Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Mary Louisa Mitchell Binckley, First Librarian in Santa Rosa, California, 1885-1886

Sonoma Democrat, Number 38, July 11, 1885: 

Local Notes
Mrs. Binckley, City Librarian,— informs us that 1,230 books were taken from the Free Library during the month of June.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Number 262, May 8, 1886: 
Painted China
Mrs. Binckley, the Librarian, showed our reporter a very pretty piece of hand painted china the other day, which was gilded and burned in Santa Rosa. Heretofore lovers of the art were obliged to send their china to San Francisco to have the finishing touches of the baking kiln added to the pieces.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Number 301, June 23, 1886:

Local Brevities
Mrs. M. L. Binckley, the librarian, has a class in painting and drawing. Mrs. Binckley is mistress of all branches of the art.

Sonoma Democrat, Number 48, September 18, 1886:

Our library
Our free library has grown to be one of the leading institutions of Santa Rosa, and it is doubtful it there is another institution (barring the churches) in our midst that is more highly appreciated by all classes than our library. It will be remembered that many opposed it, not because of any prejudice toward institutions of the kind, but simply because they were doubtful of its success, and its success is beyond the expectations of the most sanguine. 

The average number of books taken out each month is about 1200, which means with careful figuring about 400 regular subscribers, besides the many who go there evenings and spend a pleasant hour reading the periodicals, pictorials, etc. 

The library is not only a success from a literary standpoint, but in a financial also, there being now about $1100 in the treasury, which will be expended for new books us soon as the new library is built. The list of books to be purchased with a portion or all of the funds is being carefully compiled day by day by the trustees and our most efficient librarian, Mrs. Binckley. The patrons of the library one and all are most heartily satisfied with the treatment they receive at the librarian’s hands, and have learned to rely on her judgment in literary matters. She is a lady of extended reading and unbiased opinion, two of the necessary requisites of a literary critic, and her services in compiling the list of new books to be purchased will be valuable. 

The gentlemen composing the Board of Trustees could not be better chosen; they constitute as a body all that goes to make a successful management. 

The success of this institution extends still further. It has been the means of keeping many a “young American” off the streets at night; it has been the means of supplying literary entertainment to those who could not enjoy the luxury otherwise. The shelves are filled, even now, with the products of famous minds, works on history, art and the sciences, while the novelist is not forgotten. When the new rooms are finished and the shelves are filled with new books, Santa Rosa may be justly proud of her library.

[Mary Louisa Mitchell/Mitchell Binckley (1838-1930) 
Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California, had a population nearing 5,000 at the time; in 2016, it is closer to 175,000] 

Many thanks to Katherine J. Rinehart, M.A., Manager, History & Genealogy, Sonoma County Library, 211 E Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95404 for help with initial local research, the California Digital Newspaper Collection project, and also William Myers, Mary Davy and Sally Young for their assistance. 

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