San Diego Public Library
Access and use
Circulation7.2 million
Population served1.3 million
Other information
DirectorMisty Jones
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata

The San Diego Public Library is a public library system serving the city of San Diego, California.


The San Diego Public Library was established on May 19, 1882, by an elected board of library trustees, one of whom was civic leader and philanthropist George Marston. The first location was rented space in the Commercial Bank building at Fifth and G streets, and the new library opened its doors to the public for the first time on July 15, 1882. San Diego was the first city west of the Mississippi River to receive a Carnegie Library grant. The grant was received in 1899 and the library built in 1902. The library moved to Eighth and E streets where the new Carnegie Library was constructed.[1]

A notable librarian during this period was Clara Estelle Breed (1906–1994), who served as children's librarian at the downtown branch and was appointed City Librarian in 1945, a post she held for 25 years. She founded numerous branch libraries and established the Serra Cooperative Library System, which allows users to borrow books from other libraries in San Diego and Imperial counties. She maintained contact with many Japanese American children when they were interned with their families during World War II; her correspondence with those children is now on display at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.[2]

In 2021, San Diego Library published its first children book titled "Odi's Library Day" written by Hunter Hackett and illustrated by Anisi Baigude. Youth Services Librarian Emily Derry was responsible for the introducing the concept of a published book to the library and brought the author and illustrator onto the project. The bilingual book is centered around the mascot for the San Diego Public Library system, Odi the Coyote, visiting the San Diego Central Library. Odi was named after the vision statement of the library, with each letter standing for opportunity, discovery, and inspiration.[3][4]

Since the construction of the Carnegie Library, there have been 35 branch libraries opened throughout the city.

Central Library

Main article: San Diego Central Library

In 1952, the Carnegie Library was demolished and a new Central Library was opened at the same location on June 27, 1954. That library closed permanently on June 9, 2013, to begin the 10-week process of transferring its 2.6-million-item collection to the new library.[5]

In 2010, construction began on a new $184.9 million 366,673 square feet (34,065.0 m2)[6] Central Library at 330 Park Boulevard in downtown San Diego. This 9-story structure was designed by San Diego architect Rob Quigley.[7] The building includes bay view terraces, roof gardens, a public reading room, an auditorium, and an art gallery.[8] It opened on September 30, 2013.[5] The library displays numerous books and collections, including the second largest collection of baseball memorabilia in the U.S.[9] The collection is housed in the Sullivan Family Baseball Research Center.[10][11] Nearly 300 public art pieces are displayed throughout the library.[12]

The Central Library also houses a new charter high school, e3 Civic High School, which is billed as the only school in the United States to be housed within a library. The school serves grades 9 through 12. It opened on September 3, 2013, with an initial student body of 260 ninth and tenth graders. Additional grades were added in 2014 and 2015 resulting in a student body of approximately 500.[13]


The San Diego Public Library system currently consists of the Central Library, 35 branch libraries, and an adult literacy program office (READ/San Diego). Library cards are free to applicants who reside within the state of California or own property in the city of San Diego, and to men and women serving in the armed forces who are stationed within San Diego County. Library cards are permanent and must be renewed every two years. There is a $30 annual fee for a non-resident library card.

In October 2023, in honor of Banned Books Week, the San Diego Public Library partnered with Library Foundation SD and Books Unbanned to provide free digital library cards to anyone aged 12–26 in the United States, becoming the fifth library to do so.[14] Unlike other programs, this collection focuses on banned and restricted books, as opposed to the entire collection.[15]

On the third floor of the Central Library is the new Innovation Lab that was originally funded by a state Library Services and Technology Act grant in 2013, when the Central Library opened. Since then, thanks to donations from the community, the lab has expanded and added additional machines. The new space was funded in part by the California State Library. Available equipment and resources from the Innovation Lab include:

In fiscal year 2006, the Library system had a circulation of more than 7 million and more than 6 million visits by patrons.[16] The San Diego Public Library was one of the first major library systems in the United States to offer free wireless Internet access at all of its locations, including the Central Library and branch libraries.

While testing the Spirit of St. Louis airplane in San Diego, Charles Lindbergh used the resources at the San Diego Public Library to plot the course for his historic solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.[17]

Renowned American sculptor Donal Hord bequeathed to the San Diego Public Library his lifelong collection of books and several sculptures in appreciation for the assistance he had received from library's staff over the years.[18]


Aside from the Central Library, the system includes the following 35 branches:[19][20]

Allied Gardens/Benjamin

Allied Gardens/Benjamin Branch Library was opened and funded by Edwin A. Benjamin in 1965 and would periodically undergo expansions until its reopening in 1986.[21]


Opened in 1971 and initially named Mesa Vista Library, Balboa Branch Library is one of three libraries in the community of Clairemont.[21]

Carmel Mountain

Opened in 1997, Carmel Mountain Ranch Branch Library offers two meeting rooms and a Friends of the Library book store.[22]

Carmel Valley

Designed by Rusty Coombs and opened in 1993, Carmel Valley Branch Library includes and displays a collection of public art.

City Heights/Weingart

The City Height/Weingart Branch Library was opened in 1998 as part of the City Heights Initiative. It currently has the highest public computer usage among the other branches. The library is next to the Performance Annex, a black box theatre, that also houses the library's IDEA Lab.[23] Over the summer of 2016, the library was closed for renovations until its re-opening in October 2016.[24]


The Clairemont Branch Library opened in 1958 as the thirteenth branch. It is one of three libraries in the community of Clairemont.[25]


Replacing the College Heights library that was created in 1955, the college-Rolando Branch Library opened in 2005.[26]

Kensington-Normal Heights

Opened initially in the 1930s, the Kensington-Normal Heights Branch Library was remodeled in 1962. It is currently the smallest of the branch libraries.[27]

La Jolla/Riford

Opened in 1989 from a donation made by Florence Riford, La Jolla-Riford Library is tied to the city's biotech industry.[28] In September 2015, the creation and opening of its Bio Lab in its Life Science Collaboratory made it the first public library in the world to house a biotech lab. It is led by a group of volunteers and provided with donated materials and equipment from a local surplus. Strengthening its connection to the industry, the library formed a partnership with Institute for Biological Studies, Biomimicry San Diego, and the San Diego Barcode of Life Initiative.[29]

Linda Vista

Logan Heights

Mira Mesa

Mission Hills-Hillcrest/Harley & Bessie Knox

Mission Valley

Mountain View/Beckwourth

North Clairemont

It is one of three libraries in the community of Clairemont.

North Park

North University Community

Oak Park

Ocean Beach

Otay Mesa-Nestor

Pacific Beach/Taylor

Paradise Hills

Point Loma/Hervey

Rancho Bernardo

Rancho Peñasquitos

San Carlos

San Ysidro

Scripps Miramar Ranch

Serra Mesa-Kearny Mesa

Skyline Hills


University Community

University Heights

Valencia Park/Malcolm X Branch Library & Performing Arts Center

See also


  1. ^ Smythe, William E. "Part Six, Chapter V: The Public Library". History of San Diego, 1542–1908. reproduced at San Diego History Center. Archived from the original on December 29, 2012. Retrieved February 6, 2013.
  2. ^ "Clara Estelle Breed (1906–1994)". San Diego History Center. Archived from the original on August 5, 2012. Retrieved February 6, 2013.
  3. ^ Peterson, Karla (April 17, 2021). "Column: San Diego Public Library's first children's book: a coyote, an owl librarian and the power of a library card". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved December 1, 2023.
  4. ^ "Introducing Odi's Library Day | City of San Diego Official Website". The City of San Diego. Retrieved December 1, 2023.
  5. ^ a b Moran, Greg (June 10, 2013). "Downtown library checks out". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved July 3, 2013.
  6. ^ Facts About The New Central Library, San Diego Public Library
  7. ^ Showley, Roger (January 19, 2013). "No flubs at library building site after 899 days". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved February 6, 2013.
  8. ^ "San Diego Central Library". Rob Wellington Quigley Architects. Retrieved December 1, 2023.
  9. ^ "San Diego's main library closes, clearing way for new one". CBS 8. June 9, 2013. Retrieved October 6, 2013.
  10. ^ Email (February 14, 2014). "New baseball collection at Central Library". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved January 4, 2023.
  11. ^ "A hit: library's collection is major league". San Diego Union-Tribune. April 2, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2023.
  12. ^ Sharma, Amita (June 12, 2023). "From murals to monuments, San Diego is covered with public art". KPBS Public Media. Retrieved December 1, 2023.
  13. ^ Magee, Maureen (September 3, 2013). "Central-library charter school opens". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved October 6, 2013.
  14. ^ Community (October 2, 2023). "Two California Library Systems Join in Granting Free Access to Banned Books for Young Readers". BOOK RIOT. Retrieved October 6, 2023.
  15. ^ "San Diego's Books Unbanned protects the freedom to read". Retrieved October 6, 2023.
  16. ^ "Library Fact Sheet FY 2005 | San Diego Public Library". Archived from the original on February 24, 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-26.
  17. ^ Crawford, Richard (April 26, 2008). "Ryan Airlines gave Lindbergh wings". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  18. ^ "Donal Hord self-guided outdoor tour". San Diego History Center. Archived from the original on March 7, 2016. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  19. ^ San Diego Public Library: Locations
  20. ^ "Branch Listing | City of San Diego Official Website". Archived from the original on September 3, 2016. Retrieved October 8, 2016.
  21. ^ a b "Balboa Library | City of San Diego Official Website". The City of San Diego. Retrieved December 1, 2023.
  22. ^ "Carmel Mountain Ranch Library | City of San Diego Official Website". The City of San Diego. Retrieved December 1, 2023.
  23. ^ "City Heights/Weingart Library | City of San Diego Official Website". The City of San Diego. Retrieved December 1, 2023.
  24. ^ Mento, Tarryn (October 10, 2016). "City Heights Library Back In Service After Closing For Renovations". KPBS Public Media. Retrieved December 1, 2023.
  25. ^ "Clairemont Library | City of San Diego Official Website". The City of San Diego. Retrieved December 2, 2023.
  26. ^ "College-Rolando Library | City of San Diego Official Website". The City of San Diego. Retrieved December 2, 2023.
  27. ^ "Kensington-Normal Heights Library | City of San Diego Official Website". The City of San Diego. Retrieved December 2, 2023.
  28. ^ "La Jolla/Riford Library | City of San Diego Official Website". Retrieved December 2, 2023.
  29. ^ Peet, Lisa (2015). "San Diego Opens Biotech Lab". Library Journal. 140 (16): 16 – via EBSCO.