Our History - Through the Decades

Many Stories, One Library: 100 Years of Library Services in Burbank, 1913-2013


Thanks to the efforts of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, the Burbank Public Library began in May 1913 as a contract branch of the Los Angeles County Library. It shared quarters with the Library of the "Brotherhood" in the Thompson Block building on the corner of Olive Avenue and San Fernando Road. The Ladies' Auxiliary acted as custodians.


By 1921, Burbank's library was located in a room in City Hall and had 500 volumes. It moved back to the Thompson building in 1923. In January 1924, Mrs. Elizabeth Knox was appointed Librarian and soon afterwards the library moved to the ground floor of a centrally located building, a better situation for the needs of the library.


In 1935, a new library building was erected at 425 East Olive Avenue, on the northeast corner of Glenoaks Boulevard. This 8,000-square-foot building was constructed at a cost of $33,000, with all the funds raised locally. Mrs. Elizabeth Ripley was the City Librarian.

Since Burbank was experiencing rapid growth, it was decided the City would establish its own municipal library. So on July 1, 1938, the Burbank Public Library began operation as a City department. All the Los Angeles County Library books were returned, leaving the shelves rather bare. Generous Burbank residents donated more than 2,000 books to the newly established Burbank Public Library. When the little library opened its doors on August 22, 1938, there were 5,000 books ready for circulation with another 3,000 volumes still being cataloged.


Burbank Library 1940

The Burbank Public Library continued to expand. In February 1948, the Buena Vista Branch Library was established in the valley section of Burbank. Carolyn See was appointed the branch librarian and there were 3,929 cataloged books in the collection.


Burbank Library 1950

In October of 1952, E. Caswell Perry succeeded Mrs. Ripley as City Librarian. The following year, the Main Library began to offer Audio Visual services. Burbank residents could now check out records and 16mm films.

The West Burbank Branch Library on Burbank Blvd. opened in September of 1954 in leased store quarters. Another similar branch, the North Glenoaks Branch Library at Irving Drive between Scott Road and Glenoaks Boulevard, opened in August of 1956. Each branch held between 7,000 and 10,000 books.

The Buena Vista Branch Library was remodeled and enlarged from 5,000 square feet to 8,000 square feet in 1958.


Burbank Library 1960

By 1961, the Main Library's book collection had more than doubled and was rapidly outgrowing the library's space. A new two-story Central Library was completed in July of 1963 and boasted more than four times the space of the old library. The dedication for the Burbank Central Library was held on November 17, 1963.


Burbank Library 1970

In 1972, the Northwest Park Branch Library was built at a cost of $188,340. It replaced the small storefront West Burbank Branch. Following the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, the small North Glenoaks Branch closed its doors permanently.


The Friends of the Burbank Public Library was incorporated on July 15, 1980. This volunteer non-profit organization plays an important role in raising funds to support and promote the Burbank Public Library. In 1989, the Burbank Public Library entered the computer age with the introduction of the CLSI automated catalog and checkout system.


The Burbank Public Library received a grant from the California State Library to establish an Adult Literacy program in 1992.

In October of 1999, the Burbank Public Library converted its automation system to SIRSI, an online catalog and checkout system.


Burbank Library 2000

At the start of the 2000s, the Library experienced rapid advances in technology. Free Internet access for the public was offered in October 2000, and in the first three weeks, over 300 people signed up to use the computers. 

Through the auspices of a grant from the California State Library, Burbank was able to offer students an online tutoring service from Tutor.com.  Live Homework Help connected students in grades 5-12 with expert tutors in math, science, social studies, and English. 

By 2001, library patrons could access the Burbank Public Library's OPAC (online public access catalog) over the Internet from any home or office computer. The Library promoted the website as its “4th Branch.” 

Burbank Public Library’s new website went live in October 2001. A new software update was installed to the Sirsi system. The new electronic library was called iBistro. 

The long-awaited groundbreaking for the new Buena Vista Library was held on Saturday, October 6, 2001. Following the ceremony, area schoolchildren painted a colorful mural on the wooden fence surrounding the site.  

Buena Vista Branch Library and Abraham Lincoln Park were dedicated on Saturday, December 7, 2002. Following the ribbon cutting, the community enjoyed entertainment, refreshments, and tours. Three times the size of the original facility, the new Buena Vista Library had plenty of room for expansion. To fill up the empty shelves, the City and the Friends of the Library each donated $75,000 to buy new books and audio visual materials for the “Opening Day” collection. Senior Girls Scout Troop #1535 of Burbank also donated $1,000 to buy books for the new library. 

Included in the new Buena Vista Library was a dedicated space for a Friends of the Library Bookstore. This popular shop continues to feature prominently in the Friends’ fundraising activities. 

In the fiscal year 2002/2003, the Burbank Public Library passed the mark of one million items loaned. A large part of the credit goes to the new Buena Vista Branch Library. Since opening in December 2002, circulation increased 135%. 

All three libraries became Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) hot spots in May of 2005. 

The Friends of the Burbank Public Library celebrated their 25th Anniversary on June 15, 2005. A big celebration was held at that evening’s City Council meeting. Retired Library Director Marcia Richards Bell returned to accept a plaque in commemoration of the milestone. Mrs. Bell was instrumental in the 1980 formation of the Friends of the Burbank Public Library. 

Despite the belt-tightening during the financial crisis of 2007-2008, the Burbank Library thrived as a community hub through the support of the Friends of the Library and partnerships with local entities. A large increase in free programming brought entertainment, education, and community to everyone from toddlers to senior citizens. Music lovers were offered concerts in a variety of genres, from doo-wop to classical. Those with a literary bent had the opportunity to interact with authors such as Ray Bradbury, Cornelia Funke, and various writers of mysteries, entertainment, and history. Adult programming increased by 400%. 

Starting in 2008, the Burbank Public Library transitioned from print material to digital. Library services to the public focused on offering 

  • Internet access on public computers
  • Larger social media presence
  • WiFi access
  • Library website on the Internet
  • Online access to various databases
  • DVD rentals 


The next decade started out with citywide anticipation of Burbank’s 100th Birthday celebration. City departments, including the Library, participated in the planning for the lead-up to the 

“Party of the Century,” on July 8, 2011. Many of the Library’s events and other activities were Burbank-related throughout the year. In May 2011, the Burbank Book Festival was held at the Buena Vista Branch. Nearly 100 authors living in Burbank appeared at the Festival with their most recent books. They were joined by local bookstore representatives and writing organizations.   

The Burbank Public Library celebrated its own 100th Birthday with a How-To-Festival on October 5, 2013. The community was invited to “Learn a little About a lot” as mini-workshops on a variety of topics were presented throughout the Central Library. Various stations were set up in the library where selected city departments, local vendors, businesses, and nonprofit organizations each held 15-20 minute demonstrations. The community had a chance to learn a little about everything from how to knit to preventing identity theft to establishing a garage band, to researching family history.  

A contest was held in 2014 to determine a library mascot to represent the Burbank Public Library. Over 240 entries were submitted and the winning design was “Dewey the Dragon” by Burbank artist, cartoonist and art director Chris Runco. A mascot costume was funded by the Burbank Neighborhood Leadership Program. The official unveiling of Dewey the Dragon was held on May 21, 2014. 

Burbank in Focus, a digital collection of historical Burbank images was added to the Library’s online presence in May 2017. Photos were contributed by the Library and the community. The photos were scanned and added to the digital collection which is viewable at Burbankinfocus.org.   

The Friends of the Burbank Public Library were pleased to open their second bookstore. The Grand Opening of the Central Library Bookstore was held on December 2, 2017. Both bookstores, periodic booksales, and selling on Amazon all contribute to the Friends’ fundraising activities. 

A new and improved library catalog went live on December 12, 2019. This online platform is easier to use and is mobile-friendly. 


The world turned upside down when the Covid-19 pandemic brought normal life to a standstill in March of 2020. Library staff jumped to the challenge of transitioning services to accommodate the new circumstances. New innovations were instituted to connect the community to their needs during trying times. Curbside pickup became available on July 1st at all three libraries. People could request library items and pick them up at an appointed time. Homework help for students and an effort to see that all students had access to library online resources. Virtual programming was available to entertain and educate everyone from toddlers to adults. 

The Burbank Public Library went Fine Free on July 1, 2020. This move was to improve equity of access. In addition to eliminating overdue fines, the Library also extended time limits to six weeks, and automatic renewals was implemented.