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Library History

Since 1908, Sunnyvale's Library has grown from a reading room with 50 books and a volunteer staff to today's City-owned and operated Sunnyvale Public Library, located in a 60,800-square-foot facility at 665 W. Olive Ave.

Establishment (1908 to 1959)


  • The Sunnyvale Public Library begins as a reading room organized by the Women's Christian Temperance Union.
  • Its collection consists of 50 books discarded by the San José Library
  • Within the first year, the room's collection grows to 500 books, four daily newspapers, six weeklies and a large number of magazines.


  • After 177 residents (representing more than 1/4 of the electorate) sign a petition calling for the creation of a public library, the town's Board of Trustees authorize the creation of the Sunnyvale Public Library.


  • By the end of its first year, 426 borrowers have used the new Sunnyvale Public Library.


  • The Library becomes part of the Santa Clara County Library system.

New Locations (1923 to 1959)

  • The Library is housed within the Wright building and later within the Civic Auditorium of the old City Hall, on Murphy Avenue. (Eventually the old City Hall and the Library's space are razed for the Sunnyvale Town Center shopping mall.)

Expansion (1960 to 1987)


  • The City takes over Library operations and moves the Library to its current location on Olive Avenue.


  • The Library begins operating a patent library in a former fire station.
  • Sunnyvale voters pass a bond measure for $800,000 to expand the Library.


  • A major expansion of the Library adds 21,000 square feet to the existing 20,000-square-foot facility.
  • The patent collection moves into the facility.
  • The first automated circulation system, using key punched cards, is introduced.
  • There are 48,000 registered library users.


  • A bookmobile begins providing service to Sunnyvale's neighborhoods.
  • The Friends of the Western Philatelic Library deeds almost 1,100 volumes to the City of Sunnyvale.
  • The Library holds 191,904 books.


  • A small branch library opens in north Sunnyvale as a pilot program, but Proposition 13 brings budget cuts that require its closing.


  • The bookmobile is eliminated due to Proposition 13 budget cuts. (Service is reinstated in June 1982).


  • A study shows that the public library is only two thirds the size needed to serve the projected population of 114,000 and expansion plans get underway.


  • The patent library becomes the Patent Information Clearinghouse and moves to the Raynor Activity Center.


  • A 19,000-square-foot expansion of the Library is completed. As part of the ceremonies, a time capsule commemorating the expansion is buried under the brick floor at the entrance, not to be opened until 2085. 
  • Library hours increase and parking expands.

Modernization (1988 and beyond)


  • The Library begins using an online checkout and catalog system.


  • After 21 years of residence inside the Library, the philatelic collection is relocated to the Raynor Activity Center and named the Western Philatelic Library.


  • The Patent Information Clearinghouse evolves into the Sunnyvale Center for Innovation, Invention and Ideas (Sc[i]3) and relocates to 465 S. Mathilda Ave.


  • The Center for Innovation, Invention and Ideas is incorporated into the public library. (Unable to recover its costs through the fees for its services, the specialized patent and trademark services associated with the Center ended in 2006, however, the Library remains a Patent and Trademark Depository Library).


  • The Library receives more than 766,000 visitors and checks out more than 2.2 million items, making it one of the busiest libraries in the state for its size.


  • The City Council approves a conceptual plan for the construction of a 116,000-square-foot library. A $108 million bond measure to fund construction goes on the ballot, but does not receive the 66.7% approval needed to pass.


  • The Library installs a lending machine in the lobby of the Columbia Neighborhood Center at 785 Morse Ave.
Last Updated: Jul 30, 2021