Pima County Public Library–History

We're Pima County Public Library (PCPL).

For more than 100 years, we have been here for people just like you. Today, at 27 libraries, online, or out in the community, our dedicated staff and volunteers are always looking ahead to help you find what you're looking for. Every day we're making our mission a reality by educating and connecting people and inspiring ideas.

We are headquartered in Tucson, Arizona and serve Tucson and the surrounding communities of Ajo, Arivaca, Catalina, Green Valley, Marana, Oro Valley, Sahuarita, South Tucson, and Vail.

PCPL provides a wide range of free services that contribute to the economic development of the community.


At Pima County Public Library, people are important to us. We’re here for everyone in our community. We offer services that support your creativity, your choices, and the things that make you uniquely you. To help you get what you need, we provide computers, information, helpful staff, and a place for you.

We help create a strong community by teaching reading skills, providing books, and sharing stories. With reading as the foundation of all education, we help prepare young children to start school. For older children and adults, we offer services to become better readers. Reading is a building block in every success, including home life, health, education, and employment, and we take our role in building a community of readers very seriously.

Anything is possible at the Library. Look to your Library as a place to discover or learn something new. Students can rely on us for quality resources for information, homework help, or help getting into college. Self-directed learners can take classes taught by qualified instructors or use online tools. Researchers can get assistance from knowledgeable librarians. Those embarking on new paths can get help starting a business or landing the perfect job. We offer everyone – regardless of age, background, or means – opportunities to keep learning and dreaming BIG.

Read more about the Library or view our calendar of events.


Tucson’s first public library, originally called the Carnegie Free Library, was founded in 1883. The first library building was partially funded by Andrew Carnegie’s campaign to build public libraries in the late 19th century. Carnegie committed to paying up to $25,000 to build a new library on the condition that the City of Tucson supplied a building site and provided $2,000 per year to maintain the library. The Tucson Common Council made good on this deal by passing Resolution Number 20. This resolution earmarked $2,000 per year for library maintenance, and designated a site for the library. The site used constituted a portion of Military Plaza.

Architect Henry Charles Trost was hired to build the new library, which was completed in June of 1901. The Carnegie Free Library, administered by the city of Tucson, was located at 200 South 6th Avenue. Initially, the library did not include a children’s room. This area was added after funds were raised in 1924. The library began with 2,000 volumes in 1891, but had grown to over 60,000 in 1942. A new 90,000 square foot facility opened downtown in May 1990. Today, this building is the Joel D. Valdez Main Library.

On January 7, 1957 the name of the Carnegie Free Library was changed to Tucson Public Library by the Tucson City Council. This name was changed to the Tucson-Pima Public Library in 1990 when Pima County became more involved in the library’s operations. When Pima County took administrative control of the library system in 2006, we became Pima County Public Library.

In addition to our Main and neighborhood branches, we offer a Bookmobile, Books-By-Mail, deposit collections, and an ever-growing variety of services online.


Year Event
  • Main Library established, opening in Tucson City Hall
  • Andrew Carnegie pledges $25,000 to City of Tucson to build library
  • New Main Library dedicated at 200 South Sixth Avenue
  • Fire destroys dome over central portion of Main Library
  • Contract with Pima County for provision of county library services established
  • Ajo Branch Library opens in Ajo, Arizona
  • Bookmobile service begins in April
  • Major additions added to Main Library
  • Himmel Park Branch Library opens
  • Bookmobile service discontinued; two new book trailers placed in service (one remains by 1977)
  • Wilmot Branch Library opens
  • Bookmobile services resume in November
  • Friends of the Tucson Public Library organize
  • Woods Branch Library opens
  • Valencia Branch Library opens
  • El Rio Branch Library opens
  • Homebound service established
  • Library Administration
  • Technical Services move from Main Library to City Hall Annex
  • Library begins operation of Green Valley Library
  • Books by Mail service established
  • Governmental Reference Library opens in City Hall
  • Valencia Branch Library expanded
  • El Pueblo Library opens
  • Tel-a-Tale telephone Storytime service established
  • Green Valley Library moves to County Government Center
  • Friends of the Pima-Green Valley Library established
  • South Tucson book trailer established in permanent location
  • Marana Library opens
  • Columbus Branch Library opens—TPL's first library using new CLSI circulation / inventory control system
  • Mission Branch Library opens
  • Nanini Branch Library opens
  • County Jail Library established
  • Main Library Annex opened in Scottish Rite Temple
  • Infoline Service established
  • Himmel Library expansion
  • Wilmot Branch Library expansion
  • City of Tucson passes $15 million dollar bond election for new Main Library
  • Permanent Sam Lena-South Tucson Library opens
  • Green Valley Library expanded, renamed Joyner-Green Valley Library
  • Nanini Branch Library expands
  • Dewhirst-Catalina Branch Library opens
  • New Main Library on N. Stone opens, consolidating Library Administration, Technical Services, Periodicals, and Government Reference
  • Permanent location of temporary Arivaca Library in mobile unit
  • Himmel Library major refurbishing through L.C. Powell campaign
  • Sam Lena-South Tucson Library expansion
  • Kirk-Bear Canyon Library opens
  • Dusenberry-River Center Library opens
  • City Bond Election includes $5.5 million for: renovations at Woods and Valencia, and a new Miller-Golf Links Library
  • County Jail Library expands
  • Dewhirst-Catalina Library relocates
  • Arson fire at Sam Lena-South Tucson Library
  • Tucson Public Library officially renamed Tucson-Pima Public Library
  • Marana Library expands
  • CLSI/Geac system discontinued. Begin operations on Innovative Interfaces, Inc.
  • Ajo Library relocates across town plaza
  • Caviglia-Arivaca Branch Library opens in permanent facility
  • Valencia Library relocates to begin major renovation
  • Woods Library relocates to begin major renovation
  • Ajo Branch Library renamed Salazar-Ajo Branch Library
  • Friends of the Arivaca Library established
  • Pima County Bond Election includes $5,250,000 for Amphitheater School District/ Library joint-use school-public library (later used for the Oro Valley Library—an affiliate), a mid-town Tucson library, library facilities at the Kino Community Center, and expansion and improvements at South Tucson and Marana.
  • El Rio Library relocated in slightly larger quarters in Neighborhood Center renovation.
  • Groundbreaking for Miller-Golf Links Library
  • Friends of the Kirk-Bear Canyon Library established
  • Tucson-Pima Library Foundation established
  • Valencia and Woods leave temporary quarters, returning to newly renovated facilities
  • Miller-Golf Links Branch Library opens.
  • Salazar-Ajo Branch Library expands into adjacent storefront location
  • Complications with Amphi School site leads Pima County Board of Supervisors to relocate the planned northwest library to the Town Oro Valley municipal center site
  • City Bond election approved and includes $5.5 million for library projects: expansion of Miller-Golf Links to 15,000 SF; 10,000 SF full service library at Quincie Douglas Center; 7,000 SF library and learning center at midtown location.
  • Groundbreaking for Santa Rosa Learning Center Library
  • Town of Oro Valley groundbreaking for an affiliate Library
  • South Tucson Library expansion
  • Joyner-Green Valley Library expansion
  • Juvenile Detention Center Library opens
  • Nanini Library refurbished
  • Santa Rosa Learning Center Library opens
  • Southwest Library opens
  • Oro Valley Library opens as TPPL affiliate
  • El Pueblo Library relocates in center to larger facility
  • Teen Resource Center opens at Main
  • Self-check system installed at Main, Woods Nanini and Green Valley
  • Main Library renamed for Joel D. Valdez
  • Main Library plaza redesigned; Jacome Plaza dedication
  • Miller-Golf Links Library expansion completed
  • City approved renaming Midtown to the Martha Cooper Branch Library and Learning Center
  • Self-check system installed at Columbus, Golf Links, River, Valencia, and Bear Canyon branches. Installed computer self-management software, pay printing software and filter choice software for public access
  • Quincie Douglas Library groundbreaking
  • Bear Canyon Library expansion groundbreaking
  • Martha Cooper Library groundbreaking
  • Bear Canyon Library expansion completed, 11,000—15,000 sq. ft.
  • Quincie Douglas Library opened, 10,000 sq. ft.
  • Abbett-Marana Library planning
  • Flowing Wells Library planning
  • Virtual Library established
  • On-line Homework Help initiated
  • IGA signed for City/County transition
  • Wilmot Branch 40th Anniversary celebration along with the renaming to the Lewis C. Murphy Memorial Wilmot Branch
  • Soft opening of Martha Cooper Library
  • Renaming of Eckstrom-Columbus Library in honor of Dan Eckstrom
  • Wheeler Taft Abbett, Sr. Library groundbreaking in Marana
  • Flowing Wells Library groundbreaking
  • June: Wheeler Taft Abbett Sr. Branch Library opened, 20,000 sq. ft.
  • August: Opening of Flowing Wells Library, 5,000 sq. ft.
  • January: Sahuarita Express Branch Library opened, 2,000 sq. ft.
  • February: Murphy-Wilmot Library re-opens, renovated and expanded to 20,000 sq. ft.
  • January: Grand opening of the Seed Library
  • January: Library gets its first Bookbike, housed at Joel D. Valdez Main Library
  • July: Oro Valley Library joins PCPL as a branch
  • Implementation of award-winning Library Nurse Program
  • June: Eckstrom-Columbus Branch Library re-opens, renovated and expanded to 15,000 sq. ft.
  • March: Pima County Public Library named National Medal for Museum and Library Service Finalist
  • October: Opening of Idea+Space at Joel D. Valdez Main Library which offers workshops for small businesses, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs
  • December: Shelving improvements at Woods Memorial Library
  • January: New Library website launched
  • April: Refresh of Mission Library, including expansion of the computer lab and addition of two study rooms
  • May: Seed Library hosts first International Seed Library Forum
  • September: Two additional Bookbikes begin serving the communities surrounding Eckstrom-Columbus Library and Santa Rosa Library
  • May: Opening of 101Space at Joel D. Valdez Main Library, a dedicated environment for teens based on the principles of Connected Learning
  • June: Refresh of Miller-Golf Links Library, including new carpet, a new service desk, new upholstery, and an expansion of public computers
  • June: Refresh of Martha Cooper Library, including a new service desk and book drop
  • January: Geasa-Marana Library closes; building transferred to Marana Unified School District
  • January: Oro Valley Public Library's 101Space opens
  • February: Selected as one of three public libraries nationwide to launch DigitalLearn in collaboration with Cox Communications and the American Library Association.
  • March: Amber Mathewson appointed as Library Director
  • April: Kirk-Bear Canyon Library receives new carpet
  • April: Upgrades, including new lighting, expanded parking, updated paint, and re-carpeting made at Joyner-Green Valley Library
  • July: Eckstrom-Columbus Library celebrates 40th anniversary
  • October: Flowing Wells Library closes to undergo major renovation and expansion led by the award-winning architecture firm Line and Space LLC
  • October: Sam Lena-South Tucson Library temporarily closes for overhaul to maximize square footage and transform layout
  • October: LGBTQ+ Services Committee hosts Todd Parr in the Park to celebrate its 20th Anniversary
  • February: Begins offering Kanopy, a video streaming service providing access to 30,000 movies
  • March: Continues its ongoing support of the Tucson Festival of Books with abundant activities at the 10th anniversary event
  • March: Hosts free lecture with influential public intellectual Noam Chomsky at Joel D. Valdez Main Library
  • May: New shelving installed in the 14,000 square foot Joyner-Green Valley Library
  • May: New carpet installed in the 29,000 square foot Oro Valley Public Library
  • May: Wheeler Taft Abbett, Sr. Library celebrates its 10th anniversary
  • May: Himmel Park Library receives ADA compliant restroom
  • June: Children’s Room at Joel D. Valdez Main Library closes temporarily for LSTA grant-funded renovations, including the creation of an early literacy center and a tween space
  • July: Murphy-Wilmot Library, Eckstrom-Columbus Library, Wheeler Taft Abbett, Sr. Library, and Martha Cooper Library selected by Pima County Office of Sustainability and Conservation to incorporate solar panels in parking lots
  • July: Begins offering access to three additional video streaming platforms – Acorn TV, Qello Concerts, and Pongalo
  • August: Pima County Public Library is named a Top Innovator in the Race and Social Equity category by the Urban Libraries Council for its Library Restorative Practices for Youth program.
  • September: Woods Memorial Library celebrates its Golden Anniversary! To mark the occasion, the Library hosts an event featuring guest speakers, including Mr. George Woods, son of the Library’s namesake, G. Freeman Woods, a memory gathering workshop, a classic car show, a live DJ spinning hits of the 60s, a hula hoop contest, bubble making zone, and much more.
  • October: The Library participates in Global Entrepreneurship Week with Business Bootcamp: Start and Grow Your Business. Participants received hands-on training on topics like starting a business plan, finding legal information, and analyzing competitors.
  • November: The Library’s Kindred Team, who supports and celebrates the Black community, launches One Book, One Community. The first of its in Pima County, the first program kicked off with Octavia Butler’s award-winning Parable of the Sower.
  • December: Sam Lena-South Tucson Library and Flowing Wells Library re-open after major renovations. Sam Lena-South Tucson Library received a complete overhaul, which included the addition of new study rooms, an upgraded service desk, and a creative youth space. Flowing Wells Library was expanded nearly three times its original size—from 5,000 to 13,000 square feet.
2019 January
  • The Library hosts a series of events addressing eviction in America. The events center on Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City and culminate with a community dialogue about eviction in Pima County.
  • Alice Hatcher, award-winning author of The Wonder That Was Ours, takes the reins as the Library’s Writer in Residence. In addition to one-on-one consultations, Alice offers multiple workshops, including Your Novel’s Opening Pages and Finding Your Narrator in the Crowd.


  • A grand re-opening celebration is held at Flowing Wells Library after a year-long renovation closure. Customers enjoyed harp and ukulele performances, seed planting activities, origami crafts, and face painting.


  • A grand re-opening celebration is held at Sam Lena-South Tucson Library. The event featured a musical performance by Gertie & the T.O. Boyz, poetry chalking, and giant games.


  • In just two short weeks, Food for Fines generates over 10,000 pounds of food for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. More than $7,900 in fines were cleared, helping over 4,000 library customers reconnect with the Library.


  • Standing room only at the screening of and filmmaker Katrina Parks’ “Route 66 Women: The Untold Story of the Mother Road.” The event included a post-film discussion and was made possible with support from Arizona Humanities, a nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


  • Grow with Google is offered at Joel D. Valdez Main Library. A daylong event with free workshops and one-on-one consultations with Google staff for businesses, nonprofits, and job seekers.
  • The Library’s Many Nations Team launches the Library Night Out at Old Pascua. The inaugural monthly event featured a special premiere screening of the PBS Kids program, Molly of Denali.  


  • More than 1,000 people attend the 9th annual MegaMania!, a free summer festival of cosplay, gaming, crafts, local authors and artists, and all-around geekery.


  • The Library’s 2nd Library Night Out at Old Pascua features a screening of Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, a Sundance Film Festival award winner.


    • TC Tolbert, Tucson’s Poet Laureate, offers a series of Trans, Non-binary, & Queer+ poetry workshops at Sam Lena-South Tucson Library, Woods Memorial Library, and Joel D. Valdez Main Library.
2020 February
  • The Library’s Kindred Team hosts a series of events in celebration of Black History Month. The events include Buffalo Soldiers in Art & History, The Impact of Implicit Bias, and Tucson’s Black Community and School Segregation, among others.


  • On March 18, a rising surge of COVID-19 cases in Pima County prompts closure of all 26 Pima County Public Libraries.


  • While the Library remains closed, many virtual services are offered. Customers have access to Infoline and Ask a Librarian, Grab-N-Go Super Snacks, and Ready, Set, School! on Facebook Live in English and Spanish.


  • After an eight-week closure, the Library reopens offering limited services, including curbside pickup and access to computer, printing, copying, and faxing services.
  • With the support of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, Pima County Public Library joins many libraries nationwide in eliminating fines. 


  • The Library offers a virtual Summer Learning Program, which features downloadable reading trackers, access to READsquared, and Story Sketches, a new program for kids who want to create their own stories.
  • Jennifer J. Stewart takes the reins as the Library’s 10th Writer in Residence. She offers one-on-one Zoom consultations as well as a workshop, How to Become a Children’s Book Writer and Not Get Overhwlemed in the Process, and a Story Writing Playshop for Children and Teens.


  • A survey sent to nearly 22,000 customers generated 3,400 responses with 43.8% of respondents selecting the name Esmond Station Library for the newest addition to the library system set to open in 2021.
  • Due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in Arizona, the Library moves to a regionally-based service model, which continues to provide access to vital services while minimizing customer and staff exposure to COVID-19.


  • Librarian Vicki Lazaro participates in the first-annual Ray Bradbury Read-A-Thon, marking the author’s 100th birthday. The national reading of Fahrenheit 451 features readers from across the United States and special guests including William Shatner, Neil Gaiman, and Susan Orlean. 
  • The W. Anne Gibson-Esmond Station Library opened on February 16, 2021.
  • The Library followed the guidance of the Pima County Health Department in offering limited services to provide access while keeping Pima County residents safe.

Library Directors

Year Director
  • Nellie Pomeroy, Librarian
  • Jennie H. Batte, Librarian
  • Mary D. Breathitt, Librarian
  • Gertrude E. Burt, Head Librarian
  • John F. Anderson, Library Director
  • Frank Van Zanten, Library Director
  • Elizabeth Ohm, Acting Director
  • John F. Anderson, Library Director
  • Marcia King, Library Director
  • Liz R. Miller, Library Director
  • Agnes M. Griffen, Library Director
  • Betsy Stunz-Hall, Interim Director
  • Nancy Ledeboer, Library Director
  • Melinda Cervantes, Library Director
  • Amber Mathewson, Library Director



  • "Chronology of Library". Pima County Public Library Administration, 2008.
  • "City library director plans to resign, cites burnout." Arizona Daily Star. June 19, 1991
  • "Councilmen rechristen the library." Arizona Daily Star. January 8, 1957. Page B1 and Staff notes.
  • "County settle two lawsuits, buys flood-damaged home." Arizona Daily Star. November 15, 2006.

    Find the information you need by calling the library's Infoline at 520-791-4010 or by sending your question to Ask a Librarian.