Library History

Boise Gets a Carnegie Library

CarnegieBuildingSML.pngBoise Public Library traces its roots to February 18, 1895, when the women of the Columbian Club opened a subscription library and free reading room in City Hall. For 10 years, the Club kept the reading room alive while helping to secure funds from Andrew Carnegie to construct a true public library. 

Andrew Carnegie awarded library grants to 1406 communities in the early 1900's with the provision that the communities supply land and on-going maintenance.  Columbian Club members persuaded Boise city fathers to provide the matching funds necessary for the administration and maintenance of a Carnegie library.  Boise's Carnegie Public Library opened its doors at 815 W. Washington on June 22, 1905.


Services Move to Salt Lake Hardware

The institution remained at the site on Washington Street until April 27, 1973, when it moved to its present location at 715 South Capitol Boulevard. City leaders decided that purchasing and renovating the Salt Lake Hardware building, which was built in 1946, was more cost effective than tearing down and rebuilding on the Carnegie site. 

Library Expands Services 

In 1965, the Bookmobile service was initiated to expand library service in the city and to reduce crowding in the Carnegie building.  In 1994, the Library purchased the big white Bookmobile bus, which became well known as it traveled the streets of Boise.  For many years, the Bookmobile operated five days a week, serving eight locations throughout the city.  The schedule was reduced to three days and six locations as three neighborhood branches opened in 2008 and 2009.  Due to declining usage and the looming prospect of an expensive vehicle replacement, the service was discontinued on October 1, 2012.

The now defunct Boise Towne Square reading library was added in 1989, soon after the Towne Square mall opened. (This limited-service library facility closed in early 2008, as two new full-service branches opened.)  A Homebound Service was also initiated to serve residents who are physically unable to access the library.  

To learn more about the first 100 years in the history of Boise Public Library, check out "A Light in the Window of Idaho," edited by Kathleen Rubinow Hodges. The book is an extensive account of the first 100 years of public library service in Boise. 

Boise Gets Branch Libraries

In the late 1990's, it became obvious that the city had outgrown its library, which had been designed to serve a population of 75,000.  The library began to gather community input as a preliminary step to developing a Master Library Facility Plan.  The City Council adopted the resulting plan in 2000, and approved building four new branches.  Two sites were purchased for branch libraries, but a subsequent City Hall scandal put the project on hold.  

In 2005, the Boise City Council agreed with the Library Board’s recommendation to place a bond issue on the February 2006 ballot to fund construction of three full-service branch libraries in the Southeast, West and Northwest areas of Boise.  The bond received a solid majority of votes (57%), but not the two-thirds majority required to pass.  

A new Library Facilities Planning Committee was formed to develop a scaled-down plan for branch libraries that could be accommodated within the City's budget. In October 2006, the City Council approved taking the resulting proposal to the public for comment.  The proposal included phasing in four branches over four years: two 7,500 square foot leased "storefront" libraries in the Central Bench and Northwest Boise areas; and two 15,000 square foot libraries to be built at the Cole & Ustick and Bown Crossing sites. 

In February 2007, following a resoundingly favorable three-month public comment period, the City Council approved the proposed branch library plan and allocated funding to begin work on branch libraries. 

The Boise Public Library system now includes three neighborhood branch libraries.  Two branches opened in leased storefront spaces in early 2008: the Library! at Collister, located in the Collister Shopping Center at Collister and State Streets; and, the Library! at Hillcrest, located in the Hillcrest Shopping Center at Orchard Street and Overland Road.  In June 2009, a third branch opened in the Library Plaza at North Cole and Ustick Roads - the Library! at Cole & Ustick, the first public library the City of Boise has built with public funds. An additional library, the Library! at Bown Crossing, is planned for Southeast Boise.   

Technological Changes

As technology evolved, library services also changed. Today, public computers and wireless Internet access are available at each of our libraries. Besides books and printed materials, customers can check out movies, music, recorded books and computer software, and download e-books. 

Our first website was launched in August of 1996, with the assistance of a government grant. The library was the first City department to have a web presence; in fact, the first City website was hosted on the library's server a few years later.  The site has gone through several iterations since that time, with the current design launching on November 1, 2012. 

The "card catalog" is long gone, of course, replaced by a flexible online version that's accessible through our website.  There's also a mobile catalog app for portable devices. 

You'll also find a wide array of online research tools on the website, making it easy to locate information and read articles where ever and when ever you have web access.  The library subscribes to over 50 subscription databases that aren't available on regular search engines, providing online access to articles from newspapers, magazines, professional journals, e-encyclopedias and more.  

The Library's Brand

3HorizontalCards.jpgBoise Public Library’s brand is the word “Library!” captured inside a thought bubble. Created by local graphics firm Foerstel Design in late 2007, the brand embodies the energy and sense of discovery that happens in libraries. Foerstel further updated the library’s image and added an element of fun by incorporating the brand in a series of seven library card images. The original exclamation mark on our downtown library sign was the brainchild of Howard Olivier, who donated the exclamation marks for the two Main Library signs in 1995. Howard is a longtime library supporter, former Library Board member, and former owner of Flying Pie PizzariaLearn more

Today, the brand is used in building signage, printed promotional materials, advertising and the library’s website. The exclamation point, brand and library card designs are well known to residents and visitors, and have even garnered national attention. They’re a highly visible reminder that a library is an exciting place to learn, and an enjoyable, pleasant place to seek new information and ideas! 


Contact Us

Phone: (208) 972-8200
Telecirc: (208) 384-4450
TTY: 1-800-377-3529

Director: Kevin Booe

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