Little Known Stories

Some Little Known Stories

“Terrible roads! …had to turn back as the roads were impassible… Only people who have had intimate experience with the county librarians when they are visiting some of their branches can…understand the indomitable qualities they possess.” – May Dexter Henshall, 1931

There are many fascinating stories about the California State Library (CSL). Over the last 150 years, its dedicated staff has raised the standards for library science, while greatly improving the educational needs and quality of life of Californians.

State Librarian James Gillis (1899-1917) helped modernize libraries by starting the first library school and creating library services for the visually impaired. Gillis initiated a major expansion and helped to establish the county free library system. His work was continued by his daughter, Mabel Gillis, the first female State Librarian (1930-1951).

Mary Eudora Garoutte, the first female librarian, began working in the CSL in 1899. She organized the collection to form the California Section. At the time of her retirement, 34 years later, the California Section contained 13,000 volumes.

Beginning in 1903, County Free Library Organizer May Dexter Henshall tirelessly crisscrossed rural California for 17 years by stage coach, horseback, snow sled, and automobile in order to establish libraries in the most remote of the Golden State’s many far flung communities.

California State Capitol Museum – Out of the Vault

This is a website specifically for the “Out of the Vault: Treasures from Your California State Library” Exhibit which runs May 30, 2016 – April 23, 2017 at the California State Capitol Museum.

For Museum-related information such as contacts, hours and location: Visit