San Rafael Public Library

Library Updates


Posted by davagy on

National Library Week (April 7 – 13) is a wonderful opportunity to appreciate the invaluable contributions libraries make to our communities. 


Roots of Our Library, A Coffee and Reading Room 
by William Calhoun

April 20, 1887, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of San Rafael established a coffee and reading room. A movement that consisted of 60 members, each of whom paid $1 per month for membership. 

On April 30, 1890, the Library Association formally presents the library to the town trustees. The assets: furniture, more than 1,000 books, and $33.50 in the treasury. The Marin Journal proclaims, “It is a matter of congratulation that through the efforts of a few public-spirited women the town is now in a position to maintain a free library. The members of the old Board of Town Trustees deserve special mention for carrying out the will of the people in levying a library tax.” 

Between 1897-1908, after a failed school bond measure in 1897, another measure was sent to the electorate again a year later and passed with the added incentive of having a room in the proposed high school dedicated to the Public Library. Due an increase in operating expenses, it took the Library Trustees four years, until 1903, to complete the move to the E Street High School.  

In December 1904, the City Trustees had resolved to provide operating funds and secure a site for a new library if Mr. Andrew Carnegie would donate the money to erect the building. Fortunately for San Rafael, local resident Judge William W. Morrow served as a Trustee of the Carnegie Institution and was a friend of Carnegie. At a private luncheon Judge Morrow took occasion to complimented Carnegie on his generosity in providing libraries for many cities and towns and remarked casually that San Rafael, Cal., had not yet thus been honored. At that luncheon Mr. Carnegie committed $25,000 to constructing a Library for the San Rafael people. 

January 9, 1909,builders completed construction of the new library at Fifth Avenue and E street. 

From 1909 to the Present, the San Rafael Public Library has continued to grow and expand meeting the educational, recreational, informational, and cultural needs of the people of San Rafael and the surrounding communities. We the library staff thank the City and its citizens for their continued support. 

In honor of National Library Week, here are some ways you can celebrate/participate: 

Thank Library Staff: When you visit your local library, take a moment to express your gratitude to the staff who work tirelessly to provide resources, assistance, and support to library patrons.  

Share on Social Media: Use your social media platforms to share about your favorite aspects of libraries. Whether it’s the diverse collection of books, engaging programs and events, or welcoming atmosphere, sharing your positive experiences can encourage others to utilize and support our libraries.  

Attend a Library Event, check out a new book, or learn about one of the many E-Resources available through the Library!


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Zip Books – Your Library Discovered!

Posted by catherine on

Looking for an item we don't have? Zip Books.

Are you familiar with our Zip Books program? Zip Books is a way for patrons to request books that are not available in our MARINet or Link+ catalogs. The item is free to you and shipped directly to you using Amazon.


  • 1 item request at a time, 5 items maximum per fiscal year (July-June)
  • Items can only be requested that are currently NOT in the MARINet or Link+ catalogs
  • The cost of the item must be $50 or lower
  • Items may be a book, a large print book, or a book on CD—no textbooks
  • Items must be currently available through Amazon (no pre-order items)

How to Order a Zip Book:

Step 1: Fill out the Zip Book Request Form.

Step 2: Library staff will email or call to let you know what day to expect the book to arrive from Amazon or let you know if it is not available. Please contact us at: if you don’t receive your book on the day estimated.

Step 3: Keep the item as long as you want, but in order to request another Zip Book you must first return the one you have. When returning your Zip Book, simply drop it in a return bin at the Downtown, Pickleweed, or Northgate libraries. Please place a note on the book indicating that it is a San Rafael Zip Book. We will mark it as returned so you will be able to order another Zip Book.

Downtown San Rafael Library: 1100 E Street, San Rafael 94901
Pickleweed Library: 50 Canal Street, San Rafael 94901
Northgate Library: Northgate Mall, Suite 083, near the Food Court.

The Zip Books project is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library

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Celebrating the Women in our History 

Posted by davagy on

Mrs. J.S. (Amanda B.) Stratton and the San Rafael Public Library
by Pam Klein

In December of 1884, Mrs. J.S. (Amanda B.) Stratton initiated a Public Library planning committee in San Rafael.  Mrs. Stratton was married to a contractor who specialized in house moving. House moving literally meant that Mr. Stratton would move entire residential or commercial buildings to new locations by land or by water. In 1887, Mrs. Stratton and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union established a Public Library/Coffee Room, in rented space on the upper story of the Francetta Building (4th Street between D and E).   

Mrs. Stratton served as the principal librarian for six months before others stepped in. Membership fees were set at $1 per year. A flower festival was held to raise funds for the new library, featuring cakes and fancywork.  $168 was raised for books and furnishings. Leftover fancywork was sold in the tiny reading room.   

In 1903, the library moved to the old San Rafael High School on E Street. In November of 1906 the Marin Journal published an article praising the library and Mrs. Stratton. 

 “To whom are we indebted for all these literary treasures? The answer might well be printed in large letters —Mrs. Amanda B. Stratton. This noble, generous hearted woman, while other people contented themselves with talking about a public library, went to work and created one. She watched over it in its infancy. We recall the time when it occupied modest quarters on 4th St no larger than a bedroom. Mrs. Stratton never lost faith in the enterprise. Often times when it was in financial straits, she paid for its maintenance out of her own purse… We are glad that Mrs. Stratton who is still in her prime, has lived long enough to see her “pet” library assume its present majestic proportions, a source of incalculable benefit to the rising generation. Let it be her monument for all time! She needs no other. The library will soon be housed in a magnificent $25,000 structure, a generous gift from Andrew Carnegie, plans for which are now being prepared by the architects. A. lot for the building has been purchased and given to the city by several of our public-spirited citizens.” 

On January 9, 1909, the San Rafael Public Library was opened at its present site on E Street between 5th and Mission avenues. Mrs. Stratton died at an Odd Fellows care facility in Thermalito, California on October 20th, 1909. Hopefully, she knew that her hard work had borne fruit. Her obituary (which did not contain her Christian name) read “Mrs. J.S. Stratton was one of the pioneer ladies of San Rafael, who was beloved by a large circle of friends. She was always foremost in doing good work in our city and was the founder of the San Rafael free library. She was the mother of C.C.Stratton, the contractor of this city.” Mrs. Stratton would be pleased to know that one of the library’s charter rules prevents the serving of alcoholic beverages at public events.


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New Storytime Hours!

Posted by davagy on

NEW Schedule for weekly storytime

Join us for songs, rhymes, and stories every week! We host Stay & Play inside the library after each storytime.

Pickleweed Library
Tuesdays, 10:30am (NEW DAY)

Downtown Library (Council Chambers)
Wednesdays, 10:30am (NEW DAY)

Northgate Library (Food Court)
Fridays, 10:30am


Hora de Cuentos ¡NUEVO HORARIO!

Ven y participa en  la hora de cuentos, escucha las historias, canciones y rimas. Después, ¡quedate a jugar!

Biblioteca de Pickleweed
Martes, 10:30am 

Biblioteca de Downtown
Miércoles, 10:30am

Biblioteca de Northgate
Viernes, 10:30am

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New Library Hours – Effective March 4

Posted by davagy on

Please note, the Library hours will be changing temporarily. Starting March 4th, our new hours are | Tenga en cuenta que el horario de la Biblioteca cambiará temporalmente. A partir del 4 de marzo, nuestro nuevo horario es:

Downtown location:

Sunday/domingo 10:00 – 5:00
Monday/lunes 10:00 – 5:00
Tuesday/martes 10:00 – 7:00
Wednesday/miércoles 10:00 – 7:00
Thursday/jueves 10:00 – 5:00
Friday/viernes 10:00 – 5:00
Saturday/sábado 10:00 – 5:00

Pickleweed location:

Sunday/domingo CLOSED/CERRADO
Tuesday/martes 10:00 – 5:00
Wednesday/miércoles 10:00 – 5:00
Thursday/jueves 12:00 – 7:00
Friday/viernes 10:00 – 5:00
Saturday/sábado 10:00 – 5:00

Northgate location (no change | ningún cambio en el horario):

Sunday/domingo CLOSED/CERRADO
Tuesday/martes CLOSED/CERRADO
Wednesday/miércoles 11:00 – 5:00
Thursday/jueves 11:00 – 5:00
Friday/viernes 11:00 – 5:00
Saturday/sábado 11:00 – 5:00


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  • Downtown Library

    Sun: 10:00-5:00
    Mon: 10:00-5:00
    Tues: 10:00-7:00
    Weds: 10:00-7:00
    Thurs: 10:00-5:00
    Fri: 10:00-5:00
    Sat: 10:00-5:00

    (415) 485-3323

    1100 E Street (at 5th Avenue)
    San Rafael, CA 94901

  • Pickleweed Library

    Sun: closed
    Mon: closed
    Tues: 10:00-5:00
    Weds: 10:00-5:00
    Thurs: 12:00-7:00
    Fri: 10:00-5:00
    Sat: 10:00-5:00

    (415) 485-3483

    50 Canal Street
    San Rafael, CA 94901

  • Northgate Library

    Sun: closed
    Mon: closed
    Tues: closed
    Weds: 11:00-5:00
    Thurs: 11:00-5:00
    Fri: 11:00-5:00
    Sat: 11:00-5:00

    (415) 890-5670

    5800 Northgate Drive Ste. 083
    San Rafael, CA 94903

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