About the Library

About the Pasadena Public Library

The Pasadena Public Library was founded years before Pasadena was incorporated as a city. Residents came together to support the funding of the first library by purchasing shares for as little as $5. The first library opened February 26, 1884, located on the south side of Colorado St. between Raymond St. and the Santa Fe tracks. Community groups met regularly at this location and have been gathering in Pasadena’s libraries ever since.

In 1889, an Art Fair highlighting different communities and epochs of California history was held to raise funds for the second library. The third library constructed in 1927, the Pasadena Central Library, was the first building completed in Pasadena’s Civic Center Plan. The Library, as well as the entire Civic Center, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Although several improvements and repairs have been made to the library over the decades, many of the building’s existing systems and components are original to the 1927 construction. In April 2021, during a review of a Central Library Improvement project, a structural assessment was conducted. It revealed that most of the building is comprised of unreinforced masonry and a seismic upgrade is needed to keep the building safe. On May 3rd, 2021, City building officials ordered the nearly 100 year-old building closed pending a seismic retrofit.

With initial funds secured and design contract awarded, the City will have a design team of experts that will bring the Central Library back online to ensure access to library services and programs for future generations, and to preserve the historical features of the Central Library building. Learn more about the process here.

Due to Central Library’s temporary closure, the Jefferson Branch was opened in the interim on November 5th, 2022, to support children’s and teen services.

Today, the Pasadena Central Library is also supported with nine additional neighborhood branch libraries. The nine branch libraries continue to offer in-person or online access to books and periodicals, collections, language arts, career and personal development programs, computers, internet access, and a gathering space for members of the community to connect.


Reduced Budget & Recovery

In the early 1990s, the Library suffered considerable reductions in hours of service and collections as city revenues declined due to the worst recession in California since the Great Depression. In June 1993, Pasadena voters approved a five-year parcel tax by a 79.9% margin, restoring the Library budget to its 1989 level. In September 1993, the Library hours and book budget were completely restored and the rebuilding of the Library’s collections began.

The Special Library Parcel Tax has also since been renewed on three additional occasions. In 1997, it passed with 84% of the vote, and in 2007, it was again supported with 80.4% of the vote. More recently, Measure L, the Pasadena Public Library Services Continuation Measure, was passed on the November 8, 2022 ballot with 84.6% of the vote. The Library Special Tax will continue to generate approximately $2.8 million annually for the next 15 years.

The parcel tax generates about 20% of the library budget. The revenue is used to keep libraries open and well-maintained, purchase up-to-date books and materials, support library programs and services, continue to offer access to computers and Wi-Fi, and retain qualified librarians. It has enabled the Pasadena Public Library to bring many technological improvements to the Library, including an advanced search engine, a computerized magazine and newspaper index; a new online library catalog; and public access to the internet with terminals at all library locations.


The operations of the Library and Information Services Department are funded primarily by the General Fund and supplemented by the voter approved parcel tax.

The Pasadena Library Special Tax Ordinance (Chapter 4.109 - LIBRARY SPECIAL TAX*) can be viewed in full here.

Since its inception over 135 years ago, the Pasadena Public Library has attained a unique position as a very highly regarded educational and cultural resource. The library is an essential partner in the educational, social and recreational well-being of Pasadena's residents. Residents support quality library services as evidenced by high levels of utilization of library services ranging from adult literacy to children's book programs, and city-wide surveys ranking the library among the top municipal services valued most by residents.


Mission Statement

The Pasadena Public Library is an essential community space where our dedicated and knowledgeable team provides free access to relevant resources and enriching programs and services. We create a safe and welcoming environment that encourages community collaboration, lifelong learning, inclusivity, exploration, wonder, and curiosity.

-Created by the Pasadena Public Library Team