Early Tucson Libraries

Before philanthropist Andrew Carnegie offered $25,000 for the construction of a public library building in Tucson in 1899, Tucson was home to a few small libraries.

In 1867, the capital of the Arizona Territory came to Tucson from Prescott and with it came the Territorial Library. By January 1877, the Territorial Library had grown to 1,900 legal books and 300 miscellaneous volumes.

The capital and library moved back to Prescott in 1877, but a new organization was formed to provide library service. In 1879, a group of women in Tucson started the Tucson Library Association, which sold $5 yearly subscriptions to borrow books from their small library.

The Tucson Library Association donated its collection to the city and on June 5, 1883, the Common Council resolved that the upper story of the new City Hall would be appropriated for use as a public library and that any Tucson citizen would have free access. “On June 26, 1886, the Arizona Weekly Citizen announced that the Tucson Public Library would open [in City Hall] on July 6, 1886, with 800 books and nearly all of the leading magazines.”

In June of 1901, the Carnegie Free Library opened and was administered by the City of Tucson. It was located at 200 South 6th Avenue, now the Children’s Museum Tucson.


Leighton, David, “Street Smarts: Books a hot commodity in early Tucson, opens a new windowArizona Daily Star. July 08, 2014.

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