Santa Barbara County Libraries – A History of Providing Connection and Resources
Santa Barbara County established the first Santa Barbara Free Public Library in 1882. The county’s first librarian, Mrs. Frances Burns Linn, established the first County Branch Library System in California. In the early 1900s, the Carnegie Corporation of New York awarded a total of 121 grants throughout California to help establish and improve libraries. Three Santa Barbara County cities–Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and Lompoc–were grant recipients.
By 1920, Santa Barbara County had a total of 125 branches throughout the area, bringing books to every town, city, and small settlement, as listed here: Branches of Santa Barbara County Libraries – 1920.
The document also includes entries about the Santa Barbara County Law Library, the Santa Barbara County Teachers’ Library, and libraries located at local schools.
The rural, agricultural nature of the county in the 1920s necessitated that, on occasion, books be delivered to the more remote locations by librarians who traveled on horseback. It was not unusual for patrons, as well, to travel to their closest branch of the library on hoof, as depicted in the photos above. The Ship Library, pictured above, was sited in Mission Canyon. While many of the locations listed in the News Notes of California Libraries for Santa Barbara County have disappeared through the years, the county’s libraries continue to evolve, providing information, events, and services that meet the needs of an ever-changing world.
Edson Smith Photograph Collection – Santa Barbara County History
The Edson Smith Photograph collection is hosted locally by the Santa Barbara Public Library. The collection contains over 3100 early images of Santa Barbara County dating from the 1870s-1950s, many of which were collected by Santa Barbara native, and long-time resident, Edson A. Smith (1877-1947). The photographs capture historic buildings, adobes, houses, views of State Street, cultural landmarks, local dignitaries, and many events including early Fiesta parades, the arrival of the first Southern Pacific train in Santa Barbara in 1887, and the Santa Barbara Earthquake on June 29, 1925. Funding for the Edson Smith Digitization Project generously provided by John C. Woodward.
Jace Turner, MLS, City of Santa Barbara Library, provided me with a excellent article about this very special collection:
Santa Barbara Independent Article
Seeing Santa Barbara’s Past with New Eyes: Santa Barbara Public Library Digitizes More than 2,500 Historic Images
Black Gold Cooperative Library Historical Photographs
Photographs from this collection are also included on the City of Santa Barbara Library website. Please visit the City of Santa Barbara Library’s website – https://www.santabarbaraca.gov/gov/depts/lib/collections/local_history_resources.asp – to see all the online historical information related to Santa Barbara County – and beyond.