Mission & History


“The purpose of the public library of St. Helena is to provide the best possible library service appropriate to the needs of our community. To be innovative in planning for future needs and advances in technology, to find ways of attracting citizens who do not yet use our facilities, and to meet the needs of minorities and the under served.”

Adopted by the St. Helena Library Board of Trustees, January, 1991


St. Helena Reading Room

“St. Helena Reading Room”, 1892, in the IOOF Building
Etching from St. Helena Star.

The heritage of the St. Helena Public Library is distinguished by over one hundred and forty years of strong local commitment to service. Begun privately as a subscription library by townspeople in 1875, the first library became a city library in 1892 and was housed initially in the Independent Order of Oddfellows Building (IOOF) on Main Street. In 1904, local citizens interested in a more permanent home for the library, contacted library philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who eventually donated $7500 to construct the first permanent library building in 1908. The Carnegie Building at 1360 Oak Avenue is still in use today as home to the City of St. Helena Parks & Recreation Department.

Carnegie Library

Carnegie Library, May 22, 1908
Drawing from St. Helena Star.
Reprinted by permission.

Since that time, the City of St. Helena, the Friends of the St. Helena Public Library (now the Friends & Foundation, St. Helena Public Library) and many civic minded  individuals have worked together to provide the best library possible. The present facility was completed in 1979 and enlarged in 1996. It is named after one of the Library’s most generous benefactors, Dr. George J. Wood, and his wife Elsie. His generous bequest upon his death has insured the long-term future of the Library.

Old Carnegie Library

St. Helena Carnegie Library, ca 1912

Remarkable changes have taken place at the Library during the last half century. The Napa Valley Wine Library Collection, housed here since 1961, was officially donated in 1972. This rich accumulation of books, journals and documents is unparalleled in its preservation of the history and traditions of winemaking from the 17th century to the present. During the 1980’s the Library forged ahead to meet the demands of the Information Age. Circulation and interlibrary loan functions became automated. In the 1990’s, public access to the Internet and to online databases became available. During this period the Library started collaborating with other local libraries in a network which continues to greatly enhance the availability of books and all other materials. Since then the Library’s offerings have expanded to include ebooks and other digital content.

Providing informative and entertaining programs for young and old has become a vital library service. These events include storytimes, crafts, lectures, art receptions, and cultural experiences for the entire community.

The Library has worked closely with the St. Helena Historical Society since its founding in 2002. Today, both organizations are housed in the same building. The Library supports the Historical Society’s many efforts to preserve St. Helena’s history.

The St. Helena Public Library and its partners are excited about the future and look with great pride at the past.

Present-day library

Present-day St. Helena Public Library.
Drawing by renowned regional artist Earl Thollander.