A couple of months ago (October 21, 2007), Wells Fargo helped celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Sacramento Public Library . A Wells Fargo Stagecoach made an appearance and the Old Sacramento Museum staff presented a gold panning exhibition. The festivities attracted many visitors, young and old, who enjoyed gold panning and the other activities. The most important part, however, was the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Public Library.
Five years after the creation of Wells Fargo in 1852, the Sacramento Public Library was created. By 1857, Sacramento was developing rapidly . The city had a railroad, city hall, newspaper, steamboat service, ten churches, brothels, theaters and a Wells Fargo Express Office. The citizenry felt it necessary to fulfill their intellectual requirements as well – so in October, prominent residents formed the Capital Library Association.
The Association sold stock at 25 dollars per share and raised $25,000 to buy books, furnish the library and purchase land for the building. The Library opened in November 1857 to subscribing members who paid five dollars initially, then two dollars and fifty cents quarterly. The first building was located at 5th and J Streets and housed a collection of 800 books.
The following year, another 800 books sailed from New York , around Cape Horn , and through the Delta to Sacramento. By September 1873, the library had 260 subscribing members and an annual circulation of 4,234 books. Unfortunately, membership started to decline after that.
The Association offered the property to the City of Sacramento to be used as a free public library. In June 1879, the Sacramento Free Library opened with over 6,000 books. Within six months, the number of daily visitors had grown to over 100. Since then library service has continued to expand, with the opening of branch sites throughout the city’s communities.
The main branch of Sacramento’s modern Public Library opened in 1992 on 9th and I Streets in a beautiful six-story building. The Library today offers so much more with exhibits, programs, book readings and events. But the 150-year history of the Library is not forgotten: those 800 books that sailed ’round the Horn in 1858 are still a part of the Library’s rare book collection.