Residents of San Francisco hold a meeting at Dashaway Hall, initiated by Andrew S. Hallidie, to advocate the funding and establishment of a free public Library.
Governor William Irwin signs the Rogers Act, instituting a property tax to raise Library funds and creating a board of Library trustees.
First San Francisco Public Library opens on the second floor of Pacific Hall on Bush Street (between Kearny & Dupont, now Grant Avenue).
First City Librarian, Albert Hart, is hired.
Library moves to the Larkin Street wing of City Hall, in the new Civic Center.
First three branches are opened, in the Mission, in North Beach, and on Potrero Hill.
The Library is nominated for federal depository status by U.S. Senator George Hearst and continues as a federal depository to the present day.
Richmond Branch opened.
Library relocates to the third floor of City Hall's McAllister Street wing.
Park Branch opened.
Presidio Branch opened.
Andrew J. Carnegie The foundation established by Andrew J. Carnegie gives $750,000 to the city to help fund a new main Library and several branches. See "History of Carnegie Libraries" by Tim Kelley (PDF).
The Library Commission is formed.
Eureka Valley Branch opened as McCreery Branch. Rebuilt as Eureka Valley in 1962.
Ocean View Branch opened.
San Francisco voters pass a bond issue to supplement the Carnegie bequest.
Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, leader of the City Beautiful movement, begins to design a master plan for San Francisco, including a Civic Center with a new Library building.
Daniel Burnham presents his final plan for the city's redesign. But shortly afterward the earthquake and fire destroy much of the city including the Library collection housed in City Hall. Of the Library's 166,344 volumes an estimated 140,000 were destroyed. Temporary quarters were established on Hayes Street near Van Ness. Two of the six branches were destroyed.
The Library moves to a temporary location between Van Ness & Franklin, Fell & Hayes.
The city begins to raise funds and consider plans for a new Civic Center.
The temporary Main Library reaches capacity.
George Kelham Architect George W. Kelham's design for a new Main Library - the first building to be constructed specifically for the Library - is chosen for a Civic Center location, the block bound by Larkin, McAllister, Hyde, and Fulton streets.
Carnegie Foundation funds are earmarked for the building of branch libraries in the Richmond, the Mission, the Sunset, Noe Valley, and Golden Gate Valley.
Ground is broken for the Main Library.
Noe Valley Branch opened.
The cornerstone for the Main Library is laid - ten years after the devastating earthquake of 1906.
Silver trowel by Shreves
Presented to the Board of Public Library Trustees by the McGilvray-Raymond Granite Co.
April 15, 1916
On the occasion of laying the cornerstone
Public Library, Civic Center
by His Honor Mayor James Rolph, Jr.
The Main Library is dedicated and opens to the public. Materials are moved by horse and wagon to the new Beaux Arts building.
Sunset Branch and Golden Gate Valley Branch opened.
The Main Library begins to acquire rare books and the works of San Francisco fine printers and binders: a collection that in 1927 is named for Max J. Kuhl and is currently housed in The Book Arts and Special Collections Center.
Bernal Branch opened as Library deposit station. Became full branch in 1936.
Carnegie Foundation funds are used to finance branches in North Beach and on Sacramento Street. See "History of Carnegie Libraries" by Tim Kelley (PDF).
North Beach Branch renamed Chinatown Branch.
Excelsior and Ingleside branches open.
Glen Park and Bayview branches open.
Portola Branch opened.
Business Library (a department of the Main) opens in the Russ Building in the Financial District.
Gottardo Piazzoni Painting A Mural Piazzoni Murals begin to be installed in the Main Library's Rotunda.
Anza Branch opened.
Visitacion Valley Branch opened.
Parkside and West Portal branches opened.
Main Library declared filled to capacity.
Nat Schmulowitz Nat Schmulowitz, a local lawyer and former Library Commissioner, donates his collection of humor books and magazines to the Main Library, forming the core of the Schmulowitz Collection of Wit & Humor (SCOWAH) located in The Book Arts and Special Collections Center.
Voters turn down bond issue to fund eighteen branches and an addition to the Main Library.
Citizens concerned about the future of the Library meet to form the first Friends of the San Francisco Library.
Series of articles in the San Francisco Chronicle criticizes the Library.
Marina Branch opened.
Ortega Branch opened.
Hale Champion's series in the San Francisco Chronicle negatively critiques the Library's operation and services.
Emerson Greenaway, an eminent librarian, delivers a report recommending additional city funding, improvements to the Main Library, and hiring of trained staff.
Merced Branch opened.
Mayoral memorandum announcing the formation of the Mayor's Committee of Fifty Mayor George Christopher creates the Committee of Fifty, a group of prominent cultural and business leaders, to build support for the Library.
North Beach Branch opened in current location.
San Franciscans for a Better Library, a citizen's group, is formed.
Early Friends of the Library logo The Committee of Fifty, San Franciscans for a Better Library, and the San Francisco Library League join forces under a new name - Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.
Judy Detrick Richard Harrison, local calligrapher and collector of calligraphy, gives his collection to the Library, currently located in The Book Arts and Special Collections Center.
Effie Lee Morris was appointed the first Coordinator of Children's Services.
The Main Library establishes a collection of materials on local history, later named the San Francisco History Room, now called The San Francisco History Center.
The Friends holds its first annual book sale, raising $4,000 to purchase rare materials for the Library.
Woodcut image from the Hypnerotomachia Poliphhili, printed by Aldus Manutius, Venice, 1499 Robert Grabhorn's collection of 1,500 rare books becomes part of the Main Library's Special Collections, located in The Book Arts and Special Collections Center.
Western Addition Branch opened.
Bay Area Reference Center (BARC) funded. Main Library designated "third-level" research center for Northern California.
San Francisco librarians form the Librarians' Guild, which soon replaces the Library Staff Association.
City employees picketing in front of City Hall The Librarians' Guild supports the four day city wide strike of public employees.
The Library begins walk-in service for the blind and visually impaired, now called The Library for the Blind and Print Disabled.
Keep Libraries Alive! forms to protest the closing of branches to meet cuts in the city's budget for the Library system.
Dial-A-Story begins. This service, aimed at preschool-age children but used by many, offers stories in English via telephone.
The Library Commission, the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, Keep Libraries Alive!, and other citizen groups fight successfully to retain Marshall Square as the site of a new main Library.
California Video Resources Project begins producing and collecting videotapes.
The passage of Proposition 13, rolling back property taxes, negatively impacts the city's ability to fund the Library and other public institutions.
Library begins sign language and video services for the Deaf, now called Deaf Services Center.
January: CLSI, the Library’s first automation system, goes online at the Main.
Special Media Services (circulating video collection, media production, and services to Deaf) started in the Communications Center (Presidio Branch). In 1982 moves into the Main Library. (Audio Visual Center and Assistive Technology)
Report by Lowell Martin recommending consolidation of branches catalyzes public support for the branches.
Project Read, the Library’s literacy program, begins.
Book Buddies was established. Children’s librarians train volunteers to read to children in San Francisco hospitals. As a component of that program, Dial-A-Story lines in Cantonese and Spanish were started.
A task force is created by Mayor Feinstein to complete the design of the Civic Center, including use of Marshall Square for a new Library.
Business Library closed due to budget cuts.
Damage caused by the Loma Prieta Earthquake Loma Prieta Earthquake severely damages the Main Library building and the stacks are permanently closed to the public.
This is the last year that the card catalog is maintained. All cataloguing is now entered into the online database.
Dorothy Starr Sheet music collector Dorothy Starr dies, leaving a collection of 500,000 pieces of published music. The Friends purchase the collection from her estate for the Library.
Lesbian/Gay Center collection begins, now called the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center.
Loan of audio Compact Discs Begins.
Ground is broken for the New Main Library on Marshall Square. Hundreds attend the ceremony, including Mayor Frank Jordan. He uses the same silver shovel Mayor "Sunny Jim" Rolph held when ground was broken for City Hall.
The Library excavation uncovers part of the old jail and other rubble from City Hall when it collapsed in the 1906 earthquake. Also found is a wedding band, one of the last remains of the Yerba Buena Cemetery that once held more than 5,000 bodies and was removed in 1870.
Municipal Cable TV Station (CITYWATCH, Channel 54) begins, now called Channel 26, SFGTV. SF Community Television Corp. moves into Main Library.
Automated router (Telephone System) installed, last rotary phone removed from branches.
The Library establishes Internet access and an early Web site.
Telephone Information Project (TIP) starts.
Community (Automated) Information Projects begin: S.F. African-American History Network, AIDS Information Network, Community Information Project. (San Francisco Community Services Directory.)
Dial-up to SF Catalog begins.
The Children’s Bookmobile begins providing collections and services for children in daycare.
New Main Library opened on April 18.
New Main Library Focus Collections: The new Library houses many focus collections: African American, Gay and Lesbian, International, Chinese, Filipino, Environmental, Teen, and Jobs & Careers.
The first Teen Services Librarian position was created.
Email reference service is available augmenting answers to questions in person, by telephone, fax, and in writing.
Over 25,000 historic photographs are digitized and made accessible on the Library's Web site. (Historic Photo Collection)
Main Library Post Occupancy Evaluation Report (POE)
Voters approve of Prop A, a $106 million bond measure, for improvements to nineteen neighborhood branches and the construction of four new branch buildings.
Book Amnesty cartoon by Phil Frank Overdue Book Amnesty, June 1 - June 15.
E-Books and QandA Cafe introduced to the Library.
San Francisco Public Library turns 125!