Library History

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1903 - The Ladies Club of Benicia asked the Board of City Trustees to apply for an Andrew Carnegie grant. There were 375 citizens clustered around the railroad and industries.

1904 - The City Council agreed to submit the grant and conditions of acceptance to a vote of the people. The only obligation was for the city to agree to fund the library and find a suitable site. For some reason the election was never held and Benicia is one of the few towns in the country to refuse a Carnegie grant.

1906 - Again the Ladies Club demanded action from City Hall.

1910 - A two-room library in the old Capitol (then City Hall) was finally established. The first head librarian was Neil Scannell (1887-1918) He served until 1913.

1914 - Josie O'Sullivan (1890-1955) became Head Librarian.

1915 - May Houlahan (1869-1951) became the Head Librarian and served until 1943.

1944 - Florence Wagner (1883-1957) served as Head Librarian until 1950.

1948 - Naomi B. Knight is hired as Head Librarian.

1948 - The Benicia Ladies Club again began to push for an improved library. Later that year, the first Library Board of Trustees in 42 years was appointed to begin planning a way to fund a new library and find a suitable site.

The Library Board found money from property taxes to build and operate a free library. They collected the $26,735 necessary to build a new library.

Edna Clyne agreed to donate the garden next to her house at 144 G Street for a public library.

1951 - LeNoir Miller is hired as Head Librarian.  

1955 - One year before the library was to open, the State Capitol was declared unsafe. The library had to vacate and moved to 813 First Street temporarily.

1956 - On April 9th, the new library opened its doors on G Street with 7,000 volumes at 144 East G Street.

1987 - Architect Franz Albert was selected to do a site study. The site at East L Street and the Eunice Jensen Park was selected as the site for the new library.

1965 - Lillian Alves becomes Head Librarian.

1984 - Head Librarian, Lillian Alves retired. The Benicia Library Board of Trustees hired Susan Firestein Hildreth.

1985 - The Board of Library Trustees hired a former Solano County Librarian to write a Building Program Statement.

Benicia Library Literacy Program was initiated.

1988 - Carol Starr was hired as the Library Director.

1991 - Grant application for the new library was submitted and accepted. The Library received a $4.7 million grant. City Council funded the $2 million matching funds. December 29th groundbreaking occurred.

The Library joined with Solano and Napa counties, St. Helena, and Napa Community College to form the SNAP Consortium and an integrated automation system for circulation, catalog, acquisitions and magazine inventory control was started.

1991 - City of Benicia made the Literacy Program Coordinator a full time, regular employee.

Families for Literacy Program began.

1992 - Benicia Public Library started circulating materials on the SNAP system along with a magazine index and an encyclopedia.

1993 - June 19th, the new library opened.

English As A Second Language Program began with funds raised by the Program’s annual Trivia Bee.

1994 - A $32,000 grant was awarded by the Federal Department of Education to hire professional staff to further develop the ESL classes and tutoring program.

1995 - A Volunteer Coordinator was hired to assist the library in recruiting and training volunteers.

1998 - Monique le Conge named the new Library Director. Measure B, a 1/8-cent sales tax ballot measure passed by more than a 2/3 vote in June, supplementing Solano County library budgets for new and expanded services. Tax in place for 16 years.

2000 - The Library now has 13 full-time and 10 part-time employees. There are also 8 pages and 12 on-call employees. Over 50 volunteers complement the staff. Last year the library circulated 315,325 items, an increase of 9.1% over 1999!

2003 - Benicia Library celebrated its 10th Birthday for the new building with ceremonies, contests, and entertainment.

2004 - Monique le Conge resigned and Daveta Cooper became the Interim Director.

2005 - Diane Smikahl named the new Library Director.

2010 - Library celebrates 100 years of service in Benicia.

2012 - Measure L passes in Solano County and will continue Measure B's 1/8 of a cent sales tax to supplement library budgets in the County.

2013 - Library celebrates its 20th Anniversary at 150 East L Street.

2016 - Napa County Library System, Solano Community College, and Napa Valley College leave SNAP to change their library software that is not compatible with CARL.X. The old consortium changes its name to Solano Partner Libraries and St. Helena (SPLASH).

Benicia Public Library is one of the first public libraries to be connected to CalREN’s Cenic Digital California network on May 10, 2016. This network provides internet access to schools, universities and now public libraries at 1 gbps.

2017 - Diane Smikahl retires as Library Director.

2017 - David Dodd is hired as Director of Library and Cultural Services.

2018 - Library gets a new coat of paint and celebrates 25 years in this building.

2019 - The leaky green enameled steel roof was removed and replaced with a copper roof fulfilling the original design for the library. This one will last for 100 years.

2020 - The COVID-19 pandemic hits the world. The library closed March 17 - May 17 due to shelter-in-place orders statewide. The library responds with increased homework database offerings including live job, veteran, and educational tutoring to support the schools now teaching from home, streaming movies, and more eBooks and downloadable audio books for all ages through multiple grants from the California State Library and the Library Foundation, Curbside Hold Pick-up service begins on June 1. 

2021 - Library begins reopening to the public on June 1, every other day open and the opposite day scheduled curbside pick up of holds. On July 7, open hours expand to Monday, Wednesday, Thursdays and Fridays open to the public in the afternoon and into the evenings. Curbside moves down to two days a week. Patrons can start studying in the library. On August 1, the library returns to normal hours and curbside service ceases. 

Library Director, David Dodd, retires December 18.

2022 - New Library Director, Jennifer Baker, joins the staff on January 3.

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