History of Libraries in Colorado

The Colorado State Library is a good place to start when researching the history of your local library, whether it be for an anniversary celebration, preservation of a historic structure, or just general interest.  The best place to start is in two publications that were put together by the State Library.  Although they are old, so do not contain current information, they do contain significant early history of libraries in Colorado.  These publications are Colorado’s Century of Public Libraries (1959) and Colorado Public Libraries 1876-1976:  Historical Sketches, Including Histories of the Regional Library Service Systems and the Colorado State Library (1977), both of which are available for checkout.  Another more recent, privately-published publication is Libraries in the Nooks and Crannies of Colorado:  Small Public Libraries in Rural Communities (2009).

Other publications that help tell the stories of libraries in Colorado include the Colorado Library Directory; statistical publications; library planning and development publications; and county/district public library jurisdictional documents.  Also be sure to consult the Biennial Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, which includes information on libraries in Colorado in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. General information on the early establishment of libraries and library law in Colorado can be found in an 1897 publication, Libraries: Their Establishment and Management, issued by the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Also be sure to check out the State Library newsletters, which contain information on library happenings across Colorado.  Centennial State Libraries was the State Library’s newsletter from 1985 through 2008.  It is available online from 1997-2008 and in print from 1985-2001. Other State Library newsletters under various titles are available back to the 1940s.

For information on historic library buildings in Colorado, see the Colorado Historical Society’s Directory of Library Buildings in the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties.

This is only a small sampling of the many documents and publications about libraries in Colorado that can be accessed from the Colorado State Library.  For many more resources, search the web catalogs for the State Publications Library and the Colorado State Library Collection.  (The State Publications Library contains publications for public use published by state agencies.  The Colorado State Library Collection includes commercially published material, professional resources, and Colorado documents not published by state agencies but relating to libraries and education in Colorado).