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California Library Hall of Fame: Kevin Starr
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California Library Hall of Fame

Kevin Starr (1940-2017)

Historian, author, journalist, and librarian, Kevin Starr has left an indelible mark on California’s libraries. After earning a bachelor’s degree in history at University of San Francisco (1962) and serving a stint in the Army, he obtained an MA (1965) and Ph.D. (1969) from Harvard University in English and American literature. At Harvard, he became enamored of California history, writing his dissertation on California’s turn-of-the-century regional culture. This study laid the groundwork for Starr’s award-winning book series chronicling the state’s cultural history as well as his many other writings about California. Starr began his academic career at Harvard, but returned to California in 1973 as Mayor Joseph Alioto’s executive aide. Later that year, Alioto named him director of San Francisco Public Library (SFPL), a position he held until 1976. While at SFPL, Starr earned an MLIS at UC Berkeley. He was appointed as California state librarian in 1994 and quickly became known as an eloquent library advocate. Within four years he increased the State Library’s budget by 65% and initiated far-reaching library programs, including Proposition 14, a bond measure, approved by voters in 2000, that authorized $350 million dollars for library construction. Starr retired in 2004 to resume teaching at USC. Upon his resignation, Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger designated Starr “State Librarian Emeritus,” the only state librarian accorded that honor. He received the National Humanities Medal in 2006 and was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2010.

Dr. Kevin Starr was inducted into the California Library Hall of Fame in 2013. For more information about him, please see:

  • California State Library Foundation. “Profiles of State Librarians of California, 1850 – Present.”

  • Starr, Kevin O. “Proclaiming the Message of Libraries.” California State Library Foundation Bulletin, no. 50 (1995): 1-3.

  •  “Starr Qualities: The Retirement of Dr. Kevin Starr as State Librarian of California.” California State Library Foundation Bulletin, no. 78 (Spring/Summer 2004): 10-11.