Sedona Library History and Development

A volunteer group, "Friends of the Library," established Sedona's first library in donated space with three shelves of books and magazines, which also were donated.

Once the Library was established, the informal group that was the driving force behind it organized into a Board of Trustees to administer the Library. It soon became apparent that administrative duties left little time for raising funds to provide ongoing support, so the Trustees decided to revive the Friends of the Library (FOL). Dorothy Wright, one of the original supporters, recalled in 1972 that “Neighborhood gatherings were arranged…to promote the idea, and then a general open meeting was held at the Sedona Arts Center…Unanimous approval was given by the large assemblage present…and the Friends of the Sedona Library was made permanent. From that point on, the Trustees and the Friends have functioned in the respective fields in remarkable harmony and with great success to produce and maintain a library that is a tremendous credit to the entire community…”

The Riordan (Redstone) Building on Apple Avenue and Jordan Road was leased for three years. A paid librarian position was established at $50 a month. (Later the salary was raised to $75 a month.) Coconino County began contributing $480 a year, which paid half the annual rent of the Library building.

Sedona Public Library was incorporated as a non-profit, privately owned organization that had 6,230 books. That same year, two Sedonans, Eugenia Wright and Helen Ecker, donated land on Jordan Road for a library building. The Red Rock News reported that the donation was prompted by a desire to see the land used to benefit the greatest number of people in the community where they make their home and operate their business.  Eugenia and Helen selected the Library as most representative of this ideal. More property was added later that included a small house for use by the librarian as part of the compensation.

Funds for the building were raised throughout the community. The Red Rock News reported: “It was an effort that for intensity and overall participation may never have been surpassed by any community anywhere. Individuals of all ages (including numerous retirees) from all walks of life took part, as did just about every organization in town, and the result was a creation that one and all could regard with love and justifiable pride… Following the initial gift of land, the Friends of the Sedona Library…assumed the task of raising the $75,000 originally estimated to be the cost of construction. The drive was launched August 18, 1966, and when in the fall of 1969 it went over the top to the tune of something in excess of $77,000, there was enough left to defray the cost of materials that had risen substantially since the original estimate.”

The Friends of the Sedona Library Inc. was incorporated to support the Library through fund raising and volunteering. It is a separate corporation from Sedona Public Library.

Sen. Barry Goldwater, the keynote speaker at groundbreaking ceremonies, said, “A community without a library is a community without culture and without the backup needed by local education. I am particularly proud to be here today to pay my respects to people who recognized a problem and who solved it on their own without leaning on the federal government for help.  This fact alone will be a source of eternal pride to you, as it will be to the entire state of Arizona.”

The new building opened on October 26.

A Red Rock News photo shows seven volunteers whose total Library service was 100 years: Sylvia Nemec (18 years), Cecil Brown (15 years), Louise Hardyzer (7 years), Jim and Hattie St. Clair (17 years each), Ruth Van de Water (13 years), and Rosamond Fisher (13 years).

An elegant 2 x 3 foot valentine, thought to be the largest in Sedona, was displayed at the Library to recognize the 60 dedicated volunteers. The valentine was made by volunteer Val Hirsch’s husband.

The 5,OOO-square-foot building on Jordan Road was becoming too cramped to meet Sedona's growing needs, and the Library board began to investigate ways to expand the facility.

Sedona resident Ethel M. Low came to the rescue in January, with a donation of $326,000 to buy land for a new and larger library. The Design Group was hired to design the new building.
The Red Rock News reported: “In making her gift, Mrs. Low said that she has long been wanting to do something that would be of long-lasting benefit to the community and that she had finally settled on the library as being a service that would always be needed and one that would benefit people of all ages and from every walk of life. Her gift to the Sedona Public Library is another step in the creation of a facility that has been a labor of love on the part of many, many Sedonans for nearly three decades.”

Volunteer Louise Hardyzer retired at age 78. She walked four miles from her home to the Library five or six days a week (but she always accepted a ride home.) It was estimated that she walked some 12,000 miles and saved the Library $200,000.

Fundraising for the new building began at the Jordan Road Street Fair, where $9,000 was raised. This convinced FOL and the Board of Trustees that public funds again could be raised for a Library building.

Ground-breaking ceremonies took place October 2. Costs for the estimated $2.5 million project were lowered considerably by gifts from a generous source:  the construction industry. Contractors, subcontractors and material suppliers associated with the job gave outright voluntary gifts of materials and labor. Sedonan Steve Driscoll, project manager and owner of Driscoll Contracting, Inc. and a long-time member of the Board of Trustees, said, “Everyone who’s working on the project wants to stand there one day and say ‘there it is…I helped build it.’ They’re taking extra pride and extra care in everything they do. It’s their library, too.”

May 14, a parade of 500 Sedona citizens formed "Books Across Sedona" to symbolize the move to the new library building at 3250 White Bear Road. The book-carrying chain moved 5,000 books from the Uptown location. It would have required some 4,000 people to move all the books by hand. The move was completed during the next three weeks, and the new building opened its doors to the public June 6.

At the formal dedication October 1, Sen. Barry Goldwater once again gave the keynote speech, 26 years after his appearance at the groundbreaking of the first library building. Goldwater said that he was proud of Sedona’s community spirit. “You’ve done so much in your community – the high quality of the residents you attract, the excellent schools, the way you continue to promote the beautiful scenery. I just want to pay my respects to this community and the leadership that created this building.”

Sedona’s first piece of public art, the statue of Sedona Schnebly in front of the new Library, also was dedicated during the ceremony.

In October Sedona Public Library joined the Yavapai Library Network which increased the number of resources available to our patrons from 60,000 to 600,000.  In December of 2000, the Library began offering Internet access to the public.

On September 7 the new Children’s Library opened.  The Library was expanded by 1,500 square feet to a total of 25,500 square feet after this addition.

SPL In the Village (originally called the Village Service Center) opened in December, providing a place in the Village of Oak Creek for patrons to pick up and return items available through the Yavapai Library Network. Public Internet access computers and free Wi-Fi also are available.

The City of Sedona Citizen Survey showed that 88% of citizens used the Library’s services within the past year. Further, the Library received a score of 81 out of a possible 100 for the quality of services, an increase from the previous two surveys and the highest rating of all services provided by the City. The survey showed that 63% of the population used the Library anywhere from 3 to more than 26 times in the past year. 

Sedona Public Library celebrated its 50th anniversary. Highlights included an exhibit at the Sedona Heritage Museum and a year-long series of author programs featuring national, local, children’s and special-interest authors. On June 6, the Library hosted a “birthday party” for the community.

The current economic environment has driven more and more people to the Library to avail themselves of job-finding resources, Internet access, and information and entertainment services. In addition, the Library bolsters the efforts of innumerable local “not for profit” organizations through active partnerships.

Volunteers still are a cornerstone of the Library. More than 125 volunteers, from teens to senior citizens, work in every department and help keep SPL running smoothly. Volunteers provide nearly 50% of the staff hours on an annual basis.