History of the Library


Library service in Carmel began in 1906, when the Carmel Free Library Association began lending books from a little redwood building. For a fee of one dollar per year, people could borrow any one of 500 books from the Association’s “Reading Room” heated by a wood burning stove.

Ida Johnson was President of the Library Board in 1906. She also worked as a librarian in the little redwood building that then housed the library’s 500 books. Like many of Carmel’s early residents, Ida was an artist, who supported herself in part by hand painting china. She was an accomplished water colorist and painted over 100 watercolors of California native plants. In recognition of this creative woman, the library named its computer system “IDA”.

California Supreme Court Justice Ralph Chandler Harrison

The current Main Library building was designed by the renowned California architect Bernard Maybeck and financed by a bequest from Ella Reid Harrison as a memorial to her husband, California Supreme Court Justice Ralph Chandler Harrison. The Harrison Memorial Library opened in 1928 and services were expanded with the addition of its Park Branch facility in 1989.

Community support of free library service was strengthened in 1992, when the library began to rely totally on private gifts for books, supplies, electronic resources and computer equipment. Today, private support has become the foundation of the library’s free public services.