the road so far

Our History

The Chico Library is part of Chico's culture and history and continues to be a strong influence. With the hard work of volunteers like the Chico Friends of the Library, the Chico Branch Library is able to provide books, internet access, meeting places and a range of other resources for the people of Chico.


The City of Chico

was founded in 1860 by General John Bidwell and incorporated in 1872.

John Bidwell's Office


The first library,

the Chico Free Library and Reading Room Association, was established in 1879 to give people access to information published from around the world. Through fundraising and dues from dedicated members, a librarian was hired for $25 a month to run the reading room.


City of Chico

took over administration of the Chico Free Public Library and appointed a Board of Trustees. The Board applied to Andrew Carnegie for a grant of $10,000 for a library building.

Broadway north from 5th St. December 1958.


The Board of Trustees

was awarded a grant from Andrew Carnegie for $10,000 to build a new library building.

Carnegie Library and Majestic Theatre housed within the Elks building. Located on 2nd and Salem Street, Chico, Calif.


The New Library

opened on the corner of Second and Salem Streets.


Chico Branch

The Board of Trustees established the County Free Library system with a Chico branch on Memorial Way.



The City of Chico and the Board of Trustees agreed to consolidate the city and county libraries. The county purchased a lot at East First Ave. and Sherman Ave., to build a new library to house the collection.


Ramona Flynn

The Chico Friends of the Butte County Library founded with Ramona Flynn as president.



Prop 13 passed in California, changing the way the state handles money. The library now competes with the sheriff, fire and other departments for funding. This made the CFOL's help even more crucial to the library's existence.


Chico Friends of the Butte County Library

was shortened to Chico Friends of the Library. CFOL began its weekly book sales in the basement of the library downtown providing funds for new books after Prop 13 caused the book budget to be cut from $160,000 to $35,000. Throughout the 1980's the library had to steadily reduce their hours. With only four staff members, the library needed help and volunteers were vital to its operation. Sixty volunteers helped with circulation, filing, shelving and other needs.


Library opened

on the corner of East First Ave and Sherman Ave, where the library stands today. CFOL turned to the community for donations of building plans, plants and trees for the location.


Two Commodore computers,

the first in any North State public library, were purchased by CFOL for the Chico Branch Library. The library had only four staff members and needed more help. Again the community of Chico came together and 60 volunteers helped with circulation filing, shelving, and other needs.


We will not stand by and watch our library close.

CFOL released a news release declaring: "We will not stand by and watch our library close."


The "read-in"

Libraries across Butte County were in serious danger of closing their doors. Citizens organized a "read-in" on the closing day of the Chico Branch Library. One-hundred protesters attended; some refusing to leave the library at closing time. Police were called to remove them and the doors were shut until the budget could be re-evaluated. Having seen how important the library was to the community, the City Council authorized $82,000 to keep the Chico Branch open for the rest of the fiscal year.


Save Our Library

An organization called the Save Our Library group worked with CFOL on a ballot measure to suggesting a parcel tax of $37.25 to help the library's budget. The measure did not pass but CFOL created a 37.25 club, which is still a membership category. These donations helped keep the library open and in the news.


Scott Teeple

created a beautiful alphabet mural in the Children's Room of the Library.


A generous grant from the Soroptimists

made it possible to keep the library open on Saturday afternoons. It became clear as funding continued to be an issue that the library would need to automate the catalog and circulation. CFOL took the lead in seeking donations and providing funds and volunteers to accomplish this monumental task.


25 extra hours

The Chico City Council voted to fund 25 extra hours for the Chico Branch Library if Butte County continued to fund basic operations and 35 open hours. This boost to 60 hours resulted in almost immediate increases in checked-out materials, reference inquiries and library card holders.


Average library expenditure per capita

in California was $17.62. Butte county spent $7.84. Chico city council voted additional funds, increasing the Chico branch hours from 39 to 60. A Fall Festival was held to celebrate expanded hours and say “thank you” to the city council. The Bookmobile began visiting 6 senior residences, bringing books to those unable to visit the library.


Library Advisory Board

The county Board of Supervisors created a Library Advisory Board to oversee library policy and budget. CFOL created a building fund to address future space considerations.


After-school homework help

A grant from Soroptimists was used to support the after-school homework help project. Saturday book sale profits averaged $1000 each sale day.



CFOL budgeted $5000 for the Books-by-Mail program serving those physically unable to visit the library. For National Library Week CFOL distributed magnets showing library phone number, hours of opening and a link to the library’s website.


CFOL budgeted $3000 per month

for new additions to the Library collections. Proceeds from the Fall Festival were sent to the Biloxi Library in Mississippi, damaged by Hurricane Katrina.


2007 Annual Meeting

At the Annual Meeting Debbie Cobb and Steve Ferchaud spoke about their joint venture writing, illustrating and publishing Gracie’s Big Adventure with Augustine the Beaver. Also during the meeting, seven graduating teen volunteers were recognized for the 700 hours they logged volunteering at the library. CFOL began sponsoring a free monthly Classic Movie Night.


1st annual holiday Craft Fair

held with proceeds dedicated to improvements in the Children’s Room. CFOL team, Marian Milling, Rob Atkinson and James Dwyer, placed second at the Literacy Trivia Bee. CFOL cookbook published in time for holiday sales. The project to reupholster library furniture was completed by Square Deal Mattress Company.


CFOL approved $1000/month

for extra help to fund Friday story times and library tours for all Chico 3rd grade students. Annie’s Star Quilt Guild donated a quilt for a raffle benefiting CFOL.


CFOL joined other vendors

at the weekly Butte College Road Runners Market with a goal of promoting the library, selling CFOL merchandise and issuing library cards to market attendees. Local historian, Michele Shover, was the guest speaker at the Annual Meeting in May.


First Friday Book Sale

gave members a chance to preview and purchase books in advance of the regular Saturday sale. Ben & Jerry’s held a free ice cream day with proceeds going to CFOL. 11,973 hours contributed to the library by volunteers.


New Circulation Desk

CFOL funded a new and improved circulation desk. Prizes for the first Young Adult photo contest provided by CFOL. Our team placed first in the Literacy Trivia Bee. Long time branch head Susan Raun retired, succeeded by Sara Vantrease.


The Love Your Library poster,

created by local artist Steve Ferchaud, made into a jigsaw puzzle for sale by CFOL. Butte County Library celebrated its 100th anniversary with events in all branches. The Chico branch introduced Sunday hours, open from 1:00 to 5:00.


Century 21

contributed $3650 from its Cupcake Fundraiser to remodel children’s and young adult areas. Brenda Crotts came from the Paradise library to take over as branch head. Gerald Davis, long time CFOL treasurer and financial advisor, passed away.


Veterans Resource Center

was established in the Chico library with funds from CFOL. CFOL sponsored an evening with Wayne Houchin, magician, to benefit the Weed library, damaged in the Boles fire. CFOL team, Bibliomaniacs, won the Trivia Bee.

Veterans Resources Center at Chico Library.


Monday, Book Club, 3D Printers, ...

Chico city council eliminated library funding resulting in Monday closure and reduced hours on other weekdays. Library Book Club established. 3-D printer lab established with funding from CFOL. Book Bike purchased to appear at local events promoting library services. Library outreach expanded by the Little Free Library program.

A 3D printed T-Rex skeletion displayed in Chico Library's Maker Lab.


RFID, Maker Lab, ...

RFID technology introduced to the library to streamline check-in/check-out procedures and free staff time for more professional services. Plans were completed for a Maker Space to house the 3-D printer, video and virtual reality equipment, typewriters, sewing machines and more. A benefit dinner sponsored by Bacio Catering earned over $6000 for CFOL. Funded by CFOL, the first Celebracion de las Americas attracted a large turnout reaching out to the local Hispanic community.

Returned books are being sorted on the AMH system at Chico Library.


Douglas Keister, J.A. Jance, ...

Douglas Keister, local photographer and historian, spoke at the annual meeting. CFOL sponsored an evening with bestselling mystery author J.A. Jance. The Celebracion de las Americas drew over 800 people, proving its continued, and growing, popularity. The Yule Logs drew a large crowd to their holiday concert, funded by CFOL. Hundreds of donated books were taken to the Disaster Recovery Center for distribution to evacuees from the Camp Fire.