Image: The entrance to the first California Room at the old main library in 1974. Photo courtesy of the California Room
My First Impression
I became familiar with the California Room when I began working for the San Jose Public Library back in 1988. My first assignment was in the Silicon Valley Information Center (SVIC) on the third floor. The third floor was primarily Reference (non-circulating materials) and Periodicals. SVIC was located right next to the California Room. In those days, the California Room was much smaller and didn't feel very inviting. Most of the materials appeared to be inaccessible except through the assistance of the librarian. Though I rarely went into the room, I got to know the room's clerk Carmen Newby, and the room's librarian George Kobayashi. Little did I know that one day I'd be working in the California Room and that the SVIC collection would become part of it.
From a Section
The California Room began as a small collection that grew into a section of the San Jose Public Library. News articles regarding the California Section date as far back as 1904 when the public library was located in our current location on the corner of 4th and E. San Fernando Street, in the first of San Jose's two Carnegie Libraries. The second Carnegie Library still stands at 1102 E. Santa Clara Street. The City Librarian at that time was Miss Mary Barmby. Reference librarian Rosalind Boring expanded the section during her tenure from 1914 to 1955. She began moving histories, travel guides and reminiscences into locked cases to protect some irreplaceable items that occasionally disappeared from the open shelves.
To a Room
Through the years, the California section evolved into a well-rounded collection of books, maps, aerial photographs, clipping files, and other items about California history with an emphasis on San Jose and Santa Clara County. Among its patrons have been students, historians, authors, news media, and homeowners. In 1970, the California Section was given its own room with the construction of San Jose's new main library that was located at 180 W. San Carlos Street (the first King Library).
Today's California Room
The San Jose Public Library eventually outgrew its main library on San Carlos Street, and in 2003 it moved to the new King Library on Fourth and E. San Fernando Streets. Sharing the building with San Jose State University's library, the current California Room is much larger, and offers ample workspace for researchers with ready access to well-organized reference resources. It's amazing to consider that our collection began well over a hundred years ago. Next year will mark its twentieth anniversary at this location.
California Room Librarians
The California Room has had many lead librarians over the years. Below is a list of those librarians from 1970 to current:
- Lynn Vermillion (1970-1979)
- George Kobayashi (1979-1990)
- Alice Davidson (1990-1993)
- Bob Johnson (1993-2006)
- Stacy Mueller (2007–2010)
- Amy Dunning (2012–2014)
- Erin Herzog (2015–2018)
- Shane Curtin (2018 – current)
Deserving of mention are contributing librarians Rosalind Boring, John Kensit, Lucille Boone, and Lauren Gilbert who also provided room oversight during transition periods.