Library History

History of the SSF Public Library


1914: Riding on horseback through the City, local teacher, Rue Clifford collects petition signatures as evidence of community support for a free public library.

1914: Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie provides funding and the building plans for construction of Grand Avenue Library on a parcel of land, which will later be known as Civic Center. Total cost for the full parcel is $10,000.

1916: The Grand Avenue Library opens to the public on August 15, 2016.

1940s: Grand Avenue Library is remodeled.

1951: An addition is made to Grand Avenue Library and the Children's wing is established. The story book picture tiles surrounding the fireplace are a special feature.

1966: The new city library on West Orange Avenue opens to the public on November 28th. This facility is becomes the Main Library for the City of South San Francisco; Grand is now the city’s Branch Library.

1967: On February 19th, the new South San Francisco Library is dedicated to the service of the citizens of South San Francisco and the memory of Miss Rue Clifford. Constructed at a cost of $865,000, the lower level is partially paid for by Federal Funds (for use as an Emergency Operating Center for the City). Interior architects are Markling and Yamasaki, A.I.A.

1974: South San Francisco Public Library joins the Peninsula Library System (PLS). Formed in 1971, PLS is a cooperative network of public libraries throughout San Mateo County.

1984: On December 12th, South San Francisco Library begins "on line" circulation of library materials at the Main Library, as a member of the Peninsula Library Automated Network (PLAN).

1985: Project Read, a volunteer tutoring program for adults in North San Mateo County, begins by training 20 tutors and signing up 25 adult learners in this first year of free service. Grand Avenue Branch Library reopens after remodeling. The outside structure retains its distinctive character as a Carnegie building, the interior floor plan has been opened up with additional room in the book stacks. To facilitate handicapped access, the entrance is moved to the side street, changing the address to 306 Walnut Avenue.

1986: On Valentine's Day, Grand Avenue Branch Library also begins use of the automated circulation system.

1991: South San Francisco Public Library celebrates 75 years of service. Project Read starts the Families for Literacy (FFL) program to serve learners with children under the age of five.

1993: The Main Library reopens December 20th, after being closed for a month of renovations including new wiring to accommodate additional computers and the addition of new automated products and services.

1994: PLANet, the new library automated system, is brought on line at the Main and branch, as well as all other member libraries of the Peninsula Library System. John Littleboy’s 6’x32’ painted mural on wood panels is installed in the Children’s Room at Main Library. Friends of the library started a penny campaign in 1993 and wood for the individual panels was donated by South City Lumber; additional funding was provided by the local Rotary.

1997: After months in a temporary site while the building was seismically upgraded and remodeled, Grand Avenue Branch Library reopens on June 23rd; rededication held on August 27th.

1999: The Community Learning Center opens in a temporary site. It is a new service of the library and collaborating agencies serving youth and adults. Improvements and expansion are made to the Main Library’s parking lot.


2001: The Community Learning Center opens in March at a new, permanent location at 520 Tamarack Lane, the old Spruce School. In June, Project Read launches Learning Wheels – a mobile literacy van serving the hard-to-reach neighborhoods of North San Mateo County.

2004: Through a Library Services and Technology Act grant and donations, new products and services are introduced for patrons with disabilities including: wheelchair accessible computer stations with special programs and hardware, and homebound delivery of materials. … In celebration of 5 years of service, the Community Learning Center’s anniversary lunch raised $23,500 in funding support.

2005: The front and parking lot entrances of the Main Library are reconfigured for handicapped access. Community Development Block Grant funding enables purchase of adaptive equipment and accessibility improvements to the elevator. Project Read celebrates 20 years of service with an anniversary dinner. As part of PLS, South San Francisco unveils Innovative Interfaces, Incorporated’s Millenium Integrated Library System on August 17th.

2006: Handicap accessibility is improved by upgrading the public restroom at Grand Avenue Library, and improving seating and display areas in both libraries. South San Francisco Public Library participates in the first One Book, One Community with all PLS libraries: community members read The Kite Runner and attend local and countywide programs and events.

2010: Main Library re-opens after a 5 month maintenance project funded by a grant from Genentech Inc, and funding from the Redevelopment Agency. The Children’s area was relocated away from the parking lot entrance as well as converting to a one service desk model, expanding the young adult and new book areas and adding computers, chairs and shelving.

2011: On August 11 & 12, the libraries “went live” with new RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Device) express Check stations and security gates.

2012: On April 12th a Library Week Open House celebrates the installation of a local history photographic display in the Main Library. In addition to the oversized pictures, four freestanding banners depict the city’s history from its earliest days to present. Effective May 11th , SSF Public Library joined the Discover & Go Network which provides our cardholders with free or discounted access to museums and other cultural institutions.

2013: Implemented wireless printing from patron laptops and upgraded the bandwidth to 1Gb, providing faster network connectivity for patrons and staff.  Implemented the Sierra upgrade on the online catalog, providing a modern interface for patrons searching for library materials.

2014: Implemented an automated materials handling system at Main Library, providing self-check-in services to library patrons.