Library History

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  • Photo Credit: Nick Frey

In 1906, a public-spirited Salinas Civic Club resolved to build a public library building for Salinas. With tireless effort and the help of Salinas residents, these ladies raised the necessary funds to purchase a lot and secure $10,000 from Andrew Carnegie for a building. Before long, the Odd Fellows of Salinas added the books from their library to those from the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union Reading Room. The I.O.O.F. then hired Carrie Miller Striening to classify them.

On November 4, 1909, Mrs. Striening proudly opened the doors to the new Salinas Public Library Carnegie building. Before the close of century, the system built another main library and two smaller ones; formed an internationally known Steinbeck Collection; organized a volunteer-run homebound service; built one of the most successful literacy programs in the state; started a Chicano Resource Center; and in general served the population of a rapidly growing city.

Ironically, the beginning of twenty-first century almost brought an end to the public library in Salinas when a serious budget crisis prompted the city council to plan closure of the entire system early in 2005. Once again the people, businesses, and organizations of Salinas and beyond came forward to affirm the value of their public library. In about three months, the Rally Salinas! campaign raised enough money to keep the system open 33 hours a week for one year. Then on November 8, 2005, the citizens of Salinas voted a sales tax to keep the library and other city services funded for the next ten years. This tax was extended in 2016 through a subsequent tax Measure E which ensures ongoing funding. 

In July 2018, Salinas Public Library opened a satellite library location called Library Connection at the Northridge Mall as at temporary library for the North Salinas community while the El Gabilan Library is closed for reconstruction. From October 2018 thru January 2019, the Library added various self-service options such as self-checkout kiosk, online payment, and self-service holds, to improve service to the community. On February 22, 2020, the newly reconstructed El Gabilan Library opened to the public. The new 20,000 sqft. library building will more than triple the collection capacity with more technology available for the community. It will also feature a community meeting room, makerspace, computer studio, multiple study rooms, and an outdoor backyard space with drought-tolerant plants and interactive elements for children.


Material in the Local History Collection at the John Steinbeck Library was used to prepare this history.