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California Library Hall of Fame: Harriet Eddy
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California Library Hall of Fame

Harriet G. Eddy (1876-1966)

Although relatively unknown in American library history, Harriet Gertrude Eddy played a major role in the development of libraries throughout California and beyond.  Eddy became interested in California’s libraries when, as the first female principal of Elk Grove High School, she established the school’s first library. The high school library, which joined Sacramento’s fledgling library system in 1908, became the first county library branch in the state. California state librarian James Gillis was so impressed that, in 1909, he convinced Eddy to join the state library staff and assist other counties in setting up their library systems.  Over nine years, Eddy helped establish 40 county libraries, representing nearly 70 percent of the systems created. Her memoir, County Free Library Organizing in California, 1909-1918 (published by the California Library Association in 1955), is among the most important documents on California library history. Although Eddy resigned from the state library in 1918 to work for the University of California’s Agricultural Extension Service, her interest in libraries continued. Indeed, in 1927, she was invited by the Russian government to survey that nation’s libraries and advise the Commissioner of Education on developing library services in Russia.  During the 1930s and 1940s, she served as a library consultant in Eastern Europe, and, as a result of her experiences, became a peace activist in her later years.

Harriet G. Eddy was inducted into the California Library Hall of Fame in 2014. For further information about her, please see:

  • John R. Richardson, “Harriet G. Eddy (1876-1966): California’s First County Library Organizer and Her Influence on USSR Libraries,” California State Library Foundation Bulletin no. 94 (2009): 2-13

  • Lawrence Clark Powell, “One Book in a Million: Harriet Eddy’s County Library Organizing in California, 1909-1918,” California State Library Foundation Bulletin, no. 86 (2007): 18-20

  • Marion S. Wachtel, “Harriet G. Eddy,” California Librarian 28 (January 1967): 54-55.

Courtesy of the California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento, California.