairs and Events
Annual Tulare County Citrus Fair
Angeles Fiesta. 1896 and 1897
Education Association Convention, San Francisco. 1911
Diego] Ground-Breaking Panama-California Exposition. 1911
Diego Exposition. 1915
Diego Exposition. 1916
Francisco Portola Festival. 1909
Francisco. Golden Gate International Exposition. 1940
Causeway Celebration. 1916
Lake and the High Sierra
Pacifics New Daylight: Los Angeles - San Francisco