Although Sonoma County citizens narrowly rejected the recent quarter-cent Library Improvement Tax; Measure M fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage. There were 62.2% of the of the voters who supported our libraries, 67,973 “Yes” votes to 40,034 “No” votes.
If one goes back in the history of Petaluma, they will discover that the 1858 private library collection started by members of Lodge No. 30, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and Silver Spray Lodge No. 86, was opened to the public in 1867. The Odd Fellows Library Association was created and the public was permitted to use the books on payment a $1 initiation fee and $4/year, or a $25 lifetime fee. Dr. J.H. Crane was listed as the first librarian. In 1878, the Odd Fellows Library Association deeded all its property over to the City of Petaluma, who managed the library for the next nine years.
The first board of Honorable Trustees of the city library consisted of E.S. Lippitt, Lee Ellsworth, L. Hindburgh, H.H. Atwater and Joseph Campbell. The City Trustees were S.J. Hopkins, H.E. Lawrence, H.T. Fairbanks, J.P. Rodgers, and M.E.C. Munday. This joint board appointed Mrs. J.E. Lackie as Librarian, a position she held for 21 years until 1899. Sara Frances was her successor, who in turn, was succeeded by Lorraine Leech Newsome in 1930. Maxine Kortum Durney assumed the position of Chief Librarian in from 1943 until 1945, and was replaced by Edna Bovett.
The library was moved in 1887 from the Odd Fellows Building to the third floor of the former City Hall (today’s A Street parking lot), where it remained for the next 19 years. The corner stone for the historic Carnegie Library, designed by Brainerd Jones and constructed by R.W. Moller at 4th and B Streets was laid on June 10, 1904, and the building was opened to the public on February 17, 1906. However, the April 18th earthquake damaged the building and it was closed until November 13, 1906, when it opened again and served the public as Petaluma’s Public Library for 70 years. The current Sonoma County Library building, built at East Washington Blvd. & Fairgrounds, was opened to the public on July 4, 1976.
Lest we forget these early founders, trustees, and librarians that started and expanded what we enjoy today.
For additional information, read John Benanti’s “A Brief History of the Carnegie Library Building,” Quarterly Newsletter, Petaluma Museum Association, Fall/Winter, 2014, and Edna Bovett’s Argus-Courier’s article, Centennial Edition, 1855-1955, August 18, 1955.