In 1935, forty Federation Club women decided to justify their existence as a civic group by organizing a public library. They rented an empty storeroom in the Parinello building on Third Street, fixed it up, found books, and at 2:00 on the last Saturday of May, opened the doors of California Public Library.Volunteers manned the library from two to four on Saturdays and from seven to nine on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Bake sales, rummage sales, card parties, dances, tag days and door-to-door canvases helped to bring donations to the enterprise.Ten years later, the library collection was moved down the street to the King building, but because its roof leaked and the furnace was broken, volunteers moved the books to a temporary home on the second floor of the yellow brick borough building (now a parking lot).
On May 24, 1958, California Public Library opened at its current site—the former Pennsylvania Railroad station, rented from the company for just $10 per month.But in June 1965, the Friday Evening Club (an incarnation of the Federation Club) published an open letter explaining that it could no longer support the library. In November, the community rejected a 1-1/2 mil tax referendum; on June 19, 1965, the library closed. Attempts to re-open the library floundered until June 15, 1975. A coalition of local citizens organized as Friends of the Library and accepted responsibility for helping to raise funds. Mary Hart was its president. Friends sponsored many community programs, including concerts, adult mini-courses, and even an amateur theatrical group directed by Robert Grimes and called The BareBones Players. The late June Mulé accepted the post of first Board of Trustees president.
On July 18, 1979, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission notified Mayor Peter J. Daley that the historic building had earned a place on the National Register. Borough workmen joined volunteers to restore what is now the Children’s community Room, thus increasing usable space.The next year, largely because of the unceasing efforts of Wyona Coleman, the Washington County Commissioners voted to establish the Washington County Library System. California Public Library promptly joined the fourteen-library coalition, thereby enabling the library staff to better serve the local citizenry through resource sharing.