Our History

The Menlo Park Library was started in 1916 as a branch of the San Mateo County Library. Around 1951, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) began organizing support for the Library. The AAUW believed in the importance of the Library to the Menlo Park community. The AAUW held its first Menlo Park book fair to sell donated books in 1952.

The book fair was quickly established as a popular annual event and helped build community support for the construction of a building as the home of the Menlo Park Library. This culminated in the passage of a bond measure to fund the building and its opening in 1958.

After the initial building opened, the AAUW reinstituted and expanded the annual book fair as an outdoor event (the first major library book fair on the Peninsula). Among the purchases from the proceeds was a photocopier, making Menlo Park's the first public library in Northern California to have this service. The AAUW also developed other programs to popularize the Library  (such as a newsletter and panel discussions). As a result, the number of members of this informal group of Library supporters grew and its mission solidified.

We were incorporated as a California nonprofit membership corporation in 1962. We obtained our California tax exemption that same year and our Federal tax exemption in 1964.

As the Library developed its community base, and expanded its building in 1968, the Friends' level of support grew commensurately. The expansion of the building afforded more space for us to store and sort a larger number of donated books. We also started re-selling donated books in the building.

The Library building was further expanded, and completely renovated, in 1991-92. To mark the dedication of this renovation, the Friends commissioned a stained glass window, which was installed in the entrance to welcome patrons. Immediately below are images of the entire window and its individual panes (the smaller images can be enlarged by clicking on them). The window is entitled Look Into It. For a description of the images and information about the artist, please click here.

The newly-reconfigured Library building enabled the Friends to expand our re-sales of donated books by providing us with our own dedicated bookstore.

A significant expansion of our activities and our revenue began in 2008, when we started selling books online through Amazon. Lower-priced books and other items continued to be offered through our bookstore and book sales.

By 2012, the increasing number of donated items and our limited storage space led us to change our approach to our book sales. Starting in 2013, we implemented quarterly book sales instead of a single annual book fair.

In a 2014 Proclamation, the City of Menlo Park recognized our indelible positive impact for Menlo Park residents.

Proclamations from the City of Menlo Park have also recognized several of our volunteers for their contributions to the Library and the community through their dedicated service to the Friends. In addition, in 2011 our former President William Harris, who served on our Board for four decades and was our President for nineteen of those years, was honored for outstanding service to a local library or system by the California Association of Library Trustees and Commissioners in the category of Friends Board Member.