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The Orinda Library was first opened in 1914 and has become a fixture in our community over the last century. Founded by Muir Sorrick, the Friends of the Orinda Library have been dedicated to supporting the growth of the library in our community since 1959.

In 2024, the Orinda Library will celebrate its 110th anniversary. As we look back over the rich history of our library, it quickly becomes apparent that our library began as, and continues to be, an integral part of our close-knit community.

The Library’s Early Years

In 1914, our library began humbly as a small shelf of books, known as a deposit station, located in the Orinda Park School.

The year 1925 saw us in a larger location—the newly opened Orinda Store. The Orinda Library consisted of two shelves of books in a four-foot by four-foot bookcase. When the county considered closing the Orinda station, a local woman, Nellie Dieterich, identified a vacant store that could provide space. PTA volunteers staffed the library until a librarian, Mrs. Dawson, moved to Orinda and became our first librarian.

In 1935, Mrs. Dieterich asked about adding a library to the fire station. Just a month later, the State Unemployment Relief Administration approved the project. The addition was soon completed, and the library remained there until the fire station was sold by the county in 1944.

For five years Orinda was without a library. In 1949 the Orinda Community Church was being built. There was an unfinished room below the new church, and the head of the women’s club, Virginia Phair, persuaded the library to reopen in this space. The new library was only 400 square feet; when it was occupied, it was difficult to browse the shelves. Naturally, there were dreams of a larger library.

The Library’s First Building

In 1953 the Junior Women’s Club was formed in Orinda. With the Lions Club, they began fundraising for a new library. They soon formed the Orinda Board Library Committee, co-chaired by Lloyd Farrar and Betty Madison. They held rummage sales and fashion shows, created the ‘Bookworm Club,’ hosted story hours, built shelving, and purchased books for the library.

With the support of the county Board of Supervisors, a new library was in the works. The building would be at the corner of Irwin Way and the Orinda Highway (now Orinda Way).

In 1956, fundraising began for construction; the first stage would require raising $125,000. Pledges of $72 were paid over three years. By 1958, over $100,000 had been raised; Perc Brown contributed the remaining $25,000 needed. The building was dedicated on November 14, 1958 with 400 people in attendance.

In 1965, the Library Services District was formed, which allowed construction of the 1971 addition to the library. The library was owned by the Orinda Library Board, which legally changed its name to Friends of the Orinda Library, Inc. in 1971.

The Library You Know Today

In 1995 the Orinda City Manager, Bill Lindsay, approached the Friends of the Orinda Library with the idea of a new library as part of the Heart of Orinda project. From 1998-2000, the Friends of the Orinda Library Capital Campaign Committee raised $5,000,000 to fund most of the new library building. Construction began in 2000, with the new library opening in 2001.  The new library is also owned by the Friends.

The Library’s
First Friends

In 1959 Muir Sorrick, author of History of Orinda, started the “Friends” group to foster good relations between the library and the community. The Book Fair was begun to help raise funds for books. Today the Friends of the Orinda Library has hundreds of members and retains the same goals as its founder. The Friends purchase over 85% of the library’s new materials each year, and fund many of the library’s wonderful enrichment programs for children, teens, and adults. If you aren’t a member, please join us today!

Muir Sorrick, the Founder of the Friends of the Orinda Library
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