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, known as Central, opened its doors at its current location in 1927. Today, the public enjoys access to nine neighborhood branch libraries.

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 was passed in 1993 with 79.9% support and has since been renewed twice. In 1997, it passed with 84% of the vote, and in 2007, it was again supported with 80.4% of the vote. The current parcel tax has a sunset date of February 2023.

Prior to the 2007 election, the Pasadena City Council authorized the Pasadena Public Library Commission to appoint a twelve-member Pasadena Public Library Future Funding Task Force to investigate alternative methods for financing the operations of the Pasadena Public Library. The impetus for establishing this Task Force was the scheduled expiration of the Library Special Tax at the end of June 2008. The findings and recommendation of the task force, which led to the current Special Tax arrangement, are contained in a report issued by the task force.

This year, the City Council has placed Measure L, the Pasadena Public Library Services Continuation Measure, on the November 8, 2022 ballot. Voters will decide whether to continue the dedicated, special revenue source for Pasadena Public Library programs and services. If approved, it 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 has been 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 following is a breakdown of taxes:

Single Family $40.86
Condominiums $40.86
Duplexes & Larger $26.83/unit
Non-Residential $298.99


Exemptions from the Library Special Tax:

  • Any owner if such owner is a person who meets the following qualifications: the claimant's annual household income shall not exceed the amount shown on the following table at the start of the calendar year for which the exemption is claimed:
Household Income
1 $13,000
2 18,000
3 23,000
4 28,000
5 33,000
6 38,000
7 43,000
  • Federal government, state government, any state agency, or any local governmental agency parcels.
  • Property which is owned by a religious facility or community service organization which qualifies for an exemption from ad valorem taxation under California law.
  • Any owner if such owner receives a senior citizen or disability exemption from the utility user's tax imposed by Chapter 4.56 of the Pasadena Municipal Code.

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.

For more information on Measure L, the Pasadena Public Library Services Continuation Measure, please visit CityofPasadena.net/MeasureL.


Mission Statement

The mission of the Pasadena Public Library, a basic municipal service, is to be an information center for the Pasadena community in order to preserve and encourage the free expression of ideas essential to an informed citizenry.