The new Belvedere Tiburon Library opened in 1997. The opening was the culmination of years of hard work by talented and dedicated local citizens who wanted to bring world-class library services to their community.
The full history of the Belvedere Tiburon Library can be read in First a Dream: A Community Builds a Library by Jo Ann Ridley. The book may be ordered online or purchased at the library circulation desk.
Library 1895: The Flora Temple Steamer
The Temple Library Society of Tiburon established a free public library aboard an abandoned Sacramento River side-wheeler named Flora Temple. She was tethered in a lagoon behind, but not too close to, old Tiburon's less decorous Main Street. At the turn of the century, the books from the Flora Temple Library may have been moved to a ferry carrying commuters between Tiburon and San Francisco.
Library 1929: American Trust Building
A branch library serving Tiburon and Belvedere opened under county aegis upstairs in the American Trust Building on Tiburon's Main Street for $15 a month. Mrs. Ellen Weldin was the custodian of the library for thirteen years.
Library 1931: Belvedere Land Company
Two years after the branch library was created on Main Street, Belvedere set up its own library located in the back of the Belvedere Land Company offices on Beach Road. One of several librarians who served in Belvedere was artist Selden Connor Gile. Nobody, least of all Mr. Gile, would have guessed that he was going to become one of the famous "Society of Six", consisting of California's leading landscape painters. The mural that he created for the library was always admired. It was destroyed in the Oakland hills fire in 1991. Prints of the painting are available from the Landmarks Society. Following Mr. Gile, Belvedere's Artelle Farley ran the library.
Library 1950: The Old Ark
In 1950, the owner of the American Trust Building decided to convert the old bank building to offices. The library needed to move and along to the rescue came Sam Vella, the civic-minded owner of Sam's Anchor Cafe. He offered to renovate an old ark that was grounded on the edge of the lagoon (long since filled) across the street from the bank building in what is now the entrance to the Main Street parking lot. The library served Tiburon readers in slightly soggy quarters for five years, under the management of Ellene Weldin and Nikki Lamott.
Library 1953, 1955
Boardwalk Shopping Center In 1953 the City of Belvedere and the Town of Tiburon again reunited to form a library. Artelle Farley came from Belvedere to join Nikki Lamott at the library on the converted ark in Tiburon. Facilities in the little ark were stretched to the limit and it took two years to find new quarters. In the meantime, Nikki Lamott was replaced by Librarian Betty McKegney and the remarriage of the Tiburon and Belvedere libraries would never again be put asunder. In 1955 the Belvedere Land Company offered space in its brand new Boardwalk Shopping Center. It became an active library, circulation grew, and the library stayed on the Boardwalk for ten years.
Library 1966: Beach Road
The library in the Boardwalk Shopping Center was in a great location, but still relatively small and was housed on the second floor. In 1966 the generous Harry Allen family of the Belvedere Land Company offered larger ground floor space across the street from the end of the Boardwalk. Next door to the Tiburon-Belvedere Post Office, it was a vastly better place for a library. The library remained in this location for thirty-one years. The long narrow space was cluttered. Despite that, it was warm and cozy and welcoming and it was the place where the growing community of adults, teenagers and children fell in love with their library.
Library 1997: 1501 Tiburon Blvd.
Over time the small, under-funded and under-equipped county library became inadequate for the community. In 1984, meetings began to raise specific issues about ways and means to improve the library. Residents from both Belvedere and Tiburon joined forces to confront the situation. A study funded by the Buck Foundation in 1985 asked "How can such an aware community be satisfied with such inadequate service?" The place was shabby and musty and furnished with cast-off books and furniture and the study shored up people's determination to pursue change. The result is the current Belvedere-Tiburon Library. The land was donated by the Zelinsky family, Ed Zelinsky of Main Street Properties and his sister Barbara Abrams. The money was raised, a bond measure passed, and construction began in 1996. The library opened in April, 1997 and today is a loved, vital center, in constant use for purposes as varied as the people who come through it doors.